AI – a balanced view
Amidst the abundance of articles on Artificial Intelligence (AI), it appears that the voices of the students themselves often go unheard. Group Chief Education Officer, Dr Simon Camby, recently visited York Prep School in New York and spoke with students to hear more about their views on the ever-changing AI landscape.
Every day there are new articles about the use of AI in education. Everyone has a view. Most of the articles I read pay zero account of student views. This is a mystery to me given that education is for… students.
I aim to always explore education from the student perspective in every school I spend time in. Last week I was in York Prep School in Manhattan, New York. Always a pleasure to visit, I had a great conversation with Maeve, Gabriel, Sofia, Harrison and Jayden. I spent time listening to their views on AI, both generally and specifically in relation to education.
I may be adopting an overly pessimistic view of media coverage, but so many of the headlines relate to ‘students using AI to cheat’. The five students in this conversation were grappling with much deeper issues than those covered in the media. They were doing one of the most challenging things in learning – dealing with paradox. They were holding competing views and trying to make sense of their thinking.
The overall headline from our conversation was that all students could cite and agree to potential advantages of AI. But this was not at all universal. For some, it came with a sense of anxiety.
‘I am scared about the impact on humanity and on creativity. Will we lose the uniquely emotional perspective?’ (Maeve, Grade 11)
‘I worry that it may stop some students from truly pushing themselves. (Sofia, Grade 11)
My takeaways from our conversation were:
- When used with a clear purpose and used ethically, AI has the power to assist and support learning. But it needs to be used by the student, not to replace the student. For example, the use of AI to help organise thoughts ahead of essay writing.
- AI should be viewed as a tool. When you use tools well, you choose the tool that is most useful for the task and you intentionally do not choose other tools. This requires students to be switched on to the best tool and not become reliant on one. Sofia likened this to using a calculator in math.
- AI can be used to support with in-the-moment learning. ‘We hate not knowing! That is the worst thing ever.’
These five students were wise in their reflection on the use of AI in their context at York Prep. They were all of the view that they accept AI will have a place in learning, but they hugely value the individual nature of teaching, learning, guidance and support. Interesting that the students see this social and emotional connection as the real substance of learning and that AI and technology is secondary to that.
What does this all mean? We cannot truly know, but keeping our minds open to listening and learning will surely mean we make better decisions for the students in our care.