We’re leading with our ethics, but what do AI ethics in education look like?
Artificial intelligence is having a moment. In six months, generative AI has transitioned from an esoteric concept to a hot buzzword. As entrepreneurs in the AI space, it’s been an overwhelming mix of whirlwind and gold rush.
But the fact is, artificial intelligence has been around for a long time. It’s in the algorithms we use to shop on Amazon. It’s the backbone of Google Translate. Heck, it’s technically even Microsoft’s original spellcheck from 1983. But it appears it was ChatGPT that broke the camel’s back. Cue: all the dystopian predictions. Stop the presses! Stop OpenAI! Stop ChatGPT! No one wants a cold robot teaching their child, do they?
Well, we agree. Yes, you read that right. This AI company does not want robots replacing teachers. You see, we’re parents too. We’re also worried about how technological advancements can affect the neuroplasticity of children’s growing brains. Famously, Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his own kids have an iPhone or iPads. (And frankly, we will not hand our kids a smartphone until they’re 16.) So, what do AI ethics in education look like?
Explaining our AI Ethics in Education
Yet, we still believe that artificial intelligence will play a significant (and positive!) role in education. The key lies in its implementation. Naturally, as an AI education company, we spend most of our workday envisioning and executing what this will look like. We have some ideas, thoughts, and opinions that we can’t wait to share in forthcoming newsletters and whitepapers.
However, first and foremost, we must state our principles. MIT Sociologist, Dr. Sherry Turkle once said, “Technology challenges us to assert our human values, which means that first of all, we have to figure out what they are.” So, without further ado, let’s talk about what they are.
Principle Number One: AI cannot replace human teachers.
Let’s get this out of the way. Real teaching isn’t a stagnant information transfer. It’s “the art of assisting discovery,” as Mark Van Doren beautifully puts it. You see, humans need each other to feel inspiration and motivation. Isolate someone for a few weeks, and they’re unmotivated and depressed. That’s because love and curiosity drive us. The love of each other, the love of belonging, the love and curiosity of the world around us—that’s what moves us to become our best. Scientifically, we’re primates. Unlike fish, turtles, or birds, we’re born utterly helpless and need humans for basic survival. And this need is especially evident in education.
Just think about the old education model. No, not Charle’s Dicken’s punitive schools inspired by the industrial revolution. Let’s go back to a generation or two before that, when apprenticeships were the norm. In these educational models, someone fostered another human being. They developed a working relationship with them for years, and eventually, the student would become a master, who would, in turn, foster another student. This was how humanity passed down information up until very recently.
Human relationships drive us
Thus, we’re built for learning environments that foster human relationships, which make us feel safe. And when students feel psychologically safe, oxytocin is released. Minds are relaxed and at ease and ready for engagement. Good teachers foster this relationship to create this kind of safe space – and then guide the student to the material. A computer cannot do this. No matter how high-tech our technological abilities might be, we must make room for “low-tech” human relationships in order to thrive. Only with this can the high-tech elements accelerate a student’s intellectual growth.
Principle Number Two: Personalized Learning is the future.
So, there are different ways to be “smart.” For far too long, we thought we could numerically quantify intelligence with an IQ. It turns out that’s a rather narrow way of looking at the human brain’s capabilities. According to Harvard’s developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, there are eight types of intelligence. And only two of them—the language and the logical—are measured in an IQ test. There’s musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and naturalist intelligence—and that’s just looking at our different brains at a 3500 ft level. When fostering different kinds of intelligence, personalization is critical to success.
However, teachers have been asked the impossible. They have 30 students at a time in 45-to-60-minute chunks. That’s clearly not enough time to personalize every student’s learning experience as one human being.
AI can support teachers
Here’s where AI can help. With the right tools, teachers can be empowered to better understand students’ natural inclinations and interests and how hard they try on a specific topic. Students often oscillate between feeling that a task is “too easy” or “too hard” to try. By harnessing AI’s power, we can strike the perfect harmony that, in the words of Maria Montessori, “follows the child” (or, sometimes, grown adult). With AI, homework and independent activities can adapt to the student’s capabilities, almost like a “choose your own adventure” story.
AI can help students and teachers incorporate proven neuroscientific methods to retain information. Imagine. What if there was a learning interface that utilized the studies on spaced repetition or the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve? What if there were AI tools that publishers, schools, and educators could automatically incorporate these methods into their educational platforms?
The transformation of America’s educational system would be tremendous.
Principle Three: Everyone can have a world-class education.
If personalized learning is the future, then anyone with a passionate teacher and internet access could have a world-class education. This technology we’re building can help overcome resource constraints, geographical barriers, and disparities that hold millions back.
With real-time feedback, and the ability to track progress and identify areas for improvement, we can empower teachers to really grow a student’s mind, no matter the student’s background. We can give educators and parents a real sense of what drives the student forward and what might be hindering their progress. With the integration of AI, we are revolutionizing learning. And thus, we are making it accessible to anyone and everyone on the planet with internet access.
Focusing on how AI ethics in education can make a bright future for students.
These three tenets will guide our thinking, research, and work as we seek to improve education with AI technology. We believe that living-breathing teachers are the backbone of a student’s success – but we also believe that AI can drive the student to a more personalized experience that would motivate them beyond what is otherwise humanly possible.
Fundamentally, we believe that this experience can be for anyone, as long as they’re surrounded by someone who believes in their mind – and a reliable internet connection.
Stay tuned for more posts as we share the research we’re working on and the technology that drives our curiosity to learn and create.