The discussion regarding Artificial Intelligence continues unabated. From the panic and ominous warnings we hear modern day prophets such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking to the controversies surrounding Facebook and its questionable use of personal information and promulgation of fake news, the controversy surrounding AI just won’t go away.
The question of particular concern for those in the Education fields is defining the role of AI in academia. Or to put it less delicately, at the AI’s dizzying rate of acceleration, will there still be the role of us humans in the classroom in twenty or thirty years?
Is the potential of Artificial Intelligence endless?
To be sure, the benefits of artificial intelligence in the classroom continue to evolve. Take for example the adaptive software that can identify the particular students’ strengths and weaknesses and then adjust the content accordingly. Or other digital learning programs that provide the ability to reach students in novel ways heretofore unavailable in traditional classrooms.
And yet some studies have shown that specific AI assessment programs and courses are not producing the same results that are seen in traditional classrooms. With the onslaught of smartphones, laptops and social media that have transformed the digital world into the real world for so many students, the question is “Why not”?
The little secret: What AI can’t do
Time to learn a little bit of neurology. There are neurons in the brain called mirror neurons, and they play a critical role in human learning. These mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that responds in the same whether we perform an action or watch someone else perform that same action.
What is relevant here is that crucial aspects of human learning are both observing and imitating. We learn best when we emulate and practice what we see others do. The classroom teacher is a model of mastering content, skills, and values that are human just like ours- which cannot be the same with AI.
Learning from a digital teacher significantly strains students’ ability to imagine themselves mastering content and skills. There just isn’t another person to emulate. While the computer is capable of providing information effortlessly without interruption, it is only a human who can give someone to aspire to, and be the source of that inspiration.
Is teletherapy a model?
In order to get a better grasp of where we should be heading, we need to look at another area where technology has made significant inroads into our schools. Take teletherapy for example. Twenty years ago, teletherapy, the online delivery of speech-language services was practically unknown. Today teletherapy is becoming a household word.
How has teletherapy changed the world of speech-language therapy? The wonders of technology have added convenience, increased the population of those receiving services, and expanded resources for therapists through the plethora of online materials and games. And the future seems pregnant with promise for even more benefits.
What has been sacrificed in the process? According to some, the personal touch of face to face interaction between therapist and student has been lost. And while moving the session onto the screen is challenging, many therapists have demonstrated that the online world need not compromise that crucial personal connection.
It is imperative to remember that regarding teletherapy people are leveraging technology instead of being replaced by it. Indeed teletherapy may be a valid model for the future of AI in our classrooms. Let's be sure to learn that lesson well!