AI in schools – are we sleepwalking in paradise?

AI in schools – Mrs Anna Owen, Principal at Sunshine Coast Grammar School shares her thoughts.


ChatGPT, the most renowned Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, has divided opinions in recent months.

This new technology is not inherently bad or good. It is, however, extremely powerful and is here to stay.

So, as educators, are we collaborators with robots or competitors with robots? What do we do about AI in schools?

At the moment, I am slipping into the ‘proceed with absolute caution’ group. Human biology has evolved at a much slower pace than technological advancements.

We are, of course, hardwired to seek improvement and solve problems, but humans are still humans.

Has our technological power outpaced our moral, ethical, spiritual, and parenting power?

We must ensure all new innovations are designed with the intention of benefitting all humankind.


ChatGPT and AI in schools

As a lifelong learner and passionate teacher, I have read deeply about the art and nature of teaching and learning. There is much to be gained from online learning and tools, such as ChatGPT, that sit in the realm of competency and automation in classrooms. In schools, in the wake of ‘technology-rich’ classrooms, there has been no measurable improvement or obvious increase in student achievement (Beveridge, S. 2018).

“How we navigate and tolerate the integration of AI with humanity and subsequent augmentation will be critical to our future.”

True proficiency, expertise and mastery are seen in students that have been exposed to risk and failure and demonstrated evidence of engagement through deep debate and conversation in classrooms or real-world interactions augmented by prudent technological support. And finally, to move to the highest level of mastery, students require apprenticeship. Not only gathering skills and knowledge but experiencing encouragement, care, and role-modelling empathy in context. I never thought I would say this, but thank goodness the pandemic taught us that teachers still have a role to play in schools, society, education, humanity and civility.

How we navigate and tolerate the integration of AI with humanity and subsequent augmentation will be critical to our future. A balanced perspective is necessary. We are not there yet. Artificial intelligence is just beginning to have an impact.

The challenge is to chart a path to a future where humans remain indispensable. That said, most progress over the past thousands of years has come from doing new things that we never did before—not simply automating the things we were already doing.

As Oren Harari, former business professor at the University of San Francisco, is quoted as saying, ‘The electric light bulb did not come from the continuous improvement of the candle’.

There are great benefits. As journalist and writer Hope Reese reminds us: all members of society, schools included, will be required to tap the two superpowers that can’t be programmed into a robot—love and imagination.

By Mrs Anna Owen, Principal at Sunshine Coast Grammar School

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