There is great excitement and in some case a little hysteria about the ever increasing shadow of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The debate about whether or not robots will replace teachers in the classroom tends to split opinion. Some education commentators anticipate that this revolution will happen within the next decade; others are less convinced that the value a good teacher brings, not just to the classroom setting, but also in developing a child’s confidence, creativity and aspirations outside lessons, can be easily replaced.
As someone who grew up in the era of The Terminator films I can see where some of the fear of AI comes from. However it is not a new concept and is already being deployed successfully in many sectors of society. In the NHS it has transformed the way surgical teams perform operations, financial institutes are using AI to increase efficiency and legal firms are beginning to harness AI for case studies preparation and data sampling.
So what does this mean for our girls and their future? Well in my view AI will provide the potential for the liberating of humans to think more creatively and that is something we absolutely recognise in the skillset we are giving to our girls.
Does AI also have the potential to ease the teaching workload in the future? Quite possibly. Our staff room is always a hive of activity as teachers prepare supporting materials for their forthcoming lessons. I know just how delighted they would be not to have to photocopy hundreds of copies, but instead have this task, and others, performed by intelligent machines.
Crucially though, I do not believe AI will be able to emulate the human condition and, in particular, empathy and emotional intelligence. What makes learning memorable is shared experience, human interaction, and long-lasting positive relationships. Experienced teachers can adapt their interaction with a pupil if, for example, she has suffered a recent loss, and – at the moment – there is no evidence that robots can imitate this adaptability effectively.
I also believe that in a world that seems in danger of becoming introspective and territorial there has never been a greater time for integrity, and outward looking, global thinkers, all attributes instilled in our girls.
I also believe we need to continue to celebrate individuality and the capacity of our girls, not only to make decisions, but make the right decision. These are skills that they harness as they gain more life experience and are given the space to experiment.
After all you can have all the data and statistics you like but great leaders will also always need to rely on their own gut instinct.