Schools, universities should embrace, not fear AI tech

Future students will pay the price if Australia fails to embrace artificial intelligence in education, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The country’s peak technology body told the hearing the transformative technology could be worth up to $115 billion annually to Australia by 2030 – but only if it was urgently adopted.

Just how AI can be adopted by the education sector is being probed by the House of Representatives committee, with the Tech Council of Australia imploring MPs not to fear what impact it could have in schools.

Alternatively, council public policy boss Ryan Black said it would be “highly undesirable” for students not to have hands-on AI experience as they prepare to enter a new-look workforce.

“Australia’s capacity to realise this major economic opportunity will depend on our ability to build a digitally-skilled and literate workforce that can effectively utilise these new and emerging AI tools,” he told the committee.

“We will be failing the next generation and doing children a disservice if we don’t urgently support them with the skills to understand and safely embrace this technology.”

AI will be allowed in all Australian classrooms from next year, education ministers last week backing a national framework the technology.

But teachers are worried they would spend more time as “AI enforcement cops” checking students’ work for plagiarism than delivering lessons.

The Independent Education Union of Australia’s Veronica Yewdall noted “serious concerns” about AI implementation, including workload concerns for teachers.

“”And one of our most serious concerns relates to equitable access, where we are already seeing some disparities … (we) obviously have a mission to reduce disadvantage and not perpetuate it,” she said.

“The profession wants to see (concerns) addressed before damage either to learning outcomes or reputations may occur.”

National Tertiary Education Union policy officer Kieran McCarron agreed, pointing out continuously finding new ways to assess students at a level beyond AI would bring a “significant, ongoing workload”.

“Students should be assessed on their capacity to critically interrogate the outputs of AI and the learning process itself, rather than the artefacts they produce that are currently taken to be evidence that learning has occurred,” he said.

“This is a significant paradigm shift for teaching institutions.”


Alex Mitchell
(Australian Associated Press)


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