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AI in Education and Teachers of the Future

Over the last two decades, the role of a teacher has already shifted and changed considerably because of the advent of the internet and AI in education. Let’s look at some of these key shifts.

From Disseminator of Knowledge to Curator of Resources:

Historically, the teacher was the ultimate disseminator of knowledge. Now, with the wealth of resources on the internet, children don’t need a teacher to find information. Any child can find huge amounts of high-quality information very quickly via Google.

A contemporary teacher needs to curate online and offline resources for a child, and then help a child understand how to find and use the best resources.

From a teacher of knowledge to a teacher of skills:

In the past, education was all about gaining “knowledge” or information. While knowledge is still important, it is far less of a scarce commodity today than it used to be. There’s so much information freely available.

Today, what teachers need to teach students are the skills of critical thinking, academic writing, problem solving, research, making effective presentations, and critical reading. Additionally, teachers need to teach socio-emotional skills like collaboration, communication, resilience, and emotional self- regulation.

Over the last few years, we’ve found that some teachers and schools have embraced these shifts, while others doggedly hold on to obsolete methods of the past.

Now, with the advent of AI in education, the role of the teacher must evolve further. If our students can easily and freely use AI applications like Chat GPT to write essays, structure arguments, solve problems, and summarize vast quantities of information, what is it that students need to learn, and how do teachers and schools need to adapt? One might wonder whether the role of the teacher is rapidly becoming obsolete. Will AI replace teachers altogether?

For teachers to stay relevant, they must be able to make the following shifts and grapple with the following existential questions:

  1. Teachers need to experiment with AI themselves, learn about it, and learn how to teach students how to use AI effectively. For example, students need to learn how to give high quality and effective directions to Chat GPT in order to get the best results. Just saying “Write an essay on climate change” is far less effective than saying, “You are an expert on climate change. Using only peer-reviewed sources, write an essay on the specific environmental effects of climate change in our world.”

  2. Teachers need to have discussions within their school communities about how they can use AI effectively, both for their own work (to plan lessons, for example) and when they assign work to students.

  3. Teachers need to consider what human skills will still be scarce in the future? Perhaps these skills will be more socio-emotional ones such as the ability to focus in a world full of distraction, or the ability to engage in difficult conversations with others, or the ability to connect deeply with others.

  4. Teachers need to think about ways to motivate and inspire their students; perhaps in the future, the teacher’s most important role will be to motivate and inspire. Teachers need to help students gain a strong sense of hope and purpose. Furthermore, in a technological world mediated by screens, the teacher’s ability to engage students by facilitating conversations and discussions, and by making students feel known, heard, and cared for might be tremendously important.

  5. Finally, as technology booms, many students may feel overwhelmed or isolated. A teacher’s job might be to balance out the remote world of technology with in-person, sensory experiences – time in nature, time engaging face-to-face with other students, time using their hands/bodies for art, sports, mechanics, and theatre.

As we move into the world of AI, I encourage teachers to embrace the future instead of resisting it, and to ask themselves what this means for them. What is their role now? What do they need to learn? How do they need to adapt and grow? And how can they continue to be a strong and positive guiding force in their students’ lives?

Curious to know more about the future of AI in education? Check out our TREE Talk on our YouTube channel - in conversation with Greg Clinton who shares his perspectives on AI as well as handy tools that teachers can use in the classroom.

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