Academic Leaders are continuing to have important conversations around AI on campus and with peers in other schools. When the advisory council met to generate ideas around the topics that would be included in this year’s Marking the Moment, there was unanimous support for including AI, not just once, but twice: there’s teaching and learning about AI, and then there’s educator use of AI. Even with two distinct areas of exploration, we still find major intersections. The framework still holds for the guidance the Association issued in January, and can help Academic Leaders think through emerging developments and next steps.
In his recent webinar, Questions to Ask Yourself When Grappling With AI at Your School, Vinnie Vrotny, Technology Director at Kinkaid School, pointed out that humans "are really terrible.... really terrible predictors in terms of where we think things will go right and where they won’t.” Vinnie went on to say that in order to avoid this trap, the first question Academic Leaders need to ask themselves about AI is “Okay, what might happen because of this?”
Back in January, our first recommendation to Academic Leaders was “figure out what AI actually is–and what it isn’t.” That advice still holds. Thinking about Vinnie’s that people struggle to perceive the implications of technology innovations and how they’ll impact our lived experience in both the near and the distant future, let me propose two (admittedly enormous) questions for Academic Leaders to explore this summer.
How will AI have an impact on hiring and job responsibilities in the education sector? (In other words: What if our jobs change?)
If your immediate response to this question is “certainly not” you, like the majority, fall in the category of respondents in the Pew research study who said artificial intelligence will have a major impact on jobholders overall in the next twenty years, but it won't affect them personally.
Allow me to humbly suggest that this stance almost certainly guarantees that at some point you’re going to be really caught off-guard by AI developments. We recommend that Academic Leaders take a deeper dive into both general and education-related topics to better understand what is and could be happening in the professional world of work. Our source document for Marking the Moment includes a number of resources, and I’ll add a couple here that have been released since that document (did we mention that this is a fast-evolving and exponentially growing topic?) For the curious, the Washington Post just released this interactive tool, cleverly titled: Type in your job to see how much AI will affect it. Give it a go!
A couple of other new resources:
Harvard Business Review is in the middle of a special series of podcasts titled How Generative AI Changes Everything. The first episode was fascinating, I plan to keep listening.
News stories abound, such as IBM CEO Arvind Krishna’s announcement that 7800 back-office jobs could be replaced with AI in the next five years and as a consequence, IBM is instituting a hiring freeze. Here’s one take on this news
How will we prepare our students to critically think about AI’s impact on what it means to think and create? (In other words: What if our students have to navigate a future in which “creator” is a meaningless term?)
As Vinnie put it in our webinar, educators need to think about our students’ futures in the many roles they’ll have for years to come “How might we leverage generative AI within the context of the various subjects to prepare students to lead, serve, and become contributing citizens in the future?”
Teaching about AI will be far more important in the long run for students’ futures than focusing on academic honesty issues. What do classroom educators, curriculum designers, and instructional coaches need to explore to be able to do this adequately within their divisions and disciplines? How will you engage your colleagues in active research? Will it be acceptable for some to simply say “I don’t get it” and avoid the conversation?
The tension between process and product has been swirling in independent schools for decades. Many independent school educators and leaders have stressed that the process of student learning is equally, if not more important than the products generated. We have aspirational portraits of our graduates as “life-long learners.” At the same time, product is intelligible to parents (report cards!), admissions offices (resumes! transcripts!) and, yes, teachers (final exams!).
AI lays this argument bare. If people focus on academic products–the answer to a problem set, the final draft of an essay, or a completed lab report–they also have to come to terms with the fact that students have access to machines that can produce the same (or better) product. Check this out: ChatGPT recently passed the theory portions of the Master Sommelier test, despite the fact that it’s never tasted a sip of wine. (See the full list of exams ChatGPT has passed.)
Educators may not have the answers about the new world that generative AI will help create. More than most, however, they are exquisitely prepared to find the questions about how to approach this world that’s in the messy process of creation.
Here’s an essay that posits that humanities degrees are more essential than ever, not just for writing and thinking about AI but for managing it and interacting with it too. Magic for English Majors.
This summer, we’re providing multiple opportunities for Academic Leaders to find answers to the inevitable question “what are others thinking about ….” when it comes to AI. We’ll spend time in June during our Academic Leaders Forum in learning the latest developments around AI and discussing the implications in like-role groups. We have a meetup scheduled in June for Academic Leaders to learn and share about how AI is helping them in their work tasks. Then in July, we’re offering AI Considerations for Academic Leaders, a one-week asynchronous online course designed to get you up to speed on the right conversations to lead in August and September on your campus.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)