Technology could be used to create the greatest teaching assistant the world could imagine by giving teachers the ability to serve individual students by differentiating instruction in the classroom, an international summit attended by 7,000 leading minds from education and business innovation heard.
However, despite the COVID-19 pandemic levelling the playing field by giving greater access to technology and allowing schools and universities to purchase the infrastructure, education systems still face equity struggles, particularly those from marginalised communities.
That was the verdict from a panel of experts taking part in a session titled “Has EdTech Really Changed Anything? Can EdTech Drive Results in a Brave New World?” at the ASU+GSV Summit, a collaboration between Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley focusing on innovation in the education and workforce sectors.
The session on 18 April 2023 heard from Dr Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, which has grown under his direction to become the largest non-profit provider of online higher education in the United States with 180,000 students.
LeBlanc said it is remarkable what technology can do today; for example, teaching students in remote refugee camps, which would have been unthinkable 15 years ago – yet the education system is still stuck in “data silos that make it hard to get a holistic view” of students.
“To harness the full benefits of technology, we need to rethink the system and we’re only just beginning to understand this question,” LeBlanc told his audience.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is forcing a paradigm shift in higher education from ‘what you know’ to ‘how you will be’, with knowledge no longer the foundation it has been in the past. “Knowledge is no longer scarce. It is just one prompt away on your phone,” he said.
Just as it was when electricity was first invented and “people didn’t see its value and the potential it unleashed until it became part of the system”, and Henry Ford redesigned the factory into an assembly line, so too with AI.
LeBlanc said the situation means asking questions like: ‘How do we rethink learning?’, ‘How do we rethink the student experience?’ and ‘How do we rethink the business operation?’
LeBlanc, who is considered one of America’s most innovative educators, admitted he didn’t have all the answers.