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From Aristotle to AI

Updated: Jul 8

When you go to a Marvel movie, you don’t just go to a movie.  You watch the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an epic fable with story arcs crossing space and time.

Story arcs are the big thing in modern story-telling.  They connect characters and events across movies, TV series, or podcasts.

In education we can see two opposing story arcs - access and personalisation.

2,000 odd years ago, in the time of Aristotle and Plato, (formal) education was something enjoyed by a small number sitting at the feet of the master.  Access was extremely limited and highly personal.

Fast-forward to the late 1700s and the Prussian reform of education with teachers colleges, formal curricula, schools and classrooms.  The basic footprint of schools around the world today.  Access to education grew significantly higher and, simultaneously, personalisation shrank.  It’s simple maths - one teacher with more students equals less personalisation.  

Our education story arcs continue to collide.

Fast forward arc to the early 2000’s.  MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) and ‘micro-credentials’ leverage the power of the internet to give thousands of students access to teachers and courses.  Edtech, our latest education hero, exponentially grew access; only to see personalisation again recede.

Are our two education story arcs, access and personalisation, always doomed to be in opposition, or is there hope of a new dawn? Could AI be the game-changer?  Maybe.

Some imagine future AI will know each students’ unique abilities and learning styles, and create individual resources and lessons for them.  That’s adaptive education, but it's not personal.  Replacing teachers with AI is the last thing we want.  That’s the Prussian system or MOOC’s on steroids.  Lots of power with no personal relationship. 

Relationship is a core pillar of teaching and learning and to get the best for our learners, AI must strengthen relationships in our classes.  Relationships between teachers and students, between students, between schools and home.

AI must elevate the work of teachers so they remain at the centre of teaching and learning.  Well designed AI solutions increase teachers’ ability to interact with students and will support schools and classrooms (physical or virtual) to be the social hubs of teaching and learning.

At the same time, teachers, schools and the wider system must adapt to an AI era.  Teachers must lead innovation, trialling new uses of AI to enhance teaching and learning.

AI does have the potential to disrupt our two story arcs of access and personalisation, if we innovate collaboratively and smartly.

We look forward to the next chapter in this epic inter-galactic, inter-generational, inter-everything saga.

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