#24 | PEDAGOGY & AI | Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Education in the Age of AI
Teaching is a complex art. It involves conveying knowledge to others within time constraints and human learning capacity. Good teachers employ various methods, combining visual, auditory, and tactile approaches to keep learners engaged and attentive.
Specialization has become essential in today's complex world, where individuals focus on specific areas of expertise. For example, medical professionals begin with the basics and specialize further to become experts in specific medical fields. This approach allows for more in-depth knowledge within a particular domain.
Introducing AI into education and daily life raises concerns about the depth of understanding. AI can quickly provide information and results but may not adequately convey the context or process behind that information. This can lead to a superficial grasp of knowledge and the potential for misinformation to flourish, as learners may not critically evaluate or question the AI-generated content.
As I see it, teaching is based on some fundamental principles that take into account several realities. First, it is impossible to teach everything there is to know because nobody knows everything, and even those who claim to "know" still have much to learn. Second, there is an overwhelming amount of knowledge to acquire, and it cannot all be transferred within a short period of time. For most, learning takes a lifetime.
All teaching methods are flawed in some way or another and are not capable of teaching everything. Additionally, learning occurs through visual, auditory, and tactile means, and no, osmosis is not a valid method. A good teacher will use all methods all the time, and be constantly on the move, as I was in my teaching experience, to keep attention from turning into daydreaming.
That said, the complexity of today's demands for competence are made feasible by continuing to specialize as the subject becomes more demanding or complicated, so the amount to know to be "certified" is still a lot of information about a smaller portion of the whole. Medical schools are a good example:
Learn the basics.
Pick an area.
Learn the specialty.
Focus on a part of the specialty.
Learn the uniqueness of the specific.
Become an expert in it.
There are retinal experts in ophthalmology; there are thin wall electric welders, as well as underwater; there are expertly caught tuna fish breakdown specialists; there are high voltage linesmen; there are AI code writers. The limitations are not in the amount, character, difficulty, or applicability of the information but in the human brain's ability to grasp and manipulate data to solve problems promptly. We are limited, and oh! Yes, there are savants and super exceptional people:
A 4-year-old who plays Chopin's chaconnes on piano.
A five-year-old who plays Zeguenerweisen on violin.
A seven-year-old who plays a standard harp or math genius.
The evolving teaching methods, incrementally, are cemented into standard approaches that have served well, not perfectly, over the centuries, and the old "saw" of a good background in the classics has never failed anyone with a modicum of ambition and curiosity. The arguments of what should be included and excluded continue. Still, more recently, HR practitioners have become aware that a good background will afford an employee with capacity and potential.
We will teach them our methods and means rather than try to undo their or other's methods and means. Plato commented that teaching someone a new thing is impossible when they are committed to an old thing. As the rant above indicates, teaching is an art, not a science. Still, some science gives us an insight into the performance of large groups variously exposed to differing teaching approaches.
And now, the specter of Artificial Intelligence has entered our lives and is already creating problems without solutions in the haste to commercialize its potential. Instead of a relatively concise grasp of understanding the classics in an educational format, the exclusivity of that body of knowledge with which to start life is blown up into everything published in any media available and given commensurate attention. Multiplying that information by step is the work of learning because the AI will perform the task without informing the user of the process. In a classroom of the past and current, the paper's reporting will not withstand the asking of how the results were developed, the equation derived, or the visual composed.
The owner of the results will be ignorant of the context within which the results were derived. This is like, "Look, Ma, no hands." It is a process that is hard to learn, but once established, it is a skill in a lifetime of competence, like riding a bicycle. Will AI take over the world? Yes, is the short answer, and probably in 25-30 years, whoever has the best manipulation will control the most minds. The manipulation will be discreet deceptions to divert resources to the more aggressive power hiding behind a false façade of benign concern. Consider Florida's crass exhibition of mind control.
The selectivity of information taught in school has given students a usable background without confusing the mind with useless factoids. So that the curriculum tries to reflect the facts and processes that convert into valuable attempts in the workforce, and the rest is acquired by knowing where to look. AI does not provide a curriculum to attach to a specialty; only the programmer (or oneself) writes the program for the results they think they need, without a background of decision-making in that specialty.
If I search for how to replace a heart, I should be able to do this on my own, methinks." The curriculum provides essential guidance, serving as a foundation on which to base future decisions and master the basics of a particular field. If I can learn to make a cheese pizza, I can make any type of pizza. Similarly, if I can operate one steamship Engine Room, I can run any steamship Engine Room. However, without a specific background, relying solely on information gathered from AI may contradict the well-known warning that a little knowledge can be dangerous. Disinformation is a flood of false conspiracies that, once announced, lack any credible background to support their validity.