Best of The Authority: AI and the Future of Education with Priten Shah — Teaching in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Ross Romano: AI, Artificial Intelligence. Sometimes it can seem like all anyone talks about nowadays, but if you've been listening to the Summer of AI series on Transformative Principal, for example, you know how important it is that we really do discuss AI thoughtfully, understand what it means for the future of education. And for our students, for the economy, right? And everything that's happening in our schools, preparing our students for that future. So today I'm really pleased to bring you a guest who has much to say on this [00:01:00] topic. He has a brand new book out on it. Preet and Shah is the CEO of pedagogy. cloud, which provides innovative technology solutions to help educators navigate global challenges in a rapidly evolving world.

He's also the founder. of Civics Education Nonprofit United for Social Change, and he's author of the book we're discussing today, which is called AI and the Future of Education, Teaching in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Preet, welcome to the show.

Priten Shah: Thanks, Ross. Thanks for having me.

Ross Romano: So, you know, one of the things among teachers in particular, but a lot of people in a lot of, in a lot of, different lines of work and part of society. There's a lot of the rumors, confusion, fear around the rise of AI, certainly over the past year or so, it seems like All of a sudden, it's everywhere, and then, and even though the concepts of artificial intelligence, machine learning have been around for quite a while, it's become inescapable, and I think the more inescapable something is, the more some people want to [00:02:00] escape it, right?

So I thought maybe what we should start with, just to, to context that for our conversation, is just to get the baseline. definitions of AI and machine learning, understanding just functionally, what does it mean? What is the technology, right? How is it designated when something's in that bucket? So that it doesn't feel like it's everything, right?

We have a good understanding of it and then we can really talk about it more thoughtfully.

Priten Shah: Yeah, cool. That's a great place to start. So I think like their key place to start is thinking about AI in general. And so, you know, the way we like to explain it is it's the mimicking of human like thinking and processing, by a computer. And that seems to be an easy definition for most folks to start with now.

This has a whole range of things. So, we as humans do a lot of different our intelligence, comprises a lot of different tasks, and so we can do something as simple as process auditory input, when we're listening to each other talk. We can see each other's faces and facial expressions and recognize there's a lamp in our background.

And we can also do some sort of thinking and processing and [00:03:00] synthesizing of information that's fed to us. And artificial intelligence is the attempt to at least try to get computers to do all of that. And there's subsets that we've been, technology has already been able to do in the last couple of decades.

Our Siri systems can artificially output voice the way a human might output voice. Now those aren't really great at Actually processing, the input and coming up with, original thought, but, the ability to mimic human voice and words is actually really good. So that's what it's, the intelligence that it's trained on, the intelligent task it's trained on, my brother, is that.

Now, none of that is what's causing the uproar of that one, so. No one's freaking out in schools because of Siri. Folks are freaking out because of a particular new, implementation of this, which is the generative AI landscape. And generative AI, it's kind of in the name there, is artificial intelligence that actually generates tasks.

And so while a lot of these other AI tasks are great at regurgitating, at classifying, the new technology that's coming out, it's much better at creating original output. And the way it does this, And I'm going to try to make this as simple as possible for the sake of, so we can get to the, core of the impact here, is that if [00:04:00] it takes a large data set, and so, for example, OpenAI's chat GPT has taken a large data set of text, and then it tries to figure out what's going on in that data set.

So it looks for patterns, it looks for, things that it can recognize as, hallmarks of different types of data within it, so that it can replicate those things. And so it might recognize that the word, always shows up in this particular context, the word, always shows up in this particular context, and then it starts to build bigger and bigger understandings of the human language based on that.

It uses that understanding to now generate new text, new images, depending on what the data that it's been trained on. And that's where it starts to start to sound more human like because it's not copying and pasting something, it's not, giving you a here's a list of 10 links you can find, the way even some of the search engines do, it's producing brand new original output that caters to what you then put into it.

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Priten Shah: Okay, maybe I'll stop there for a second, but, we should there's a lot more to dig

Ross Romano: Yeah. And when you talk about generative AI and the enormity of that data set and the ways [00:05:00] in which it's used. I think that ties into, you know, there's a couple of different ways to group those who are maybe feeling fear around the rise of AI. There may be some who haven't engaged with it much at all and are just kind of maybe hoping it goes away.

But then there's a lot of folks including the creators of the technologies themselves, who are examining various ethical concerns and trying to think about, okay, as these technologies evolve, we understand that they're going to become a part of our daily reality and they're not going to just disappear.

