I’ve been working through a presentation I gave at university called ‘Are we robot-proof?’ Within this presentation I based my reflections on a few academic texts but mainly “Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the age of artifical intelligence” by Aoun 2017.
In the previous blog posts I have discussed the current situation with respect to technology and learning and how change is important and can be embraced.
In this post, I’m about halfway through the presentation, I’m going to talk about what the ‘new learning’ will actually look like and how we should be preparing our learners for the future.
Can we compete against the computers?
At this point, you probably have visions of the terminator or the film War Games filling your minds. Computers are evolving. Not only in what they can do but also how they look and how they interact with their physical environment. Technology is becoming more and more efficient and effective. Yes, we do initially create the technology but with artificial intelligence being defined as ‘software which updates itself’, there is the question, who will eventually be in charge or control of the created technology.
Do we actually have the ability to compete with the technology? Probably not. But the important point is that we should not be competing against it, we should be working alongside it.
Although there are many things that computers and technology can do, many of which they do even better than us humans, there are some things which they cannot actually do. These are the aspects of learning which we, as humans, should be embracing and developing.
“education in a digital age needs to focus not just on technology and understanding what technology can do but also what it cannot do –at least for now and perhaps never.”
He goes on to explain that we should be nurturing the elements which make us humans (something which he labels as humanics) and engage with these in order to promote learning at the meagre hands of the humans!
If you know me, you might have been shocked to see this as a sub-heading within my blog post. I actually struggle with the concept of creativity, I even provide a three-hour session of my views relating to creativity within the classroom, on a creativity module. But I am going to put aside my personal views of creativity for the purpose of this blog post.
When I am writing about creativity within this post, I’m not talking about creating a musical or artistic masterpiece. I am talking about thinking creatively. Thinking differently, thinking ‘outside the box’, being innovative. Ken Robinson in his famous talk “Do schools kill creativity?” presents the points that we actually grow out of creativity or even educated out of it. I perceive this to be true.
We all have the ability to think creatively but within the education system, this is slowly removed. We are encouraged not to take risks and to follow established routines in order to progress. We provide a recommended structure for assignments, even down to the number of words per section, recommended reading and even a set syllabus which we as educators consider being the ‘best experience’. In doing this we promote the philosophy that it is wrong to fail and that the only way to do things is the way which is presented. Robinson reinforces this by stating;
Computers/technology are really good at convergent thinking. They can engage with a large about of data and recognise trends and patterns. It has always been able to do this better than us humans. But we shouldn’t be trying to compete with computers with this, we should be engaging with the thinking that computers cannot do – divergent thinking!
When I left primary school teaching to make the move to higher education, at my final assembly, the headteacher made the remark that I was leaving school to make clones of myself who would be teaching in the future.
Although I smiled and laughed at this, I was somewhat disturbed by the thought of this. First, I’m not sure the world is ready for more than one of me! But secondly, I would not want it to happen. I don’t want to make clones of myself but I do want to promote certain of the skills I consider that I possess.
In order to engage with the world, I consider that we need a range of skills. These include problem-solving, communication and divergent thinking. I don’t want to tell learners how to do things. I want them to develop their own skills by trying and failing and re-trying and succeeding. They might be looking for a foolproof plan (I don’t actually think one exists) which will be easy for them to implement and then to subsequently reap the rewards from. And, if it does fail, they have the reassurance that it was not their own idea to start off with.
For me, learning needs to change in order to beat technology and allow humans to find their place in the future. We need to break out of the constraints which we currently impose on learners and encourage divergent thinking within all aspects of learning. In doing this, we will be encouraging these skills to be developed so placing ourselves and the future leaders firmly in the future of higher education.
One more post to go! We have established that we should not be competing against technology but be excelling in areas which technology cannot encroach on but the question is now, how do we achieve this?
And that, as you can probably guess, is the topic of the next blog post.