Category Archives: Innovation in education

Of men and machines

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The book “La Guerre des Intelligences” by Dr Laurent Alexandre is a good opportunity to reflex on a sensitive issue. The book is about “how artificial intelligence will revolutionize education”.

It is true that AI has the potential to revolutionize education. The book discusses many possible applications of AI in the educational system. But beyond that, it discusses transhumanism i.e. the possibility to use chips and the latest advancements in biology to enhance the physical characteristics of the brain. We talk of course about possibilities that seem endless if not frightening.

According to the author we can enhance our intelligence with biology methods or with some chips installed in the body and especially in the brain. It seems too simplistic, though, to start from there and believe that these type of “more intelligent” creatures that we will create, will finally live a better life or even that they will act this way or another. This is more so true when we try to predict the kind of life in the societies that the “transhumans” will create.

Drawing conclusions from such possibilities is at least dangerous. Humans are not only intelligence and their societies are unpredictable complex systems even now. When converting to “transhumans” with supposedly enhanced brains, they will have increased the degree of complexity of their organization therefore their societies will be super-unpredictable. Most possibly such societies will also be super-sensitive to all kinds of changes within the system.

Thus, to expect education improvement by improving the human brain with technology or biology tricks is at least risky. Let us not forget a parallel issue: just because we invented Prozac it didn’t mean that we created a society of happy people; rather the contrary.

P.S. The person shown in the photo does not exist. It is the creation of an algorithm.

Telling the future

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Telling the future has always been a popular activity among humans. But why humans would even want to know the future? Probably there many reasons but in general it seems that we feel insecure; we are uncomfortable with the unexpected and thus we want somebody to tell us the future. Hundreds of people or groups invest on that fact: People who tell the future as a hobby, people who do it as a job, people who try to cover their psychological needs by having supporters and followers; even the end of the world has been predicted thousands of times.

Regarding education let us just not forget that after 40 years of “technology in education” there is no big change in education especially in Europe. You see, we can easily raise questions like “what is the big difference in education we offer”? More children want now to learn? Do they learn mathematics more easily or faster? Do people love learning foreign languages more now? Changes need time and it seems that the educational systems change in a completely different rhythm compared to that of tech advancements.

When time has passed we forget to look back. Do you remember that device called TV? It still exists; but when it was invented there was again the prediction that education has changed once and for all, teachers will not be needed any more and other fancy things. Reality proved different though.

Now there is this big discussion about Artificial Intelligence. Again one can hear the same predictions: no schools, no teachers and even more impressive things like children with chips in the brain and the like. So, why not, let me tell my own predictions for the year — and beyond. Artificial Intelligence is not going to change education dramatically. Because education is a whole system and systems do not change overnight. Michel Serres, the French philosopher, used to describe this phenomenon as a big ship where the captain gives the order to turn to the right. The ship of course cannot turn to the right immediately as it is a really voluminous device; it will take its time. The problem in our case though is that until we turn right there is one more command to change route and then another one etc, ending up with no actual alterations. Happy New Year!

P.S. “My beloved OVELIX (container ship)”. Pastel by author.

Technological Innovation in Education

imagesIt is true that ICT technologies have given us impressive educational tools during the last three decades but the problem is that more impressive technologies come all too often. How can an educational system incorporate all these changes in such an accelerated mode?

The Social Acceleration Theory of prof. Hartmut Rosa identifies the economic motor as the main external factor that sets technological innovation into motion. Capitalist economy needs growth in order to exist. And in order to have more growth i.e. more production, more consumption etc., the capitalist economy demands for more capable technologies. Technological innovation really creates a competitive advantage for some time for those who have, understand and use the newest technologies and  faster production, cheaper products, more consumption etc are achieved under the motto “time is money”.

These are not the values of education though. A school is not a factory; a teacher is not a production engineer; a school principal is not a marketing manager to push for more consumption. Teaching methods of course need renewal and using ICT tools can mean more effective methods but still we cannot convert the use of technology to a goal by itself.

We lately witness a real effort to catch up with new technologies in the European educational system. Still it would be nice to initiate a parallel action of similar effort in order to define again the terms education, school, pedagogy in other worlds “paideia-παιδεία”. Finally redefining the teacher’s role in this new technological society would be of particular importance as teachers are the key persons in the era of technology.