Education reformers have been calling for a different type of education, one that nurtures creative and innovative thinkers. But for many, that future is hard to see and even harder to influence.
Science fiction writers and blockbuster movies have been predicting a world run by robots for decades, and for most of us, the fantasy has stayed in the realm of fiction. But artificial intelligence has made rapid progress and robots are becoming more a part of everyday life than many people realize. Those who study robots and their impact on life foresee a day not too far off when many jobs now held by people will be automated.
“If you can detect a pattern, you can automate it,” said Charles Fadel, founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign and a visiting practitioner at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, who spoke at the recent Learning and the Brain Conference. Fadel sees signs that robots are already becoming a part of everyday life. Google has a self-driving car. Japan recently put on a concert, attended by thousands of people, featuring a hologram popstar with a synthesized voice. Virtual models are gradually being put to work displaying the newest styles, and Watson the supercomputer whooped-on the best Jeopardy players. Signs of robotic intelligence are everywhere and educators need to be preparing students to enter a dramatically different world, Fadel said.
As artificial intelligence improves and slowly takes over aspects of daily life, the only way for people to continue to be useful is to “up-skill” — and that takes creativity. “Incremental creativity is just improving on something, but radical creativity is thinking something up,” Fadel said. He believes that, in time, computers will be capable of incremental creativity, slowly improving a process and building on its success. What they will never be able to do is generate a radically new idea.
“We’re being pushed upwards in abstraction, in some senses,” Fadel said. Recognizing how sophisticated computers already are, and how much better the algorithms are getting will be important as the education system evolves. Implicit in Fadel’s stark view of how artificial Continue reading