We’ve Been Here Before


In a previous post, I mentioned that many of the sessions at our annual edtech conference, focused on the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom.

I didn’t get to see more than a few minutes of any of those presentations, but since then I’ve reviewed some of the materials posted by the speakers and read much more about the ideas being presented for the use of AI in education.

And it all seems very familiar.

Back when we first got computers, they were going to revolutionize education. Except that we tried very hard to use these new tools to replicate traditional schooling in digital form.

We added the internet, and again this access to the world’s information was supposed to fundamentally change the classroom. But little changed as everything was tightly controlled to maintain the classic process of transmitting material from teacher to student.

More recently, most everyone (including kids) started carrying powerful, connected computers in their pockets and this was going to enable students to take more control of their own learning. Instead, the first instinct of many (if not most) schools was to ban the devices. Also their second, third, and fourth instinct.

Today, students are using various social media tools to create in new ways, and connect with their peers from all over the world. More possibilities to revolutionize learning. Our educational systems, however, are working overtime to ban and block them, extending the on-going (and impossible) efforts to wall off classrooms from the outside world.

And now we have artificial intelligence. Or at least a variety of tools labeled as AI. How “intelligent” they are remains to be seen and is a discussion for many other posts.

In the year or so since ChatGPT (for text), DALL-E (images), and other consumer AI tools made a big splash in the world, much has been written (and presented at conferences) about how this new technology will upend traditional education and fundamentally change the way students learn.

Except the approach in schools so far has been pretty much a repeat of all of the above: major efforts to restrict student access and using the tools to teach the same curriculum using the same deliver-the-information approach.

It’s still way too early to know the impact that artificial intelligent technologies will have on the broader society as well as education specifically.

But, based on my somewhat limited perception, the approach being taken by most educators and school administrators is disturbingly familiar.

The photo shows part of the lock controls from a bank vault on display at the Smithsonian. I don’t think it has anything to do with this topic, but I’m considering giving up on the idea of finding pictures that are relevant to the post anyway. Too much work. :-)

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