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What Does AI Mean to Education

Autonomous TruckIt seems to me that the biggest part of our conversations among educators about how AI may affect us regards our own job security. I’m not worried about that. It won’t make teaching obsolete, in my opinion, in spite of the list below. We’ll just spend less time teaching stuff to our students and more time teaching how to use stuff – essentially, how to use information to solve problems and accomplish goals.

This was all brought back to mind when I ran across this FastCompany article today about brick laying machines and other jobs that AI/Automation may replace. Thinking more about the implications, especially to education, I sought out similar articles. Here’s a list of jobs that some have suggested can be done by machines.

Chefs Factory Workers Surgeons
Retail Sales People Security Guards Farmers
Cattle Raisers Pharmacists Delivery Drivers
Journalists Soldiers Receptionists
Telephone Sales People Construction Workers Accountants
Tour Guides Mixologists & Bar Operators Librarians
Hospital Administrators Teachers Truck Drivers
Taxi Drivers Insurance Adjusters Construction Workers
Customer Service Representatives

I doubt that all chefs will be replaced nor that all factory work with be done by robots. The FastCompany article suggested that a brick laying machine would do what three humans can do in a day, but one person would be needed for the more nuanced work. But autonomous vehicles alone will likely mean the jobs of 5 million Americans, who currently make a living driving taxis, buses, vans, trucks and e-hailing vehicles. According to Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, most of these drivers are not dissimilar to the millions of factory workers who have lost their jobs since 2000 – men without college degrees. Like drivers, manufacturing jobs did not go to China, but to Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB and Kawasaki, the top producers of industrial robots. While factories were laying off millions of American workers, U.S. manufacturing output has actually grown by almost 18% since 2006.

What will be the consequences of this much unemployment, not to mention this much uncertainty. Nearly every article suggested that the effect on society will be HUGE and that the direction of policy makers will determine whether those consequences were bad or good.

Are we assuring ourselves of leadership that is creative enough to turn what seems horrible to most of us today into something that could actually be quite wonderful.

The sources: MSN, Quartz Media, Forbes, Futurism, The Guardian, LA Times, Fortune

Links to some of the articles


  • Infinity School

    AI has so much to offer education and teaching. 2 “minds” are better than one.

    I believe that the real benefit will come from allowing a more individual and adaptive education. This is something that AI can do at scale and humans struggle with. Mentor-ship and nurturing though, humans aren’t going to be replaced there anytime soon there.

  • Alexandra Rizzi

    Yes, I agree completely that AI will not make teaching obsolete. In fact, I believe that the presence of AI in education may even have the capacity to require teachers to expand and grow their teaching practice to become more relevant and applicable to life today. The schools that we grew up in, (and to some extent, many of the schools that kids are growing up in today), do not prepare students to be critical-thinkers and problem-solvers. My sense is that with the presence of technology and AI in the classrooms, schools and educators will be forced to re-evaluate their approach to teaching and learning, which is something that has been needed for a very long time. Specifically, it seems as though this may be a golden opportunity to move from an information-focused classroom, to an exploration-focused one. That is my hope as an educator.

  • Jimari Jones

    Education has been steadily increasing its dependency on technology over the past 30 years. Chalk boards gave way to dry erase which in turn gave way to the smart board. Even with the constant changing, tried and true effective pedagogy has remained relevant. I believe teachers saving grace is the fact that as technology increases so to does the diversity in schools. Humans will be needed to differentiate instruction and demonstrate compassion. Absent the human touch and the effectiveness of the hidden curriculum students would be left with out guidance. Further, I believe AI would be an asset in the classroom as it could be used to both facilitate and expand instruction.

  • Mark Villalon

    AI is great since it is a new phase that our society is going through currently and it shows it the changing of times. Technology is always evolving and becoming more efficient similar to education and educators. I do not see how AI will completely wipe out the human factor or over take educators [us] in the classroom. While there has been improvements and advancements made in our field it has all been geared to better assist our teaching style and has been used as a means of helping provide differentiated instruction to our students. AI as I have experienced in my classroom and with my students has allowed for them to speak their feelings by pressing a key on their computer to help assist them with language. I do not consider a Smart Board as AI nor do I foresee a robot coming into my class and replacing me, but what I do see is some sort of technology that will interact with the students similar to a tutor and a student will receive feedback right away. By no means will AI replace the human factor in work places or sites. People still need the human presence and look for human interaction. When we are looking for information or trying to get some sort of customer support, don’t we preference of choosing an actual person rather than hearing an audio? While I would agree that some jobs are being replaced by AI and robots I feel that humans will still be there to fix the robots or adjust the AI when they do breakdown. AI and robots have been introduced to make our lives more efficient not to replace us.

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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Raw Materials for the Mind

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