15.03.2024

Live and (Don’t) Learn: AI and the Education System

Live and (Don’t) Learn: AI and the Education System

Already today, artificial intelligence is becoming an integral part of the educational process: from electronic school diaries and record books, personal accounts in the structure of the digital ecosystem of an educational organization to ChatGPT, which helps to write diplomas and complete assignments. However, there are two sides to every coin, and the question arises as to how ethical it is to introduce AI into the academic environment. Will an algorithm replace a live teacher? Will there be a need for a comprehensive higher education? How many tasks can be transferred to AI in education and what changes should we expect in the near future?


The round table experts tried to answer these and other questions: Timur Sadykov, Head of the Educational and Research Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence, Neurotechnologies and Business Analytics, Marina Girya, Deputy Head of Government Relations at Netology Educational Online Platform, Svyatoslav Oreshin, Director of the Centre for Educational Analytics at ITMO University, Evgeny Kryukov, Advisor to the Head of the Department for Research Centers in the Field, Andrey Komissarov, Head of Digital Products of Samolyotum Educational Ecosystem of Samolyot Group of Companies, Maria Shtein, Deputy Director of First Media Academy Institute at Plekhanov Russian Economic University, and Yuri Lindre, Expert Analyst at the Centre for Global IT Cooperation. The discussion was moderated by Vasily Zudin, Deputy Director of the Centre for Global IT Cooperation, and Ekaterina Ivanilova, Head of Department of Strategic Communications for Digital Transformation Management at Plekhanov Russian Economic University.


"Artificial intelligence in the first place is just a tool. We should not exaggerate its capabilities, because it often makes elementary mistakes," Timur Sadykov reminded at the beginning of his speech. Such tools can take over many functions and even be useful in terms of information processing, but, according to him, the human being remains the main actor in science and education.

Marina Girya agreed that AI will not be able to replace teachers or content authors in the near future. She also noted that the new generation has digital literacy already "hardwired" into their mentality in a peculiar way, so for them the issue of interaction with AI will not be so acute. "Now one of the most difficult tasks is to build up the right educational process. To believe that a person cannot learn something because it is not given to him or her is a misconception. The right presentation of information can help to reduce the digital divide, for example, in the use of AI for SMEs, enabling the acquisition of necessary competences for entrepreneurs," she concluded.

Svyatoslav Oreshin spoke about the practical application of AI in education through the example of ITMO University. The main part of the work is data processing. Giving away part of the decision-making is not the same as using ChatGPT, it is a much more complex process and more like Maslow's pyramid, which consists of several parts and superstructures. This is why without the right path, without digitalization of processes and without access to data, applying AI in education will simply not be possible.
The main fear that arises in the face of AI, mainly, of course, among parents, is the education of children, Maria Stein pointed out. Children, in her opinion, go for simple solutions and therefore try to do tasks with the help of generative neural networks, already refusing to come up with something on their own. "However, what if, for example, there is no Internet? AI must remain first and foremost a tool, even though it creates the illusion of replacing human knowledge. The main threat of this technology is to check the accuracy of information, because children and even adults will blindly trust the AI if it does well a couple of times, for example, writing an essay or solving a problem," she said.

Evgeny Kryukov noted that the issue of education has always been part of a generational conflict, where each new one believes that the previous one learnt incorrectly and vice versa. "There will remain professions that cannot be replaced: lawyers, doctors, journalists. At the moment, no software will be able to fulfil their tasks. After all, AI has risks: there could be an avalanche of distortion of scientific results. The main issue is trust in the technology. At the same time, thanks to AI, new professions are emerging, such as prompt engineer. And, of course, the main advantage of using AI, as is was said earlier, is the simplification of some routine tasks for teachers, which frees up time for more creative and scientific tasks," he concluded.

The "uncanny valley" effect is no longer so "uncanny" with the development of AI, said Andrey Komissarov. The whole point is that existing technologies make it possible to create quite plausible digital twins, which no longer cause such a clear rejection in the average user. "As for ChatGPT, yes, it can generate based on the data loaded into it, but it can't do anything but that, because it's just a big language model trained initially in English. Moreover, it is not responsible for what it generates. Its main danger is that we switch off our critical thinking by using it. And this is its own advantage, because, knowing that ChatGPT and factchecking are in different corners of the room, we continue to use our own thinking," he added. In the end, Andrey Komissarov reminded that when Google appeared, everyone thought that people would dumb down, and book printing was also criticized at first, but eventually they got used to everything.

Yuri Lindre noted that the main tasks that AI solves today are automation and managerial decision-making. Where does this lead to? If humans are given ready-made solutions, this threatens the loss of human knowledge. And this, in turn, will fundamentally change human life: technology will not just be unavailable, but humanity, in concept, will not be able to reproduce it anew. "Education will be influenced by AI, and there is no escaping it. However, the main thing should remain the development of cognitive functions in humans and everything that hinders the development of these skills should not receive state support and development. It is necessary to introduce some kind of restriction on the use of AI in the finalization of scientific works," he concluded.

Summarizing the talk, the speakers came to the conclusion that there are both positive and negative sides to every technology. The main thing is that it should be used wisely and for the benefit of education and human development, because after all, AI is just as much a human invention.