But how does that impact ethics in a variety of areas? When we're dealing with students, of course, we have even more concerns around, their privacy and their data and the ways in which they engage with technology. What are some of the ethical concerns that are, important that we think through as [00:06:00] we're considering our implementation of AI tech?

Priten Shah: And I think it's a great, that's also another great place to start. I think just centering the conversation on ethics also makes that, you know, I think folks start to, starting to address folks fears first, and it's a great place to. Begin the conversation. And so, I think the ethics things kind of be put into two buckets.

And so there's, well, maybe even three buckets, right? So you have the first bucket, which is, what the students are doing within the school systems as they use these AI, technologies. And so, their ethical considerations there end up being our privacy security concerns or data privacy, concerns, and really figuring out what kinds of data from our students are we sharing with third parties, right?

So that's, that's a bucket of ethics, ethical, concerns that we can definitely talk about. The second is what are our students going to do with this technology, right? So, how are they going to be using this technology within their own lives, outside of the school systems? What kinds of, BIA literacy are we building with our students so that, when they're at home using ChatTPT, they're not using it in a way that's actually, you know, unethical, or is damaging or harmful to somebody else?

And then the third or as hopefully as they all grow up and they [00:07:00] become pioneers in the, in these fields, they start using this technology in their careers, also so that they have that mindset of how what kinds of data sets are we going to use, when I'm working at it as an engineer, and to make sure that my algorithm that I'm building is not biased, right?

So all the AI literacy components there in terms of building students who are, responsible users of AI technology and responsible creators of AI technology in the future. The third is, our ethical concerns that we have with any new technology in the education space, which is making sure that we don't make the achievement gap worse which is making sure that the digital divide, is solved so that we're not exacerbating the, implications of that, and figuring out ways that we're not leaving behind students in terms of as we implement new technology, by either limiting their access or by moving too quickly into, implementing the technology.

And so I think those are those are three buckets of ethical areas. I don't think we can talk about all of them quite a bit, but I would definitely want to start those. Conserved into those three buckets.

Ross Romano: Yeah, what's going on particularly on the student data privacy piece, because that's, of course, been an ongoing concern for as long as tech's been around, right, and every tech company has had to consider that, [00:08:00] grapple with it, improve their processes, and now we have technology that's fast moving, that's freely available, that is collecting more data than ever before, right?

And, and that students are also, as you said, like using on their own time, in addition to potentially in schools. So it's not just a classroom technology. And yet. You know, it's happening at such a rate that, that there may not have even been enough time for the students and the adults around them to even think about, okay, what, what data are we even giving to this thing?

And, and what does that mean? And how might it be used? And is it personally identifiable? And what is all that? I mean, what's, the progression of those conversations, as it stands?

Priten Shah: yeah, yeah, I think, and I think this is where we are starting to see some of the conversations take place and finally see some implications of it too. So, I think thinking through what kinds of data these are, we have media literacy conversations with our students already, right? We talk to them about what they share on [00:09:00] social media, what they chat with folks about on social media, what they post on their profiles on the internet.

And we talk, we we try to help create healthy habits around this so that they're not sharing personal identifiable information already with, like you said, existing technologies that, we're either implementing in schools or that we know that they're accessing outside of schools. The reason this technology becomes a little bit more complicated is because it's collecting so much more data and that's crazy in the context of when we know how much data Google is collecting, when we know how much data Facebook is collecting, to say that it's collecting even more data is it's kind of frightening.

But the amount of data that can that's exchanged when you're having multiple conversations, naturally flowing conversations, and then especially using an educational context where they can be talking about, you know, what they're, they might be writing a personal statement for a college essay, lots of personal information shared there, you know, they might be reaching out for SEL help, whatever it may be, however we start implementing these technologies in our classrooms, the amount of data they'll collect is going to get greater and greater.

Now, data collection on its own is not bad. It might actually make, make this technology actually more powerful in productive ways, right? In fact, I think that as we started with, this relies on [00:10:00] some form of data collection in order for it to be effective, and the way that we reap the benefits of this AI technology long term is by giving them the, the data that we need, and by letting it personalize it to the data that we're providing it.

The concern is what this is done with that data. And so this is where the accountability structures, whether they be governmental, whether they be, Consumer based, and whether they be self initiated by these companies themselves, and I think most likely some combination of all three, where I think our school, our teachers and schools will be making decisions that will influence what kinds of safeguards the companies put in place, and those look like these companies are at least trying to, have a data privacy first, rhetoric at least we'll get to see how much of this becomes implemented in actual practice, And then we'll have to wait for some policy guidance from the top.

But all of that the concern really is, like, we need to share as much data as possible to make it as effective as possible, while making sure the data is not used for any other purpose. And that's that's always the key with any of our data privacy concerns. There's always, what is done with that data besides what we are asking them to do with it.

