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Headteacher’s Blog 19/01/23

By 20th January 2023Headteacher's Blog

Once upon a time if you wanted to speak with your bank, you picked up something called a telephone and dialed a number. At the other end was a respectable well spoken real-life  human. Not so now. The primary interface is the chatbot, that annoying little window that  appears in the corner of your screen. Recent innovations in technology have allowed  businesses to connect with their customers wherever they are in the world, at any time of day. Live chatbots, are the perfect example, enabling companies to have what they might  maintain ‘proper’ conversations 24/7. But that doesn’t mean that all of those conversations necessarily make sense. The algorithms that drive the machine learning behind these are only as good as the coders.

The golden age for artificial intelligence may have just dawned, but there is little regulation in this space; where it finally lands is yet to be seen. A plethora of technology glitches seems to indicate that it is not quite there yet.  That was certainly my experience when communicating with my bank. Although AI is meant to solve problems, as it turns out, it can create new ones as well. Amazon had been building machine learning AI programs since 2014 to review job  applications. Unfortunately, built into the algorithms was a bias which failed to rate candidates in a gender-neutral way.

The concern now is over the impact AI systems may have on the education sector. AI is going to be nothing short of a revolution in education. The recent arrival of the sophisticated AI  language bot Chat-GPT, the first of many I suspect, and its capacity to form coherent and  intelligent responses to questions is nothing short of astounding. Such is the sophistication of some of the systems they can write prose for you on virtually any topic. I am regularly bombarded with unsolicited emails from educational suppliers attempting to sell me something that I did not even know existed, let alone want. I put Chat-GTP to the test to write a ‘thank you but no thank you‘ reply to one of these. I have to admit it made a very good attempt, although, it lacked the typical Quinn lingo. No doubt this could be learned too.

You don’t have to think too hard to realise the impact of this. Seemingly overnight, the essay system we use to assess students has become redundant and obsolete. The level of  sophistication is enough that there is no way to know if a student has been using AI to help with their essay or even to complete the entire thing. You can see how the traditionalist in Whitehall will respond to this: less coursework and more terminal exams. That said, with AI there are also huge opportunities to improve educational outcomes across the board,  including personalised learning. There are already a number of pieces of software that do this already, particularly in Maths. Used correctly, AI has the capability to help students who are struggling in certain areas, to open new areas of learning and to “level the playing field” for those that are struggling.


Watch this space!

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