From education to employment

Empowering the Next Generation: Putting AI on the Curriculum 

Gavin Poole

In this article, Gavin Poole discusses the importance of incorporating AI into the education system. He acknowledges the rapid advancements in AI and the need to educate young people about its use, ethics, and potential.

The article argues that AI can enhance the learning experience, improve individualised teaching, and develop critical thinking skills. It emphasises the necessity of preparing students for an AI-driven future to close the digital skills gap and maximise the technology’s benefits while addressing its challenges.

As the AI race continues to dominate national and global headlines, it is becoming increasingly clear that this technology has the potential to be a universal force in our lives. Its rapid advancements have captivated people all over the world, provoking heated discussions around ethics and economics. Experts from various fields have been weighing in on what these developments mean for humanity, debating how AI will transform our economy, healthcare, and businesses.

But as we stand at the forefront of this technological revolution, it is imperative that our gaze is not only on the future, but the present. In order to shape a future in which AI is a positive force, it is crucial that we educate and train the younger generations on how to use the technology properly – equipping them with the knowledge and skills to navigate this new world.

Promoting the use of AI in the education system: A contentious issue

Promoting the use of AI in the education system, however, has been a contentious issue. When OpenAI launched ChatGPT near the end of 2022, discussion centred around whether the technology should be banned from educational settings. The concern was that students would rely on AI, compromising their own skills and creativity by using the platform to complete homework, research, and essays. Many schools and universities handled these issues by blocking ChatGPT in classrooms and urging against its use at home, discouraging student engagement with generative AI altogether.

This was short-sighted. Rather than prohibiting the use of AI, I believe we should be viewing it as a valuable tool that can enhance the learning experience, while also establishing frameworks to address the risks and keep our children safe. Fortunately, there has been a recent shift in the approach to AI and education. Last month, UK universities established guidelines to ensure that students and staff are AI literate. The new guidance prioritises using AI appropriately, stressing that students should be educated on the risks around plagiarism, bias, and inaccuracy – while also empowering them to embrace the opportunities provided by the technology.  

This move towards incorporating AI into the education system is essential if we are to get the technology to work for us, rather than us to work for it. As we progress towards an AI-driven future, we must ensure that the next generation is not being left behind – and in turn, that we are not compromising our chance of success on a national or global level. Recent data from the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2024, 97 million new jobs will emerge as a result of AI, with technology increasingly utilised across sectors such as healthcare and finance. Schools and universities must evolve alongside the technology, working to close our digital skills gap, future-proof our economy, and help students reach their potential.

At Here East, where universities and tech businesses work alongside each other, we are witnessing first-hand what the future of education might look like. Universities onsite are establishing technology-focused courses at the forefront of innovation, such as Staffordshire University London’s Artificial Intelligence and esports courses. This is timely, with new data from UCAS revealing that more students are choosing to study computing courses than ever before. As these trends continue to develop, it is promising to see educational institutions realising the value of placing students next to the visionaries at the heart of our technological future – fostering and encouraging crucial student involvement in our AI innovation and regulation.

Potential to revolutionise and improve learning experiences

Embracing AI in the education system also has the potential to revolutionise and improve learning experiences. Teachers can use AI to tailor lessons and instructions based on individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, personalising learning in a way that improves both student engagement and academic outcomes. In addition, students who know how to use the technology properly, and who are aware of its faults and inaccuracies, will be able to speed up their own learning processes. 

Of course, AI literacy is about more than understanding how to use it – it also encompasses ethical considerations and critical thinking skills. By incorporating AI into school curriculums at an early stage, we are also teaching students how to think critically about a flawed and constantly evolving technology. We are encouraging them to become responsible citizens, raising issues such as bias and accessibility, while equipping them with digital skills that will allow them to tackle complex challenges, from healthcare to climate change.

The success of artificial intelligence depends largely upon how we integrate it into our schools and universities. Collaboration between educators, policy-makers, and industry experts is key – and allowing students to engage with the possibilities of AI is essential. Empowering our youth with AI knowledge will enable us to unlock the technology’s potential now and in the near future, ultimately helping shape a world in which we can leverage technology and innovation as a positive force. Soon, our young people will be at the forefront of this innovation, and we must ensure that they know how to efficiently and responsibly use AI to face both the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

By Gavin Poole, the CEO of Here East, the innovation and technology campus in East London.

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