"Be wary of Greeks bearing gifts" is a well-known saying used to warn when an act of virtue is thought to hold a hidden threat, like the story of the Trojan Horse.
Our society is at a crossroads with artificial intelligence (AI), with its ed-tech advancements juxtaposed with the potential for unethical actions and potential threats to humanity.
Indeed a watershed moment. In a recently released documentary called "Killer Robots", engineers and AI technologist experts provide explicit examples of the possible misuse of AI, from autonomous military weapons to computerized formulas of deadly warfare chemicals.
I can attest, as a professional educator for over 25 years, it's an understatement to say that the AI trajectory will forever transform how educators teach and students learn. No matter how innovative AI exploration becomes, significant limitations and ethical concerns arise around humanism. Why? AI won't teach our kids how to build a long-lasting relationship with their teachers or resolve a conflict with another classmate.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated AI's optimization, centered around automation and augmenting eLearning instruction using non-traditional remote teaching methods, including call-center operations, virtual chatbots and virtual assistants to offer 24/7 "on-demand" remote tutoring.
I recently worked for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) ed-tech company that invested thousands of dollars in an AI language tool to replace experienced tutors. Yet, amongst all the hype, I observed first-hand minimal student engagement. And what was most desired and beneficial -- Zoom one-to-one sessions -- could not yield profitability based upon the scalability requirements necessary to achieve desired results.
AI cannot keep up with increasing demands to help children develop soft skills and support their social and emotional well-being. Although ChatGPT can help someone solve a physics problem, it cannot teach anyone the fundamental concepts behind a topic nor provide the personalized, authentic, and meaningful feedback students often need.
AI can't teach our kids the principle of determination and perseverance of personal achievement, and the value of a strong work ethic. Recently, during a vacation to the heartland of Iowa, my kids stood in awe at how my 80-year-old neighbor spent a day pulling thistles from the prairie to preserve its natural habitat, a rare site these days. How can AI teach that kind of perseverance to our children?
Although there will be many future educational advancements with AI, it's important to remember that these efforts must be regulated and monitored. AI cannot build confidence for that shy child, who may struggle to articulate and express what they may need help with, nor sympathize with that kid who suffers from test anxiety for an upcoming final that looms ahead.
I urge every parent to stay well-informed as new technologies and educational practices intermingle and move through uncharted waters.
At the end of the day, AI is just a tool. AI will never replace the human element of teaching our children values of moral conduct, ethics and love, which must prevail above anything else in molding the future of our kids' learning experiences!
Editor's note: Kelly Mokashi, who is in her third year as an elected trustee of the Pleasanton Unified School District, has written this Guest Opinion reflecting her opinion as a parent, education professional and resident of Pleasanton. She said any statements within this Guest Opinion do not represent her views as an elected PUSD trustee, nor are they intended to express any views on behalf of the PUSD Board of Directors.