AI & Education: AI Smart Mentor in the Field of Education—Towards a Paradigmatic Revolution
contributed by Jean Arnaud, founder, professor
If the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for a digital evolution in the field of education, which had struggled to reform itself up until that point, the advent of new technologies, such as AI has enabled a company like OpenAI, with its ChatGPT bot, to achieve mass adoption within a few months.
And not only that, OpenAI receives a billion visitors each month and claims 100 million active users. Education is not exempt from the digital revolution. AI is about to metamorphose not only the process of instruction and knowledge transmission but also how schools themselves function.
The dream is to individualize instruction, a vision that even the French Renaissance philosopher Montaigne pointed out in his Essays (I, 26) by highlighting the inefficiency of a mass pedagogy: “As for teachers who (…) undertake, with the same teaching method (…) to direct many minds of various sizes and forms, it is not surprising that, among a whole people of children, they barely find two or three who truly benefit from their teaching.”
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An intelligent mentor allows us to embrace a more humanistic approach to education by serving as an ally capable of enhancing the power of the mind by encouraging self-reflection, a guide fostering active learning on the part of the student, and a benevolent counselor capable of finding personalized strategies to address specific user-related issues. At a time when governments around the world have shown their powerlessness and inability to satisfactorily address the individualization of learning paths, with a particularly pronounced inability to solve the problem of overcrowded classrooms—averaging 25 students per class in secondary school, the intelligent mentor seems to naturally impose itself as the only answer to a real progress of an institution of minds, as each individual must progress at their own pace and overcome their own difficulties according to the very constitution and particularity of their mind.
Imagine having a counselor capable of organizing your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and optimizing your time while considering your personal constraints, workload, habits, and desires. Each student might be able to approach extracurricular activities with more serenity. The intelligent mentor can also assist the student in discovering new educational remediation strategies based on many early assessments to address constant or occasional issues. A student will finally be able to know precisely where they stand and what they need to do to improve.
Data collected by AI would also be useful to teachers, as they can adapt their teaching and opt for a more targeted and effective differentiated pedagogy. This data can be of use to the student as well, to aid their understanding through a questioning system inspired by Socratic dialectics, aimed at bringing forth the ideas they carry within themselves, often referred to as maieutics, or to build more impactful reasoning from a rhetorical point of view.
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AI use is no longer about being replaced, as is often the case with AI chatbots—not so much because of the tool itself, which can be used educationally, but because it allows the intellect to embrace passivity, which threatens its growth and sovereignty comfortably—but about allying with forces that can be employed for our elevation. This is what cosmologists and astrophysicists do when they use high-potential calculators to understand what their minds could not even conceive without the assistance of these machines.
“…it is necessary to recognize that humans are still behind the interpretations, many of which were only possible because an instrument sharpened their vision.”
It is true that behind the machine itself, there is still a human who remains dependent on their own incapacities, biases, and deeply ingrained mythologies, which reasoning cannot entirely free itself from; this is one of the dangers of AI, but it is it not related to all forms of reflection. Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize that humans are still behind the interpretations, many of which were only possible because an instrument sharpened their vision. The history of scientific progress is accompanied by a history of the techniques that have made it possible.
The future of education does not stop at this form of individualization allowed by the disembodied intelligent mentor that is supposed to enhance the mind’s capacity, but at the activity of the mind implemented through project-based pedagogies long advocated by Montessori schools and also by innovative institutions like OMIA, EJM, or ISB. However, the future of education also progresses alongside the extension of the digital space, which is both immersive, interactive, and collaborative. When an AI like the intelligent mentor is integrated into immersive universes, such as metaverses in virtual or mixed reality, the educational outcome is impressive: the class takes place live, animated by the teacher delivering the lesson in a dedicated space like Ancient Rome.
Students can then take notes and deepen their understanding by interacting with various monuments or talking to illustrious figures like Caesar or Cicero. They can also collaborate in reconstructing ancient buildings located in the Roman Forum, employ their coding skills in a fully digitized world, and engage in role-playing games through which they can not only test their knowledge but also reason about many political strategies, sharpening their critical judgment and analytical and reflective faculties.
“The future of education does not stop at this form of individualization allowed by the disembodied intelligent mentor that is supposed to enhance the mind’s capacity, but at the activity of the mind implemented through project-based pedagogies…”
Assessment of what they have retained from the lesson can also be obtained through quizzes, the results of which can also help identify exactly what needs to be reviewed and reworked to reach an individual student’s goals effectively. All of this occurs because of the personalized advice of the intelligent mentor or the personal education assistant, which now takes the form of an avatar. This is precisely the vision that the efforts undertaken by the American start-up Nova are trying to achieve.
As can be understood, the future of education involves adopting new technologies such as AI, as well as immersive technologies, initiated in recent years, that have allowed for significant paradigm shifts, such as individualization of education and active learning, placing the central focus on student activities through the implementation of projects and experiments aimed at developing analytical, critical judgment and creativity in the spirit of collaboration and with a transdisciplinary approach that goes beyond the arbitrary boundaries of the different disciplinary fields that constitute the common base of knowledge and skills.
Students can now be accompanied by their teacher, who can effectively adapt their teaching now that they have precise data about each student, and by the intelligent mentor in a dialectical approach that favors questioning over certainties, in the process of individualization, one in which each person can shape their thoughts and faculties at their own pace, gradually becoming the master of their own existence. Is there anything more humanistic than redefining an education that can result in each individual becoming who they truly are, leading each person to self-awareness and the fulfillment of their own strengths, guiding each entity to become, in the words of the poet William Ernest Henley, the “captain of their soul, the master of their fate,” sovereign and free to enlighten all of humanity?
New technologies also facilitate a shift from passive education, which typically molds conformist and institutionally docile individuals, to the establishment of analytical and critical-thinking minds with creative imaginations, minds that are capable of understanding the intricate workings of the world, molding themselves, realizing their full potential, and shaping future worlds.
This transformation happens through a personalized, digitally integrated, and collaborative educational journey that addresses their unique needs and contemporary issues. In this journey, experimentation is fundamental, allowing every student to rediscover the pleasure of learning through creation, the joy of knowledge acquisition, and the thrill of surpassing what they thought they could accomplish on their own.
Jean Arnaud, Professor of Literature, Philosophy, and Business; Founder of the Ed-Tech Start-Up Nova; and Speaker at SXSW EDU.