If Bett 2024 taught us one thing, it’s that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has truly infiltrated the world of education technology. You’d have struggled to attend a talk, demo, or conference that didn’t bring up the hot-button technology, championed for being a time-saving tool for teachers and a study aid for students. As Borhene Chakroun (UNESCO) said during a conversation with HP on the global teacher crisis and the role of edtech: “When technology is used for pedagogical purposes, when teachers are trained, resources are quality assured, and when financing is sustainable, we see encouraging results and the positive impact of technology in education.”
But when these factors aren’t in place, technology can at best cause negligible improvements, and at worse distract students and overwhelm teachers. Some were advising caution when it came to AI. During her talk ‘Inclusive AI requires good governance’, Kay Frith-Butterfield, CEO of Good Tech Advisory, said, “A lot of the early adopters of AI are having to claw back what they’ve been doing because they didn’t put in place a good governance structure around their AI.”
Secure, accurate, inclusive, sustainable, and reliable. These are the qualities of responsible AI. But as Kay Frith-Butterfield pointed out, agreeing on what good AI looks like isn’t the issue – it’s getting there that’s the challenge.
Generative AI took the world by storm in 2023. ChatGPT became a ubiquitous, and for many, an immovable part of their workflows. But genAI still struggles with hallucinations, a phenomenon where the bot confidently delivers incorrect information. Data cannibalism is also an issue, whereby the AI ingests its own inaccurate data, creating a flawed perpetual feedback loop.
In HP’s conversation with UNESCO, Charles Radman remained positive. “[AI] could help solve the teacher crisis, reduce workloads, and improve workflows. AI is a positive, but it’s still very much in its infancy. It needs to be studied, and it should be studied in parallel to it being used.”
There were many instances at Bett where the tangible benefits of AI were evident. A case study by Microsoft on the use of generative AI in NYC Public Schools (NYCPS) saw both teachers and students deliver positive feedback when a curriculum-specific intelligent tutor was integrated within an NYCPS-safe environment. The aim was to support teachers and foster personalised learning – which was, for the most part, a success. As an area for improvement, schools requested bot responses that are more personalised to their specific curriculum. This was then resolved through Microsoft reaching out to the various curriculum vendors to request the content be made ingestible for the AI.
Solving more complex problems proved a struggle, and anything related to maths was mostly beyond its remit – although new architecture is being developed to support this.
During Futuresource’s event EdTech Collaborative, Lead Market Analyst Iryna Kazanchuk was joined by Delia DeCourcy (Lenovo), Sir Anthony Seldon (Historian, Educationalist), Jason Mayland (Merlyn Mind), and Michal Gideoni (Microsoft) to weigh up the challenges and opportunities for AI. While the benefits have the potential to be extraordinary, the consensus was that AI could quickly run away from us.
“We have to, as a profession, get ahead of this and shape the technology so that it works in the interests of young people,” Sir Anthony Seldon said.
Improving the integrity of the LLM and keeping the audience at the forefront should be key considerations as we enter this new AI era. “In the rush to market, these things can get lost,” commented DeCourcy.
It’s a fine balancing act between not rushing to adopt the technology, while understanding that students will use AI regardless. Sir Seldon touted AI as the biggest game changer in education since the printing press, but as Iryna Kazanchuk aptly put it: We can’t just be consumers, we need to be the ones guiding these changes.
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