And this is where we saw some, some of the opt out clauses that started coming out in terms of allowing it to be trained, deleting of the data that's, used within these systems. And I think [00:11:00] we'll see more of that conversation, right? I think we'll see more about, you know, the data is only stored for X, Y, Z days, it's not used to train anyone, who, what's it, who, what what access is provided to anybody else, because my worries are it's one thing to commercialize this data, and that alone is a massive, concern if folks, the amount of data they have to be able to and combine that with the power of generative AI, right?

And now you have hyper targeted commercial ads, you have hyper targeted pamphlets going into the mail based on these conversations, and that's a concern on its own. And then as a civics non profit founder, I have to mention that there's also a huge civics component to this, and so, these com these companies having access to that much personally identifiable information, knowing how a student thinks, knowing how a student writes, you know, knowing how a student is processing information that is being fed, can all be a a a massive tool in misinformation campaigns.

And so the concern really is, are we making sure this, these companies that are collecting this data, are using it only for educational purposes that we're opting into, that students are opting into, that parents are opting into, obviously, at the K 12 level? And are we making sure that this data is secure enough so that it's not being used in any malicious way, whether those be commercial purposes, or [00:12:00] misinformation manipulative purposes, in the civics angle as well?

Ross Romano: right. And, and and also on the other point, I think one of the topics comes up a lot, in these conversations that within the education field are presenting maybe as their, their primary ethical concern. And yeah, I think tellingly, you didn't list this as one of them because to me it's a different topic altogether.

It's teaching and learning is assessments. You know, the fear of AI related cheating. What does that look like? And, you know, the reality that it comes down to a question of what are we teaching? What are we wanting students to learn? And are we creating assignments and objectives and learning targets?

That are not where cheating doesn't become the objective, right? Because if you really can use these tools [00:13:00] just to complete an assignment, then it's the assignment, what is it? What's its value when we think about, okay, if these are the tools that are going to be used in the workplace and so on, right, if we consider that cheating, well ultimately it's already taken off in the economy that, you're going to be at a disadvantage if you don't know how to use the tools.

And yet, if you're not learning the types of skill thinking and other things that, are going to have you establish your. base and your value apart from the use of the tools, you're at a disadvantage. So what, what's your perspective on assessment and, and that question of, Oh, we need to outlaw these tools because they're, they're just used for cheating.

And, you know, how that conversation goes,

Priten Shah: Yeah. You called me out rightfully on that one that, I purposely do not I don't, I don't think about the plagiarism cheating and go left on the ethical issues with the AI technology itself, right? So, and I think this is largely because the public narrative, has been a cheating tool, cheating tool, cheating tool.

And I think that's [00:14:00] missing the entire picture, right? I think that framing this as a cheating tool, first of all, is feeding into this like, forbidden fruit narrative for the students themselves. And so even in terms of like doing a little bit of catching up, I think it was a really poor, policymaking angle to, go out and tell a bunch of students that we're going to ban this on school computers because it's a cheating tool, which they're now going home and accessing because they all just heard about it through the district announcements that were made in the spring.

But the reality is that the, the ethical problem with banning the technology, it does, has nothing to do with the cheating, right? And we, I'll talk a little bit about the cheating in a bit too, but, we also have to, I think it's what you said, right? The students are going to be having to encounter these technologies in the real world when they graduate.

And so, you start banning these technologies, you start telling them this is something we're not going to talk about, you're not allowed to use it, and we're doing a disservice to our students. And I think we're fundamentally not fulfilling the purpose of public education, right? So, yeah. You know, the, these, the ninth graders are walking into the classrooms right now.

The world that they're being prepared for, that is not the world they're going to be graduating out into. This world has already looked quite a bit different. Professional areas look very different than they did about six months ago, let alone a few [00:15:00] years ago. A few years from now, the, at the prevalence of the technology within career paths, is going to be substantially greater.

And the technology's going to be stronger. And so if we're, if we're not even preparing students to use the technology that exists now, I think we're doing them a disservice, by approaching this from the, let's ban this, this is a cheating tool, that's a plagiarizing tool, you're not allowed to talk about it, you're not allowed to use it angle.

I think the reason that's becoming the primary focus is because we work on a little off guard. And I I think there's, there, I have lots of sympathy and empathy here. Towards educators who are struggling with it, because I think we, we weren't prepared for a world in which all of our assignments became irrelevant overnight.

