Resurrecting stars, Newspaper confusion, and more. In this episode, Andy, Robin and Adam discuss how AI will impact the future of learning. Is AI a friend or a foe? Will classroom teachers be replaced? Plus, Adam speaks on how different generations have gone through similar looming transitions.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hi, I'm Robin Potter.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School Podcast.
Welcome to the School of School Podcast.
Welcome back everyone. Another exciting episode of The School of School Podcast. We've got the two smartest people in this chat along with me. Adam and Robin, both say hi.
How you doing?
What an intro.
Yeah. Well, I just want to set the stage. I am the guy here. I'm the sidekick. I don't really know much about anything. And we're here to talk about artificial intelligence, something I know about, well, less than a little bit. But I am getting a bit annoyed with this artificial intelligence stuff because everywhere I look, it's like, "AI this, AI that. Oh, look, AI fixed this. AI wrote this poem." And it's like, yeah, okay, big deal. It's a fricking machine. Look, here's my calculator. It told me what 17 times 23 is. I'm not really all that impressed with it personally. Obviously it's going to have an impact. Obviously it's a cool tool and it can do lots of things. But, hey, what do you guys think about it? The real question is that can it impact learning positively? Does it need to? Should teachers be afraid of it? Should they try to use it? What do you guys think?
In answering your first question, will it impact teaching, I think absolutely without a shadow of doubt. I was talking to my son about this the other day, and he was saying that one of the things that he quite likes is that it can sum up something for him really quickly, which was his way of saying, "I've not revised as well as I should for my A-levels and so I quickly asked AI to generate something that says give me the brief for this and I'll read it and quickly put it to memory." So I think in terms of saving time to elicit information, then, yes, I think that it'll probably be extraordinary, if you so choose to go down certain paths.
I don't think teachers have got anything to worry about though, because it's a relationship game. And AI's going to have to get pretty damn good to be able to spot if something's not quite right with a child as they walk in the classroom. So I think it should be embraced. I think that we should have a healthy curiosity about what it's about. I think that we can't afford to get lazy with it. But I think where human relationships are involved, I don't know in my lifetime whether or not it will get slick enough to...
To replace that. I would like to think not, but who knows. Right?
It'll get pretty slick. There's no question about that. But, yeah Robin, what do you think?
The verdict's still out. I mean, there's certainly some positives to it. I think it is a time-
Yeah, there's some time savers. And you just mentioned your son, Adam. My son's done something similar in preparation for an exam or in preparation for a project. Getting AI to summarise all your notes, that's kind of nice. Give you all the highlights, the Coles Note version. And then I think from a teacher's perspective, it could be really helpful in, I don't know, maybe lesson planning? I'm not sure, but I'd like to think so. Maybe in marking.
But I have to agree there's also this human element that we're certainly not there yet in replacing. And what do I think about it, Andy? You can't open a paper, you can't listen to a podcast, you can't look online, without hearing about AI. And so you'd be living under a rock if you're not embracing it on some level and being curious about it, because it's going to have a massive impact on us, whether we want it to or not.
Well, look, it's going to change the world, that's for sure. But it's not the only technology. Robotics also already have changed the world. Mechanisation has changed the world. The internet's changed the world. Lots of things have changed the world. Maybe it'll change the world faster than some of these other things changed the world.
Look, I read or saw, I don't remember where the source was, but I remember the numbers. And I don't even know if it's accurate or not. It might have been just somebody riffing. But an assertion was made, it was like, "Before the invention of the tractor, 80% of the population were farmers." Yeah, okay. So that's a pretty significant change in the world. So the tractor had a significant impact on the world.
Is it going to be any different than that? Yeah, it'll be different, but will the human race adapt? Of course it will. But it doesn't take away the responsibility of teaching and learning. You're going to school to learn, right? So there's this new tool available. Make appropriate use of it. But the responsibility is still the same. You got to have to teach kids a whole bunch of stuff. Now, maybe some of the things that you taught them in the past are not going to be as important because machines will be able to do them more effectively, more efficiently, more quickly, whatever the case may be. It's going to change the face of things like, I don't know, some creative jobs, some research jobs. Those things, they will change, just like farming changed. But other things, the real skills will become more and more important.
Will these things get clever? Will they get good? Of course they will. Calculators are really good, they're really useful machines. If you typed in some calculation into your calculator and it gave you a wrong answer, you'd be really surprised. If I gave you a really tedious calculation to do and you got it wrong, I wouldn't be all that surprised. So, yeah, they're going to be better at some things than we are. But that just makes the things that we're good at all that much more valuable, I think. Teaching and learning, the responsibility isn't going to change. You're still going to have to learn stuff when you go to school. It just might be that some of the things that you're learning now might not be all that important in 10 years or five years time.
Well, I guess it's a decisions game. And go back to your farmer. So you could see the tractor is a massive advance in farming. But of all of these advances, I'm thinking of predicting the weather, tractors, all sorts of other mechanisation, all those sorts of things, the farmers are still having to make decisions.
