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Will AI Kill Schools

I continue to work on training my dog. I now understand that most of the time (almost all the time) when the dog is not behaving, it is his human’s fault. In order to become a better trainer, I read books, watched videos and of course I worked with my dog. We did make progress but still had a long way to go.

Finally, I decided to enroll in a class with a certified dog trainer. The classes made a huge difference in how Bradley, the dog, responded to the training and to me. To develop a relationship with an expert from whom I could gather insight was critical. Additionally, seeing Bradley succeed brought me much joy.

Working with a trainer combined with a conversation with an experienced Head of School got me thinking about AI and its effect on schools. Despite current concerns and prognostications, I am convinced that AI will not endanger schools.

Almost all schools brag about their strong culture. They do so because learning, real learning, comes from an interaction between two or more people. We are social beings and we learn best in a social context. The personal relationship between teacher and student is the critical component of school and of learning. AI, with all of its power and “knowledge”, cannot craft a personal relationship with a learner. Human teachers can and should build that personal relationship.

Another universal truth about learning is that mastering a new concept or skill brings joy, Hence schools should be places of joy, not drudgery. One of the dangers of AI is that students will rely on it to produce product--essays, slideshows, even artwork. However students who delegate the requisite thinking and creating that accompanies crafting a product will deny themselves the joy of mastery.

Schools ought to help students realize that honest effort brings not pain (though sometimes it is hard) but rather joy.

Of course, that message would be more effective if the assigned work is intrinsically interesting. The more the work is rote, relies on memory, and giving the one right answer, the more likely students will delegate that work to AI. (And who can blame them?)

So schools will continue to thrive if the relationships between mentor and student are strong and the work is intrinsically interesting thus bringing joy. In these situations, AI is just another tool to be used by engaged happy students.


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