I’d like to talk about AI

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

It’s been an absolute delight to be a small part of the end-of-year college conference season, not just because I love sharing ideas and ‘stirring the pot’, but because I get to visit sessions delivered by others, too. And the speakers I’ve been seeking out have been the ones delivering on the theme of AI – Artificial Intelligence in Education.

I’m a bit of a techy: Commodor 64 owner in 1981; did my LeTTOL (Learning to Teach Online) in 1995; music/media software user for 40 years, etc. So I’m really ready to be wowed by AI.

But my main passion is pedagogy. As a college manager, inspector and consultant, I’ve been privileged to have been a professional observer for decades, and amassed a huge collection of education memories – along with many teachers’ lessons plans… In the ALI and Ofsted I ran the Good Practice Database, writing hundreds of case studies and making films about the wonderful transformational stuff FE & Skills teachers do.

As you can imagine, I’ve also seen a huge pile of what doesn’t work in the classroom. Those lessons that leave learners, well, ‘limp’ seems as good a word as any to sum up the impact of ill-considered teaching strategies. If I was to be a little more specific, I might call out Tell-and-Test teaching as being one of the strategies that produces the least positive difference to learners. Do you know what I mean? Teacher produces a PowerPoint on a subject full of important stuff, then does a Kahoot at the end to see what learners can remember. It’s all about just recalling stuff.

If you have a great memory, then this might be okay. But if you’re even a little neuro-diverse, then there’s are a significant number of us who don’t learn this way. At best, we might be able to cram and remember stuff long enough for the exam, but ‘walking the cornfield’ (endless repetition) doesn’t produce sustainable learning for many.

What people never forget is an experience. I’ve been encouraging delegates at my events to stop thinking about ‘lesson planning’. Now you may think this suggestion is a semantic change, but for me it’s profound: instead of ‘lesson planning’, think about planning ‘learning experiences’. As I said, we never forget experiences. And that’s probably one of the common factors in all of the great practice case studies my team and I wrote for the Good Practice Database. The very best FE & Skills teachers create unforgettable, unmissable learning experiences; with ‘the facts’ buried neatly inside.

So why is this post was about AI? Whenever I run a session, my aim is not to ‘tell’ delegates about a teaching strategy, but to model it so that they can make a decision about its value to them as teachers. I may not always achieve this, but it’s definitely my aim. Now here’s the thing – none of the AI sessions I’ve attended used teaching strategies designed by AI. Worse still, they’ve all been Tell-and-Test, but without the test. But I’ve been much more disappointed with this next point..

In every demonstration I’ve seen, the AI has just been used to: “…automatically generate your PowerPoint and quiz for you!”, say the AI experts. In other words, AI is being used to produce some of the worst lessons we see, at a time when teachers tell me that maintaining learner engagement is harder than ever.

A couple of times over this last two weeks, I’ve run my Assessment & the Art of Lazy Teaching session. It introduces delegates to 50 different learner-centred formative assessment strategies, none of which are about using general Q&A or quizzes. None of them are just ‘summative’ (finding out what someone knows). All of them are ‘formative’ (ensuring learners can determine the next step for themselves). And, as I didn’t create any of them, I feel I can say without fear of arrogance that they’re all fantastic – they’re all stolen from my years of observing great teachers.

In the final plenary of a recent session, it was interesting to note that some delegates felt AI simply couldn’t produce the sort of strategies we’d been looking at, or combine them in such inventive ways to create unmissable, unforgettable learning. So my plea is that we don’t use AI to sleepwalk into effortlessly producing Tell-and-Test teaching.

Let me know what you think.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

#FE #motivation #AI # artificialintelligence #c4cqi #JoyFE #UKFEchat #TonyDavis


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