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Globeducate´s Head of AI Clara Hawking recently answered some burning questions from the editor of international children´s newspaper, First News. Below, you can read the interview. Thank you to Hannah Timson from First News.

Special Report: Should we learn AI in School? 

Schools, teachers and learning could look very different in the future, thanks to fast-growing technology and artificial intelligence (AI). We sat down with Clara Hawking, Head of Artificial Intelligence at Globeducate, a network of 60+ bilingual (speaking two languages) and international schools in 12 countries, to hear what she thinks about AI in school and how the digital divide could get bigger.

Hi Clara! So, tell us, how can young people learn using AI?

Lots of people assume children will use AI to cheat, and they have. But most young people will be honest and tell you: “Well, yeah, we cheated a couple of times and then realised we weren’t learning.” So now, they themselves have come up with different models for using technology to learn better. An example is a little six-year-old girl that I met in Italy, where lots of the children have Alexa at home. I said: “Well, how are you using Alexa?” and she said that when she’s learning her Italian vocabulary and when she’s struggling with a word or how to pronounce it, she asks Alexa, so they have a little tutoring relationship. Some of the little children said they used it to help them with maths, but rather than just asking the answer, they’re asking for an explanation as to how to solve the problem.

Older students are also using AI for research projects, but I think the students that are benefiting the most – and this is what we’re seeing from research across the globe – is that lower-performing students or students who struggle with getting started are really benefiting from AI. They have all the great ideas and have done their research, but they’re struggling to really start fixing the outline of a project. This technology is allowing them to make a kind of starting point or the beginning steps of a draft, and they can then take over and do the rest.

Do you think AI will create a bigger digital divide?

Yes, unfortunately. The digital divide refers to the people who have the technology and can develop with each new movement, and the people who don’t have access to it and fall behind. I would almost go as far as to say it’s a human rights issue that we need to solve for the future. We cannot have half the human beings on the planet not be part of the new technological world. We do need to find ways to solve that.

A bigger digital divide means the richer will get richer and the poorer will become poorer. It’s a major issue for our young generations because the schools that don’t have access to the technology and the schools that don’t have the opportunity for development will really struggle.


Is AI getting safer to use?

No! We have a problem. There are no meaningful rules to protect children. Companies are not building technology for children. Technology usually has an age limit and it should always be designed so that it will not interact with a child who is too young to be online. Mobile games should always require a parent’s approval for purchases too, to prevent any unexpected spending. I really think our tech companies have a duty to stand up and think safety into design, but it’s also incredibly important for our children to learn where the missing parts are so they can find their own voice.

You’ve set up AI Youth Councils across Globeducate schools. Do you think kids need to have more say in the creation of technology?

Yes. When we have these big global AI safety summits, children need to be there. They should be there, it shouldn’t just be tech leaders and politicians. Children need to be there to say this is our life and you’re changing it forever and we want to be part of the conversation. So until they are part of the conversation, I don’t think AI is safe. AI literacy for children should also really be about learning where AI gets it wrong, that it’s just a machine, it’s not a human being and learning how to ask those really critical questions – is this right, is this the real representation of knowledge and the real world?


Why is it important that we use new technology?

The thing with AI is that it’s not going to slow down and it’s not going to go away. Now that we’ve made this major skip hop from the regular AI that we’ve been using in schools for 20 years, the AI now will help us to develop newer AI even quicker. That means that we will see much more sophisticated artificial intelligence in the years to come and the future will be AI driven. The children who will be able to understand that world and be part of that world will do well and those who don’t will fall behind.

We know already now that jobs are being replaced, and the jobs being replaced are easy to automate and primarily affect women and minority groups. We must work with those groups especially to really encourage them to learn the basic language of what it means to live in the AI world. Journalism is one of the areas where we will really see drastic change. We see many other areas that will be majorly impacted by artificial technology too. We need children to understand what that means. We cannot turn AI off, it’s not going away or stopping, so our best bet is to help young people with as many skills and tools as they need to prosper [do well] in that world.

How do you see education changing in the future?

I do think it will be robot-driven to some degree. But, we’ll make more of an effort to create analogue [real life, rather than online] experiences, such as being outside and working with materials and working with creativity. We will realise in order for us to develop those skills we have to have real experiences. We will also still have teachers in the classroom. We are social animals and human evolution is very slow, so teachers are not going away. In order for us to have emotional wellbeing, we need to have other humans in our lives, close to us, with us, so we will still have human teachers. Maybe not as a teacher we think of today, but more as a coach or a guide.

That also means the physical structure of the school is going to change because children will not be sitting in classrooms like we see today, but they will be in rooms and schools that are much more capable of facilitating [helping] all the different types of learning styles and learning experiences that children will have. In some of our Globeducate schools, we’ve already started building in new, specially designed learning spaces, that are completely designed to be hands-on. It’s amazing to see the spaces in action because you see the kids come alive in a whole different way and unexpected things happen.



Copy credit: Hannah Timson, First News

Photos: Globeducate