The field of Artificial Intelligence is evolving so quickly that nearly every industry is being impacted seemingly overnight.
The effect of AI on Education in particular, from K-12 through adult learning, has been written about for years, but has officially gone mainstream as instructors and learners everywhere now have access to the technology for free via ChatGPT.
To better understand how the technology is impacting education, and how we can best prepare for the proliferation of AI from the classroom, to the workplace, we went to one of the largest education technology conferences in the country, the ASU+GSV Summit, to hear directly from the people creating and impacting the development of this technology like Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT), Bill Gates, and leaders in higher education.
Here’s what you need to know.
Since ChatGPT became publicly available to anyone in November 2022, it has been adopted faster than any software tool in history, with over 100 million users to date (when founder Sam Altman was asked how many users it has now, he wasn’t able to give a specific number because it’s growing so fast).
With this viral growth, the tool began to permeate households and classrooms almost immediately with students using the tool to answer difficult homework questions and take home tests in a way that would have taken hours of research using Google Search in the past.
Since the AI tool is generative, with a few well-crafted prompts and some background information, you can ask it to write an essay or a book report, and it will generate unique written content within seconds.
With that, concerns of cheating became top of mind for teachers, and AI detection tools to try and deter it became available quickly.
When asked during the Summit what he thinks educators should do to react quickly to the AI revolution, Sam Altman tried not to downplay concerns of cheating, but focused on the positive impact on the classroom like the ability for students to learn quicker than ever before by getting rapid access to the specific information they want explained in a way that’s most helpful to them, and the ability to support struggling students at scale by using the platform as a personalized tutor.
The main takeaway for educators is that we can’t stop students from using these tools because they are transformative to learning, and the most savvy teachers are learning how to implement them in the classroom and spend time getting comfortable with the capabilities of tools like ChatGPT to provide specific guidance to students about how they should use them when doing their work.
When calculators were invented people worried that students would stop using their brains to do math, but what really happened is that students were able to do math more quickly so they could learn more advanced principles in a shorter period of time. Similarly, AI should help students better understand how to craft compelling essays or answers to homework questions so they can spend their time doing more creative and complex thinking.
When Bill Gates was asked about what he’s most excited about with AI technology given the work of his foundation in supporting education outcomes globally, he focused on how helpful the technology will be in helping kids learn how to read, as an example.
In the past, it would be difficult for one teacher to provide enough attention and consistent feedback to 20 kids who are learning how to read. However with this new technology there are already systems being developed that can listen to a child reading and provide feedback and a positive reinforcement loop in the process so that they can work through mistakes and feel good when they get things right.
This kind of personalization at scale was simply not possible in the past.
What about the impact of AI on the workforce and helping adults prepare for the coming changes?
One question that came up throughout the Summit is how someone who is entering the workforce today should prepare given the AI revolution is here.
OpenAI’s founder expressed his skepticism about making predictions on workforce impact, stating that throughout history, most people who predicted the impact of technology on jobs were wrong.
It’s nearly impossible to predict what new jobs will be created in the coming years. Just a few years ago people thought that mostly blue collar jobs like truck driving would be impacted by AI first, and creative work like art and writing would be safe. No one expected that AI tools like ChatGPT, Dall-E, and AIVA would be able to write articles, generate visual art, and even create music in the style of popular artists.
Altman’s advice was to get as comfortable with the new technology as possible, get a native feel for it by using it in your everyday work, and be prepared for the high rate of change that is coming.
A quote shared throughout the education summit was “AI won’t replace you, but a person using AI will”.
Many workforce experts see these new tools as a powerful human enhancer, and just like the advent of computers and then the internet made people a lot more efficient, and largely left behind people who refused to learn how to use computers, AI will likely do the same thing, but at an even faster rate.
The OpenAI CEO shared the opinion that for adult learners deciding what to study to prepare for work, it’s more important to focus on what you’re naturally curious about and good at, and how you want to contribute to the world, rather than how you can choose a field of education that will prepare you the most for the future.
AI will likely impact almost every field from healthcare, to film, so focus on learning how you can leverage the technology in whatever field interests you and you’ll be in a good place when you launch or change your career.
Throughout human history, whether it was the agricultural revolution, the rise of the industrial revolution, or the invention of the internet, the development of new processes and technology certainly reshaped the world, destroyed jobs that were based on older inefficient ways of doing things, and created new jobs that were unimaginable before. Along the way there were fears that technology would make people complacent, and lose purpose.
In reality, what technology tends to do is make humans even more ambitious than they were before, and enable them to reach those ambitions faster. People want to be useful and inventive and odds are, that the biggest impact of AI on education will be an exponential impact on how quickly we can learn, and an ability to apply that learning to change our lives for the better.
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