In an era dominated by discussions about the impact of artificial intelligence, the conversation often splits into extreme views: AI as a saviour or as a threat. At Cognita, we advocate for a balanced approach, leveraging AI to enhance learning while maintaining the irreplaceable value of human connections between teachers and students. Dr Simon Camby, Chief Education Officer at Cognita, illustrates this perspective during a recent visit to Colegio Internacional Meres in Spain.

Barely a day goes by when there is not a media article about AI. So often these take a binary approach…. ‘AI will save the world’… ‘AI will damage the world’.

Our thinking at Cognita is that AI should be embraced but with intentional use to add value to learning. For sure, we believe strongly in the power of human connection and the magic that takes place between teachers and students; and between students and students. But this does not exclude the use of AI. Rather, when used well, AI can enhance and propel learning. This sits neatly within our commitment to a high-quality Holistic Education.

This sentiment was brought to life for me in an unplanned conversation with a student when visiting Colegio Internacional Meres, in Asturias Spain. I walked past a classroom where there was an amazing buzz of learning. This learning had been cleverly planned by Sonia Barrar, a teacher at the school, with Inés Espiniella the IB Diploma Programme Coordinator.

Eleven students who had recently participated in a Model United Nations (MUN) conference for the first time, were working with Grade 6 students. At the start of the activity, they briefly presented what MUN is and shared their experience. The aim of the session was to recreate a simplified version of the MUN where Grade 6 were asked to work collaboratively in groups representing one country (Spain, Russia, USA or France) and acting as delegates from that country. The older students acted as facilitators throughout the whole activity while the groups inquired about their country and country’s approach to Artificial Intelligence in Education. This will, later, be followed by a second part to the MUN activity, where each group will present their country’s proposals and each group will vote on the best ones.

My visit to this classroom led to a conversation with a student that made me reflect. Hernán is age 16 and is a 1º Bachillerato student. There were two take-aways from our conversation.

Firstly, Hernán was full of praise for the involvement in the MUN process. He described this as opening new horizons with the impact of giving a view on broader possibilities in the world. Underpinning this, he was superbly metacognitive – able to clearly explain the positive impact of involvement in MUN on communication, thinking, research and criticality skills.

We then discussed the way that AI was being used to support research. Hernán demonstrated wisdom, beyond his years. He clearly explained:

“AI is great provided you do not get lost in it.

You need to stay focused on your reason for using it.”

Hernán was also clear that using AI requires a clear understanding of the ethical use of the product of AI.

“You can use it well or badly.

You need to make sure you use it ethically to make a positive difference.”

My summary take-aways:

  1. Well planned learning can integrate human connection and AI. It doesn’t have to be ‘either/or’, it can be ‘and’.
  2. Our students are wise and we must remember to listen carefully and trust. When I meet students like Hernán I reflect that our world is safe in their hands. In fact, maybe some world leaders could learn from their balanced and thoughtful approach.