And you know, like, this is, I like to compare this to the COVID 19 pandemic in terms of the shock to the education system that it had, with one big difference is that it's not going away. And so I think when COVID 19 was coming around, everybody was like coming up with their band aid solutions or figuring, okay, we'll do this for this year, we'll figure out this solution, we'll train our teachers on exactly the subset of things that are necessary to get us through the next six months, a year, whatever, we knew there was going to be an end to it.

The reality is this isn't going away. New Orleans is only going to get, stronger, the technology, and both in its prevalence. And so I think the, the reality is [00:16:00] that figuring out plagiarism policies, honor policies, detection tools, bans, those are all extremely band aid options, and I think most of them already don't work.

Forget about, like, we'll be working or not by the end of the school year. And I think it's, this is where, reevaluating our assessments is the key, path forward. And that, that sounds daunting. And I think folks are terrified of it. I think that level of rethinking what homework we're assigning, what classwork we're doing, how we think about what the, goals and purposes of our education system is, is not something that's easy to do within six months, a year, even a few years.

And there's no centralized place for this conversation to take place, right? So these conversations are taking place we're having it today, there are conversations that take place at university levels, folks are having them in their in their teacher center. Break rooms, but there's no central place where everybody's thinking about, okay, we need to rethink what our education system is doing, how we're assessing students, and what we're assessing them for.

And I think that's, that's the key here is that we can figure out stopgap measures to find ways to make sure that the students can still write a polished essay without us figuring out without using a chat GT or big chat, alternative. But, but why? Right? Like, I think that [00:17:00] we really have to ask why.

You know, and I think this is where, like, really thinking about our assessments and what, what exactly do we want our students to walk away from when they step out of our schools, is going to be an important part of having this conversation. So do we want them to step out of our high schools and when they graduate in 12th grade with this portfolio of 15 polished essays that they're going to walk around the world with?

No teacher will tell you that, right? Like, no one is going, no one thinks that the actual finished work product is what is the key benefit of, the essay writing process or most of the assignments that are assigned. You know, we, we ask them to write essays, we ask for, because of the process.

And so, I think when we over emphasize this final work output, where it's we need this polished essay that's new and that's your 50% of your grade. The bar for a student to cheat is really, really low they have a really high incentive to do so, it's really easy to do so now.

And unless we reframe what the point of any of the other assignments are, and rethink how we approach these assignments, they will, they will take that option. But it's just like, there is no honor policy, there is plagiarism of the texture that is going to prevent students from taking that option.

[00:18:00] Now what if that that's not, that's a lot of naysaying, and that's a lot of, like doomsday talk, and When I have these conversations with folks, their questions are, oh, what kind of an honor policy can I build? What plagiarism what plagiarism protectors actually effectively detect AI?

Those are, those are not the right questions, right? And unfortunately, that's like, I think, 80% of the questions we get when we're doing PD, when we're talking to teachers, when we're on our social media. And I get it, right, like it's, that is the easiest next step, to get back to a little bit of normalcy for us, is to use things that we're familiar with, but that's not, the reality is that those aren't going to work, and so the more we try focusing on, you know, how do we detect this, how do we stop this, I think we're gonna, we're keep missing out on time to sit down and rethink, do we even want to assign a take at home essay anymore?

Do we want to even assign an essay at all anymore? Do we want to have them write an essay in class? Do we want to have AI technologies be incorporated into the essay writing process with our students, right? And I think this is where we have an opportunity now to do what I think, a lot of teachers have wanted to do.

But standardized testing teacher burnout, all those things have prevented this level of, innovation in the education space. Is make our classrooms more active. Right? So I like, [00:19:00] my go to example someone's like, what can I actually still do in my classroom that's AI proof?

I'm like, we have so many options. Like we, we have options that we've all been using in small, little births here and there. Graduate schools have been using, the case study method is a great example of like, go do whatever you want at home, study, study the case, talk to your peers about it, go talk to chat GPT about it, do your research, but come to class prepared to talk about it.

Right. And I think that's like, That's where we're starting to emphasize to students that the goal is ingraining the knowledge within themselves, right? They need to know how to think about this stuff. They need to know how to articulate this stuff. So that they can then have you know, put this into chat GPT and get a final work product, but just with their own thoughts, with their own reasoning.

And they don't, they have some capabilities to actually ask the right questions, put in the right information to get the final work output. Yeah, I mean, I can keep, again, these are all topics that I could probably keep going on and on and on. Thanks to all.

Ross Romano: Right. Well, there's a question. You know, there's a question as with so much of the discussion. And when we think about, education, how it needs to change and innovate is is, is the work that happens inside the formal education environment [00:20:00] is, is that context representative of What happens in the rest of the world.

