Keeping up with AI

HMC reveals what members can expect from their one-day spring conference in May

A great deal has been said about the impact of artificial intelligence on the workplace but very little about how schools need to teach it – and use it to teach. 

Chaired by Chris King, HMC Chair and Head of Leicester Grammar School, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) one-day spring conference for HMC members (Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in Education), is taking place in London on 2nd May and will extend the debate into the senior school classroom – how AI is implemented, and how teachers manage it while continuing to teach a curriculum designed to achieve the highest grades in the public exam system. 

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, will open the conference, talking about his new book, The Fourth Education Revolution. 

Professor Rose Luckin, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at University College London, and Director of EDUCATE London, will give a presentation entitled, ‘Hey Siri, Can you help me to teach physics? How blended artificial and human intelligence will help us teach for the 21st century’. She was a member of the independent review group set up by the government and led by Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, to look at growing the AI industry in the UK. 

Professor Luckin believes that there are no artificial intelligence systems that have emotional intelligence; there are artificial intelligence systems that can fake emotional intelligence, but they aren’t actually emotionally intelligent. “Human skills will prevail,” she says. But, one of the key concerns about AI in education is the perceived threat that “robots will steal teachers’ jobs”. While recent analysis from PWC on the likely impact of robotics and automation on education predicted that jobs in teaching were relatively safe because “the work of pedagogy is hard to automate”, concerns remain. 

But what does AI in the classroom look like? Priya Lakhani, CEO of Century Tech, will be giving a presentation of Century’s advanced tech-ed platform (already being piloted in several schools), which provides real-time tracking of student progress and reduces teacher workload. And there will be VR demonstrations from a number of education technology companies. 

Ann Mroz, editor of TES, will chair a panel comprising Dr Kat Arney, science author and broadcaster; Duncan Baldwin, deputy director of policy at ASCL; Jonnie Noakes, head of teaching and learning at Eton College and director of the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning; Joe Nutt, education consultant, author and TES columnist, and Shamus Rae, lead partner for innovation at KPMG. They will discuss the issue of jobs in education plus debate questions such as: Do we know what the future classroom will look like? How do we prepare pupils and parents, not just teachers, for this innovation? Are pupils ahead of the game anyway? What about the cost of implementing the technology? Ethical issues? Privacy? Is teacher training keeping up with AI and VR? 

In 2015, the OECD acknowledged the importance of technology as a tool for teaching and learning but reported that many schools were falling behind. Not everywhere, apparently. Many overseas schools use blended learning – a mix of digital media and traditional classroom methods; the use of headsets for VR teaching is growing; in some primary schools robots are replacing teaching assistants; and the potential shortage of specialist teachers could serve as the trigger for the adoption of alternative models for schools, eg video conferencing or online learning. 

Perhaps we’ll see the rise of the superstar teacher – like Cha Kill Yong from South Korea who has made millions running an online cramming site. The AI industry in the UK is certainly growing but are schools keeping up? 

The 2018 Spring Conference ‘Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in Education’ will be held at the British Library, London on Wednesday 2nd May 2018. Ffi:  


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