We must cautiously embrace AI to ensure its benefits are shared

Instead of taking pro- and anti- stances, we must prepare learners for a world in which AI is the norm by mitigating its risks

Instead of taking pro- and anti- stances, we must prepare learners for a world in which AI is the norm by mitigating its risks

17 May 2024, 17:00

As the use of generative AI (artificial intelligence) expands across our sector, there is much discussion around its advantages and disadvantages.

Does it present a chance to modernise outdated methods of teaching, learning and assessment? Or does it put us at the top of a very slippery slope towards lower standards and a reduced real-world understanding of disciplines and an overall love of learning?   

We believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. With the right management, integration and stewardship of the technology, AI gives us the tools we need to take a well-timed and much-needed look at how learners learn and teachers assess.  

We need to embrace this, because we can’t keep using nineteenth-century assessment methods in a twenty-first-century economy.

With a self-proclaimed digital optimist at its helm, the team at Hull College have made a conscious effort to embrace and maximise the use of generative AI for teaching, learning and leadership.

Students are encouraged to use it as a research tool, to support assignment structure, to consider different viewpoints, to create inspiration and give ideas, to simplify complex ideas and to evaluate feedback.  

Leaders and teachers are encouraged to use it to strategise, to provide ideas, to analyse data and to summarise the sometimes overwhelming wealth of material educators are expected to digest.   

AI gives us the opportunity to redefine the role of teachers and to elevate their practice. To move away from the ‘sage on the stage’ and lean towards the ‘guide on the side’. By allowing AI to support teachers in the more bureaucratic areas of their workload, we free them up to focus on what teaching is really about – igniting sparks, sharing passions and building meaningful relationships with students.

These are the things AI can’t do. Which, incidentally, should also reassure those who fear that one day it could replace teachers altogether. Teaching is about a lot more than the transference of knowledge, and it’s hard to imagine it generating the types of ‘light bulb’ moments every good teacher lives for.

If we don’t equip students to use AI, we’re doing them a disservice

Used effectively, AI can lead to huge efficiencies, innovation and increased accessibility. Anecdotal evidence also suggests it helps with levelling up – by potentially providing every student with a digital virtual assistant.  

That said, it does provide challenges we need to be aware of and ensure we navigate effectively. And this is where the stewardship comes in. These are issues such as job displacement, changes to the labour market, ethical and privacy concerns about how data is used and concerns about a loss of control.

Used well, the majority of these risks can be minimised. It’s also important to remember that society as a whole is using AI. It is and will continue to be used in the workplace. So if we don’t equip and empower students to use it, we’re doing them a disservice.  

Concerns have also been raised about how teachers can no longer trust the work any student does from home, given the amount of AI tools at their disposal.

We would urge all teachers to trust the detection tool you already have access to – your knowledge of the learner. Compare their work to what they have done in the past and don’t be afraid to ask the question: How have you created this and come to the conclusions you have?

AI invites us to consider how we could do things differently. AI literacy is a vital part of modern society. We need to use it to celebrate the art of the possible. And we need to focus on the benefit.

You can hear more from the authors on this theme in the latest episode of the Skills and Education Group podcast, Let’s Go Further. The current series is being produced in collaboration with FE Week

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