So these technologies exist. They're out there. Kids have access to them. If we're not recognizing that, leaning into that and trying to make that a productive part of teaching and learning, all we're You know, really doing one. I mean, potentially doing a disservice to all students, but more likely really doing a disservice to students that are, going to be less advantaged to begin with, right?

Because they may have less access at home to technologies, to learn from other people who know about them whatever that the case may be. And so just because it's not happening in school, like kids, Some of the kids will learn about it, will learn how to use it, and then they'll be advantaged in that way, and other kids won't, and they won't be, and if the purpose of schools is, to focus on that, I mean, and it ties into, I mean, I had an interesting [00:21:00] conversation yesterday around started talking about Digital equity, right?

And all the things schools have been doing over the last handful of years, pre pandemic, during the pandemic, after the pandemic, and the various undulations that conversation has taken and when there's like pushback between it doesn't seem like it's working and things like that. And it eventually led to, okay, well, the overarching objective is educational equity, right?

It's equity in opportunity for teaching, learning opportunity for economic opportunity, etc. And then digital equity is a big part of that. But I think there's times when it's misidentified where the inequities are coming from. So in this case, for example, we could have two different schools or two different classrooms where all the students have there's no prohibitions on any of these tools.

Everybody has the same access, connectivity, et cetera. One teacher is really trained and really [00:22:00] effective at teaching with. AI tools or any technology. And the other one isn't right. Well, there's going to be inequity there that it's not about the digital side of things. But it's part of it is one that spectrum from, okay.

Rejecting to just accepting and it's okay to really embracing and embracing, as you talk about with the ethical concern, it doesn't mean just gung ho saying yes to everything, but it means saying, look, there's high potential here. I need to learn about it. So. You know, and part of that is things that educators could take upon themselves.

But another part of it is, okay, these are things that schools and districts need to be thinking about. What is the training need to look like that we're providing to our teachers to make sure that they don't feel confused and fearful about this. They're confident. They understand what it is. They understand that they're allowed to use it and not have to fear that they're going to be branded as facilitating [00:23:00] cheating, right, right.

And understand that. Their expertise at teaching with tools is advantaging their students so that they can learn better from somebody who knows, but what what have you looked, looked at as far as thoughts around, like, the training and guidance to be provided on that part not guidance around the honor code, but guidance around, okay, here's how we need to actually push things forward.

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Priten Shah: yeah, and then this is a big part of our work is building some of the competencies within teachers for teachers and providing direct support to teachers. I'm working with districts because I think you're right that I think that a lot of. There's, there's a weird range of responses that we've seen in the last six months, and I'm not convinced that any of them fully is hitting the head on the nail here, and you know, there's, there is like lots of workshops happening about figuring out your honor policies, like you're saying honestly, like, at this point, like, I look at those and I roll my eyes.

Because all of those teachers are being left out, in terms of having the conversation that they need to have to better serve their students this year.[00:24:00] And I think this is where, digital literacy among teachers in the country is already low, right? We the amount of jokes that we saw coming out of the COVID 19 pandemic, the number of, the amount of catching up folks did just to figure out how to use digital technology tools, to, Teach online, that, that, that gap was so wide, and it required so much work directly with individual teachers.

Districts really struggled to provide that support to, teachers, that I think we have to bridge all that gap and more in order to get teachers equipped in order to have these conversations. And part of the problem is. These weren't part of future training programs. This is all brand new technology.

Teachers haven't it's not like something that you could have gradually built up a skill set and all of this did appear overnight. It's the amount of catching up that teachers, even those who are the most technologically literate, and embrace technology, openly, are still struggling to figure out the right ways to embrace this in ways that are ethically conscious, in ways that are not disservicing their students, in ways that are not leaving behind some students, and in ways that, aren't jeopardizing their students digital, safety.

And I think this is where we need to do this piecemeal. And I think if we all try to play catch up in a year or two, and we're just starting to do some of the, have some [00:25:00] of these conversations now, get some of this training now, it's going to make a huge difference. But I do think the districts are responsible for this training.

And unfortunately, what we're hearing from a lot of folks is, the guidance top down this year has still been. Figure it out all out in your own classroom, write your own policies, you know if you want to seek some training, if you want to use this tool as well, unban it for teachers, but keep it banned for students, like there is not the level of urgency that I think really needs to be there, in order to equip teachers, with the right amount of resources so that they can learn the technology themselves, figure out how to both use it in their own workflow, and then have productive conversations with their students about it, right?

