What role will digital technologies play in the future of education?
Is modern-age tech helping or hindering our children? Should artificial intelligence be allowed in our classrooms? Can artificial intelligence really help people to heal, to learn and to develop?
Contained comfortably within our modern cities and modern apartments with our space-age tech-fuelled lives, it has become all too easy to forget how new artificial intelligence actually is to our lives. Is posthumanism the new vision for the future?
What is posthumanism?
- Literally translated as ‘beyond human’, posthumanism raises the question of whether we should be integrating other things beyond humanity into our lives. E.g. the wider natural world and artificial intelligence.
By moving away from the idea that humanity is the centre around which all things revolve, we can begin to reconnect with the world that we have spent the last six million years evolving to become an inseparable part of.
We, as a species, must reconsider how we fit into the wider spectrum of existence. The traditional notion that the world has been created for our personal use is being challenged. Global challenges, from climate change to extinction, have forced us to confront our shared ideals and reconsider the philosophical divide between humanity, nature, and artificial intelligence.
The fine line between organic and artificial intelligence continues to blur with new technological advances being made in robotic technology. Most modern homes now have their own ‘Chatbot‘, such as the Google Home Hub or Amazon’s Alexa. These robotic intelligences are specifically designed to imitate human conversation and illicit conversational responses. Furthermore, hospitals in France have been utilising a nursing robot named ‘Zora’ with fantastic results:
“Staff members have been continually surprised by how attached patients have become. One nurse said some patients get jealous of others spending time with Zora. Patients have told the robot things about their health they wouldn’t share with doctors.” (New York Times, 2018).
“It puts some cheerfulness in our lives here,” says Marlène Simon, 70, who has been in hospital for more than a year. “We love her, and I miss her when I don’t see her. I actually think about her quite often.” (New York Times, 2018).
At Georgia Tech, USA, an artificially intelligent teaching assistant named ‘Jill Watson’ has been introduced as a way of answering simple questions, freeing up teachers’ time to help students in other ways. In Japan, next year, they will be trialling five hundred artificially intelligent robots as a way of ‘supporting learners’ in schools. Finland has also been using robots in the classroom to provide friendship to those who need it.
Although trials have been successful, the unsettling notion that children cannot distinguish between human and inhuman intelligence has been raised and there are concerns over the unforeseen impact this may have on developing brains. Some people have theorised that “the real challenge for the future may be understanding and defining what is real, and what it means to be real” (Innovating Pedagogy 2020, 2020).
Despite the creeping anxiety fuelled by the sci-fi genre (think Blade Runner 2049, Her, and Ex Machina), humanity is continually integrating itself with increasingly advanced artificially intelligent robotic technology.
Should this technology also be integrated into our classrooms and early years settings? Will it benefit our children’s development or actually hinder their lives?
The short answer is we simply don’t know.
Despite all of the studies and research being done into its effects on people, very little is currently known about what effect it will have on children and the generations that may eventually grow up with a robotic presence instead of a teacher.
Whilst this may still be a theory for philosophers and science fiction writers, the landscape of ‘humanity’ and its place within existence is changing rapidly and we, as educators, must adapt to keep up.
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Satariano, A., Peltier, E. and Kostyukov, D., 2020. Meet Zora, The Robot Caregiver (Published 2018). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/23/technology/robot-nurse-zora.html> [Accessed 11 November 2020].
Voki.com. 2020. Voki | Speaking Characters For Education. [online] Available at: <https://www.voki.com/> [Accessed 11 November 2020].
Salkever, A., 2020. Avatars Will Soon Upend The Role Of Teachers And Transform Education. [online] MarketWatch. Available at: <https://www.marketwatch.com/story/avatars-will-soon-upend-the-role-of-teachers-and-transform-education-2017-04-06> [Accessed 11 November 2020].
Robots are helping pupils to learn in Finland, (2018) YouTube video, added by euronews (in English) [Online]. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=q26cHepoYJc> [Accessed: 11 November 2020].
The Straits Times. 2020. Japan Classrooms To Use AI Robots To Help Teach English. [online] Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/japan-classrooms-to-use-ai-robots-to-help-teach-english> [Accessed 11 November 2020].
Lipko, H. (2016) ‘Meet Jill Watson: Georgia Tech’s first AI teaching assistant’, Georgia Tech The Lifetime Learner, 10 November [Blog] Available at: <https:// pe.gatech.edu/blog/meet-jill-watson-georgia-techsfrst-ai-teaching-assistant> [Accessed: 11 November 2020].