And they still get it wrong. And things happen that are unexpected. And decisions have to be made in that moment. They can't be made for someone else. If you've got a lamb and they're lambing and it's the middle of the night and it's snowing, you still have to get out there in your Wellies and you still got to get out there and get the lamb, make sure it's safe, and all those sorts of things. So I think that's probably true. I mean, obviously there's some jobs that become obsolete and calculations is a good one, insurance actuaries or managing risk and doing huge calculations. Okay, that job doesn't exist anymore. But that's true of a lot of jobs.
But I think that at the heart of it is the technology will be there, but it will have to be humans that decide when and where it's used. And I think it's exciting. I mean, look, I know such a tiny amount and what I talked about with my son, that is just the most basic, basic, basic functionality. I was really interested, they were talking about the actors strike and having actors that were being created and actors that had died coming back and performing. That sort of stuff blows my mind. You start to think, "Well, what does that mean in terms of teaching in remote places? Can we have teachers that are responding in real time that look there? Is that going to be useful or not?" Those sorts of things.
But it will be interesting to see where it goes. I just think ultimately there's still decision making like you said, Andy, and responsibility. Anything in education, and true of many, many professions, obviously, is a decision making game. We have to make the right decision at the right time in order to support humans learning best. And if we get it wrong, they don't learn as well. It's as simple as that. And we hope we get it right more time than we get it wrong. And maybe AI becomes, or not maybe, actually of course it will, become probably an invaluable tool in some way, shape, or form that will constantly be developed in education, I would've thought.
I think what worries me more than anything else about AI is this separation from the truth all the time. So where before you could say things like, "I know it's true. I saw it with my own two eyes." You can bring evidence to a court, photographic evidence or video evidence in the past, and say, "This is what took place." Now you can fake that stuff so easily. You as an individual don't need to know how to fake stuff anymore. If you wanted to doctor an image in the past, you had to learn how to use Photoshop to quite a high level to make a convincing doctored image. That's just five years ago. Now you can just ask Photoshop to do it for you and you literally can. You can do stuff in Photoshop, like say, "Hey, change the background. Put more clouds in the sky." And it's that simple though.
So what's the truth? When we're saying higher value things, that's the kind of things that people need to learn. It's that, yeah, of course you can ask ChatGPT to write a song for you, or you can ask it to summarise some complex content for you and that's quite useful. You can also use it to do harm or to make lies. Right?
Yeah. Well, I just wonder it could impact learning though, too, and when you're discussing it that way. And how much control does a teacher have over a student's or a pupil's learning if that pupil just doesn't want to do the learning? So will it in some ways prevent us from exploring as much as we do now, is my question. Or will we take the easy way out?
Well, so it depends. If it's a tool that people can use to learn stuff, great. Get out of the way. Get the hell out of the way. Why should the teacher dominate how somebody learns? Get out of the way. Let it teach as much as it can. That's fantastic. That's great stuff. So some teachers might have to relinquish control over what learning looks like, yeah. But then the question is so facts and knowledge and stuff like that becomes much more democratised. Teachers are no longer the unveilers of this great knowledge. They need to become more of a facilitator of the process and say, "Okay, you got this from this AI. That's really good. Do you know that it's true? How can you verify that it's true?" becomes maybe more of the teacher's responsibility and less of the unveiler of knowledge.
And I suppose every generation's had that. So I think about, say my grandparents' generation, and the radio and the newspaper was the source of truth. So if someone put in a headline that wasn't true, well, to my grandparents, if they read it, that would be true. And there's a level of sophistication that I guess every generation that grows up has to get better and better. The internet is full of information, so that's a change in my lifetime where I grew up without the internet. Now it exists, and I can read all sorts of things. And it used to be that if you read things online, particularly when the internet first came out, God, I sound like about 100 old. But when it first came out, you're just like, "If it's published on the internet, it's got to be true." Because it was a hangover from the newspaper days. "Well, surely it's got to be fact-checked. If it's being published, it must be fact-checked."
Well, no one thinks like that now. No one, unless they're still in that level of progression from newspapers or from hearing it from someone who is the wise person or whatever else. But I guess every generation has to go through this. Information is being shared differently to how it was previously. And so being sophisticated about how we verify these things, what we believe, and what we choose to believe, becomes a skill that's different, I think, for every generation. Until you get to where you just throw your hands up and I don't know, my grandmother, "Disbelieve everything. It's all not true," or whatever. But you know what I mean? I think every generation goes through that.
Yeah, that's a valid point and a good analogy using newspaper and now to this generation where everything's online. So.
I don't think my kids even know what a newspaper is.
I'm serious. If I said to Artemis, "Go to the store and buy me a newspaper", she'd be like, "What are you talking about? What is that? Never heard of it."
Yeah. Well, there's no good reason. There's no good reason. They don't even wrap fish and chips in them anymore. So it's not even years away, it's done.
I think we have to come back to this topic in even a month from now.
Brace yourself, it's all going to change.
It'll be different next month [inaudible 00:14:38].
We'll get replaced and we'll see if listeners can spot.
We should do an AI podcast, right, just totally. It'd be interesting to see what comes out of it.
Oh my goodness. Great idea. Until then...
Thank you for joining us on the School of School Podcast.