I think you're right that it's not just about the, the technological access alone is a massive cause of digital divide in the country, of course, that's right, so, we will continue to see school districts that don't have one to one devices, that don't have, you know, the, the, even the internet bandwidth in order to be able to support the students, using this technology in the classrooms, but that won't be enough.

We can continue to solve those problems, but if we're not building the competency amongst our teachers, there's no resource that we can provide, that is a hardware, software resource, of course. That is going to solve the problem, [00:26:00] because these conversations need to take place in productive ways, and I think the other thing you hinted at this is, this is one thing that we like to, like, highlight with our, cohort as well, is that The students are partially relying on these technologies and not talking about them with teachers because they don't feel like they can.

Right, so the students they, they know it's being granted as a plagiarism and cheating tool, so even if students want to use it in a productive way, they want to use it to brainstorm, they want to use it to do research, they want to use it as their individual tutor, the chances that they will open up to their teachers and have these conversations, is close to zero right now.

And so, when, when teachers are being extremely, strict about whether or not it's allowed, allowed to use, whether, when they're not taking that information. I think that the students are being told that this is something they need to do behind the scenes. And I think bringing this out into the open, having open conversations about, okay, these are technologies that are being used in these particular ways.

Here's how I accept the use of these technologies. Here's how I use them myself as a teacher, you know. Here's how I generated your homework if I'm using an ILF, right, because I wanted to give you extra practice problems, right. Having those open conversations showing that, I think is, but we need to get teachers to...

be doing those things in order for them to [00:27:00] have those conversations with students. But yeah, I think the, the, yeah,

Ross Romano: Yeah, I mean, you've indicated a good opportunity there for student engagement, right? For, I mean, students that are engaging in some learning on their own, they have questions that they might want to bring to their teacher and they feel like they can't. And as we've talked about, right, there's, I mean, being, it's a top down turn in the learning environment.

If the principal of the school. says these tools are cheating, then of course the individual teachers don't feel like they can go out and use them because they're going to say, well, why are you, why are you all encouraging cheating? Right? So we need to, and then we need to not just allow it, but encourage it and say, look, once we get to, I mean, there's, we're, we're going to find realistic, limits and parameters and do's and don'ts as we go, but we need to explore here and why wouldn't we want to set.

create those opportunities and enable those opportunities to [00:28:00] really engage with our students around things that they're interested in. And you know, and to have that happen organically and naturally,

Priten Shah: yeah, and I think this is where we're, we can have so many more productive conversations about the positive potential, in education, right? And so I think, when we, if we start to have this conversation with teachers and we start to provide them that guidance, and you're right, I think, it's not, the folks are being told that this is plagiarism at all levels, right, and it's cheating at all levels, and so I think, the hesitancy to spend some time figuring out how to productively use it in the classrooms is pretty high right now, because that is the rhetoric that they're getting from administrators, that's the rhetoric they're getting from the media, and so to sit down and think about how to bring this technology open handed welcome it into your classroom, the bar for that is really high, and so it takes a large amount of convincing, to get folks to do that, but I think, we have a really good potential here, there's really good potential here to use this technology in ways that serves both teachers and students better.

So, post the pandemic, there's a massive burnout crisis in the country. Teachers are struggling to keep up with their workloads. Students are [00:29:00] extremely behind, the, right, like, we have massive problems unsurmountable. Folks there's random solutions coming out here and there that folks are trying different things, but they're, we have not caught up from the learning loss that happened during the pandemic. And teachers are struggling because of that. When we, we had teacher burnout for pre pandemic, post pandemic, and that problem has gotten even worse. And these technologies, in my, eyes, this is, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. They're, they, this could be, if approached properly, if, if integrated properly into education systems, the solution to both those problems, right?

Offloading a huge chunk of the work that a teacher needs to do in order to be prepared for the next class, so that they're. well rested so that they can show up 100% for their students the next day. There's, there's great benefit there. And when we work with teachers and they start seeing, you know, how much of the work that feels menial, it feels taxing to them, that actually is that allows them to then show up with the five different assignments for all the students in different learning styles, a rubric for all these new assignments that they're coming up with, PowerPoint presentations pre drafted,[00:30:00] within In one prep period, rather than having to spend days at home at night, prepping for these things, they, they feel more encouraged that they can meet students where they are, and they, they can do more differentiated learning, can approach offer a variety of assignments, make their classrooms more active, because now they have some help, and that, that, there's huge potential there.

And then, if our students are directly using it, this is where, again, we can start to use the technology to play some of that catch up games, provide them that individualized instruction, have students, get practice problems that target exactly the things that they're struggling with, so that when they show up to the classroom, they're a little bit more equipped, with the with the practice that actually suited where, where their learning gaps were, rather than this generic set of five problems that, teacher who had to make problems very late at night, right?

