‘Educating the educators’ on AI a priority, summit told

Even if university leaders are not experts in the technology, the potential is clear – and they might be able to draw on the ‘wisdom of ignorance’

November 29, 2023
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University leaders have been told of the significant opportunities the teaching of artificial intelligence presents, despite the gaps their own knowledge might have.

Francisco Marmolejo, higher education president of the Qatar Foundation, told delegates at the World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) of the benefits of the “wisdom of ignorance” towards artificial intelligence.

The majority of education leaders around the world “have no clue” about the topic, he told the conference, held in Doha, Qatar.

“Whatever we say, take it with a grain of salt. But this is the reality that all decision-makers and a majority of educators of higher education institutions around the world are having as we talk about AI,” he said.

“Consequently, it might be very difficult to anticipate what’s going to happen.”

Speaking at a different session on the second day of the Wise summit, Khaled Harras, senior associate dean for faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, picked up on a similar theme – noting that many of the top-10 highest-paying jobs today did not exist 10 years ago.

“So we are educating people – at a faster pace now – for jobs we have no clue about.

“The timespan of which skills we want instil for when matters. What AI can do…is become a very effective tool at helping us do this better.”

But in order for universities to be able to do this, Professor Harras said, a “revolution on educating the educators” was needed.

“We talk a lot about educating the students, but we are forgetting about the ones who are meant to deliver that, and there is an enormous gap [in knowledge].”

Along with learning these new skills, educators today had to be a combination of a “stand-up comedian, a psychologist and an expert in the field”, he added.

Mr Marmolejo said the summit had shown him that there was a very clear consensus on the difficulties that AI posed.

“AI is seriously disrupting the business model of higher education,” he said. “It is disrupting that black box that is the classroom, because the classroom no longer is that…because it can be any place, any time.”

Despite these challenges, the former tertiary education specialist for the World Bank said there were many opportunities for the sector.

“What we have in front of us is a very unique crossroads in really trying to see how higher education in the world can be more inclusive, can be more relevant and can be more flexible,” he said.

“What a great opportunity today to challenge our traditional assumptions about what is higher education and what is not higher education in trying to make sure that we look forward to the new future.”


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Reader's comments (1)

It is ironic that an article claiming benefits of the classroom "anywhere anytime" appeared in he same issue as an article pointing out the benefits of n-place collaboration. Sadly before drinking the A/i-cool aid the article failed to identify the core purpose of HE yet alone provide evidence that "AI" would contribute to this purpose in a useful way. Maybe just maybe the future of HE lies in examining the traditional assumptions and deciding first which have been inherent to its successes. If there are crossroads in the HE landscape, the author is welcome to take the road coated in snake oil. others might prefer the cobbled road even if it the one less travelled.