Peeking Around the Corner: AI in the Classroom

One of my favorite things about attending tech conferences is the opportunity to engage with industry leaders in an attempt to get a glimpse into the future. At the 2018 Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, the global tech giant did not disappoint. During a mini-keynote session at the massive conference (which is focussed primarily on emergent and effective strategies for businesses to evolve their customer engagement strategies), Chief Technology Officer, Abhay Parasnis shared 10-minutes of future casting that I simply could not shake as a life-long educator. In the talk, Parasnis explained that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be at least as impactful, and likely more so, than the era of the internet or the era of the smartphone. As he began to unpack how and why AI will be the defining mass-market invention of the new era, he stated, "The AI-powered world requires a complete rethink of the entire technology model and [user] interaction model." 

This is where I couldn't avoid the obvious connection to the classroom. As computer science becomes increasingly palatable for school leaders and teachers to discuss, research, implement, and (unavoidably) assess, my hope is that we can use this emergent field to catalyze an entire shift in instructional models. Other industries are facing the same stark reality as education--get better at adapting or plan to become irrelevant quickly. In Vegas, the CTO of a global leader in technology is stating it in plain terms to an audience of several thousand business leaders. It is simply not possible to effectively embrace emergent technologies while holding on to archaic interaction modalities. 

As AI sneaks its way into our daily lives, the lives of our students, and into our classrooms, we must be vigilant to shift our practices so that we can leverage the possibilities of this incredible technology. Our students, especially our K-5 students, are growing up in a world where machine learning isn't novel...its normal. They expect personalized adds in the games on their tablets. They assume "Alexa" understands the context of their questions. They blindly accept that Cortana and Siri can differentiate between "play Fortnite" and "play Fortnite videos." However, while digital natives quickly accept technology being woven into daily experiences, they need teachers to help them cultivate an understanding and appreciation of how to use these innovations to empower them as autonomous problem solvers. In this way, teachers can help students become producers who consume not only for entertainment, but also for growth. As we prepare to head back to school, there is no doubt that computer science should be (and increasingly is) an avoidable component of every child's education.

My hope is that as computing (more specifically, computing practices) continues to evolve, that teachers will be granted, and will embrace, the freedom to develop adaptive practices that revolutionize how students engage through innovative learning practices!