I mean, this solves everyone's problems if it's used the right way. And that, that conversation, is not happening at the levels that it should, it could be, right? And, there's always a gap in terms of getting everybody to be enthusiastic about a technology. We're still in the pure stage of this.

But I think when we get there, I think folks are going to start to see that, like, there, there really is amazing potential here to [00:31:00] solve some of the key. And long lasting problems that we've been facing in our system.

Ross Romano: Right. Yeah. And you touched on, right, there's, we've talked a lot about how it can be used directly with students, but there's numerous ways for teachers to automate, make their work more efficient. And when we're already challenged by an educator shortage, why would we turn our back on tools that could potentially solve some of those challenges, instead of saying, well, let's, let's just actually make things more difficult.

And, when we know that. There's already overwork and there's already, processes that take enormous amounts of time, right, and, and, you know, PD and teacher growth is another area where there, where there's a lot of potential.

Priten Shah: Yeah, and I think this is also the easiest place to start getting some buy in from, teachers and from administrators is, maybe we don't bring it into the classroom on September 1st, right? Maybe we're not the first thing we open our school year with isn't, let's have every single student chat with a AI bot.

But I think starting the conversations this fall [00:32:00] about how teachers themselves can start using this technology, kind of starts to tie in a lot of things we've been talking about tonight, right? They can start building their own competency with the technology. They can learn its strengths, its weaknesses.

They can start having, build their own AI literacy while saving themselves time. But I think that this is a great, and without risking any of the student without any of the considerations about what data are we obviously, again, there's considerations here about what data the teachers themselves are sharing about students, but without there's, there are more control about them students having individual conversations.

And so, to me, this is the lowest hanging fruit of AI implementation this fall is let's get teachers to start using this technology, and productive ways to streamline their own workflow that's independent of student usage, right? This, that, to me, seems like the, agenda for the fall. Is let, let's start using it those ways.

The PD potentials are great. I think that this is where, like, we need to start having some of these conversations so that we can start just looking at the North Star here. My favorite examples that I've, like a webinar co host, mentioned once was, like a VR classroom where a teacher is, like, doing a lesson live for a bunch of, AI students.

Students, and they get some real time feedback for it. You know, even sitting down with a chatbot and saying, Hey, my students were [00:33:00] struggling with this particular concept, or there's some creative ways I can teach it. Hey, I realized that like, I don't have enough practice, you know what, right? I don't have enough practice problems.

And for this particular problem, I just think that they would be they would get it after five examples. I'd really need like 15. Getting all those things generated, getting that assistance, to really streamline your own workflow, get some more advice. I have a student with a special a, a IP that I'm not used to.

How do I approach my lesson for that particular student? All those kinds of things can be, approached, used, and can be used for all those, inquiries that can also help the teachers on professional development.

Ross Romano: Yeah, absolutely. So we've touched on this throughout, but I think one of the ways that we could sort of tie all this together is to contextualize it within the purpose of education overall, right? The purpose of education long term, you know, a lot of it is determined and has been determined, but it's also shifting quickly.

So, you know, how are you viewing when, when we think about, okay, here's what the purpose of schools is, here's what we're trying to do for students. Here are technologies who perhaps.[00:34:00] How does it all fit together to you?

Priten Shah: So I think oftentimes when we're thinking about the purpose of education, especially in the U. S. with the student loan crisis, with, high rates, for higher education, let alone, the the cost of, just like, It's providing a hope for public education in the US. We're very career oriented.

And so, a lot of the rhetoric is, you have to do really well in school to get this really good job so you can provide for your family. And there's, there's lots of mission statements out there, there's lots of... You know, theory out there that says that's not why we provide public education, that's not why we have liberal arts universities in the country, but the reality is no one's on the ground, no one is, not students, not teachers, not administrators, no one is seeing their purpose as that, and my this is where I put my like philosophy hat off for a little bit, and my worry is that this is, this is not the reality that we don't know what the workforce is going to look like when these students are graduating.

And so, we, we don't know what jobs will still exist. We don't know what jobs will require what skills. And we can, there's some predictions out there. We can all [00:35:00] predict about which STEM skills will be more likely, which human skills will be more likely to be prioritized in the economy.

But there's a good deal of this that is, that is much more unknown than it ever was before. So we don't know what government interventions are going to be. We don't know what what kinds of bans are going to be put in place on these technologies that will allow some careers to still flourish while other careers completely go away.

We, we just, there's a lot of unknown. But one thing we all do know is that the importance of forming individuals who can flourish in a society is still there. And so this is where I think figuring out ways that we can help our students navigate their learning process as something that's important for them for the sake of learning itself.

I think that that's really where we need to start thinking about, especially, at as we think about. We can't, we can't prepare students for the current world. We don't know where the world is going to be, but we do know that students will always have to interact with their fellow humans, they will have to engage in the civic process at some point, and figuring out how can we build our education system so the students are better equipped to do that, right?

So, you know, in the last few years, we've seen a heavier emphasis on [00:36:00] SEL, right? We've seen some heavier emphasis on civics, and I think that those are all roles that, that schools will need to continue to provide. Meeting our students, helping our students become well functioning adults, is a purpose that is independent of what society looks like with or without AI.

And so I think figuring out ways we can start making sure that we're honing in on that, having those conversations in at the high level, at the the individual teacher level, I think that's where we need to be.

Ross Romano: When you look at so of all the different functions, options, potential problem solved that you've investigated, is there any that stands out as, as most exciting to you about what you're Where we could take schools in a few years if we, get really good at, at using and implementing these technologies and, and aligning them to the very real challenges that exist, but also opportunities.

Priten Shah: Yeah, I think this is where I think we combine those two things, right? The, the technology and what I [00:37:00] think we should all kind of try to like hone in on as the purpose of education, there's amazing opportunities for students to kind of take their own learning journeys, right? And I think this is where, allowing students to kind of figure out what their interests are, explore them in depth.

That's not possible when you have a classroom of 35 students and one teacher in the front who has to provide a standardized curriculum to everybody. I think that the, the level of individualization that we can have with this technology means that we can kind of allow students to explore whatever they want within these various topics.

And so, and that can mean all and I think there's like ways that that's possible now without a revamping of education. System without a revamping of how we think about what the purpose of education is, that are also really exciting. And so, by step, by a go-to example for something that we could do right now is we can make math work problems that cater to every student's individual, like favorite topic.

And so you can have the exact same math problem that for all 30 students, and one can be about fourth, and one can be about a Disney movie and one can be about. Climate change, depending on what the student's interests are, and so you're kind of starting to meet students help them see the context of what they're learning within [00:38:00] their own interests, within what they find interesting, get them more engaged, because now they're they're not, they kind of have a little bit more interest in, the actual learning process, because they're getting things that they're are naturally of interest to them, but that can also that, that's now, in a few years, that can mean that we, an entire course that they take, is based on their own interest, and so maybe they have a civics requirement, but they spend that entire year focusing on a particular topic that's of interest to them, and using AI technologies that can kind of help guide them through that process with the help of a teacher, to learn about either climate change, or learn about gender justice, or learn about the climate change.

The voting system and voting rights, and kind of have that opportunity to explore really what's of interest to them to increase the student engagement, because at the end of the day, one of the problems we're going to continue to face and one of the problems that we're facing now is student engagement in our schools.

And so, again, the reason we're having to apply band aid measures, the reason we're having to apply authoritarian measures, is because that engagement level is really high. The buy in isn't there from students. They're struggling with their own, they're struggling with their, level of buy in into the education system.

And so we are having to be pretty strict about to work [00:39:00] pretty hard to make sure that they stay, aligned with what we want them to do. If we meet them a little bit closer to what they want to be doing in the school system, using AI technologies because we no longer need an individual tutor per student in order to make, for, to make some of this reality, I think we can actually get students to be more excited about coming to school.

Ross Romano: Yeah, well, and isn't that a good thing to be excited about? Listeners, my guest has been Preet and Shah. The book is AI and the Future of Education. It's available on Amazon, Barnes Noble, wherever you get your books. We'll put the link to that below. Preet, is there anything else you're working on or anything else our listeners should check out?

Priten Shah: Our Instagram. So we have lots of suggestions there for folks to kind of start using this technology themselves. Prompt suggestions, tips and tricks, news, headlines, and so that's, at Pedagogy Cloud. And we like to share some, lots of free resources there for folks.

Ross Romano: Awesome. Listeners, check that out. We'll have a variety of links below for you to learn more. Please do also subscribe to the authority for more in depth author interviews like this one, or visit bpodcast. network to learn about all of our shows. Thanks for listening [00:40:00] and we'll connect with you again next time.

Creators and Guests

Ross Romano
Ross Romano
Co-founder of Be Podcast Network and CEO of September Strategies. Strategist, consultant, and performance coach.
Priten Shah
Priten Shah
🤖 CEO @ Pedagogy.Cloud | 📚 Founder @ United 4 Social Change
Best of The Authority: AI and the Future of Education with Priten Shah — Teaching in the Age of Artificial Intelligence