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Transcript- Episode 101: Part 2: Unpacking What It Takes To Equitably Implement AI In Education Episode 101

Aug 29, 2023

00:00:00 Leslie

There's a couple of other kind of really great opportunities for AI and education, and one of them is with, when you combine AI with virtual reality and augmented reality, technologies that already exist, you create these immersive educational experiences, enabling students to explore virtual environments, conduct experiments, participate in simulations.

00:00:19 Leslie

And that happens still, that's happening now. But you can scale that and you can leverage that for work-based learning opportunities and activities, career exploration. I mean, imagine if it became so widely used that you could do something like this at the career services level.

00:00:38 Christina

The workforce landscape is rapidly changing, and educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing students before they enter the workforce to make our communities and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.

00:00:50 Christina

But we need to understand how to change and adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the future?

00:01:01 Salvatrice

Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College and host of this podcast.

00:01:09 Christina

And I'm Christina Barsi, producer of this podcast.

00:01:12 Salvatrice

And we are starting the conversation about the future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of our highest goals, more internships and PCC students in the workforce.

00:01:27 Salvatrice

We at Pasadena City College want to lead the charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This is a conversation that impacts all of us.

00:01:41 Christina

We believe change happens when we work together, and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm Christina Barsi.

00:01:49 Salvatrice

And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the Future of Work.

00:01:52 Salvatrice

Welcome back, this is Salvatrice, your host, and I'm joined today by my friend and colleague in the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Ms. Leslie Thompson, who is our Director of Operations. Leslie, welcome back.

00:02:09 Leslie

Thank you. Good to be back.

00:02:11 Salvatrice

Very good, very good. You know, these chats are really, really helpful. I think I'm going to be selfish and say they're super helpful for me because it helps flush out a lot of the noise around information that we receive here at the office and some of the conversations we have just offline, online, et cetera.

00:02:27 Salvatrice

And I'm super excited about this topic and I thought it might be a good idea if you kind of gave a little insider scoop on what's been on our mind lately to our listener.

00:02:38 Leslie

Sure. I think it's a great topic. We did touch on it in our last session, artificial intelligence in education. And in that one we kind of did a broad overview. We talked about some opportunities and challenges. We touched on a little bit about preparing students to be in a workforce that includes AI.

00:02:55 Leslie

But since then, we've continued the conversation offline and have done some other kind of poking around. And we came across a really interesting study from the U.S. Department of Education that we can talk about a little bit.

00:03:09 Leslie

And we thought it'd be cool to have a conversation on the show about opportunities and education for AI, and also look a little closer at this idea of equity of access, because we're always about equity of access, and kind of address how we address some of those challenges.

00:03:26 Leslie

That's what we've been talking about offline, as you know. And we decided, well, let's get together and talk about it here so that the listeners can participate. And as always, we'd love to hear from the listeners if they have any resources they'd like to share too, I'd like to put that out there.

00:03:41 Salvatrice

For sure. Let's start with the information that we've stumbled across or the research that we stumbled across from the Department of Education, specifically the Office of Technology, around the future of learning and teaching. You know, very, very appropriate in the objective and the purpose of the Future of Work Podcast because the future of learning and teaching directly affects the talent that we produce as a system.

00:04:09 Salvatrice

And I think one of the most amazing things that stood out for me in this research was - and they were very, very clear and they underscored it and they said it in their webinar, AI will not replace teachers, will not replace faculty.

00:04:27 Salvatrice

I mean, in our first conversation, we talked about a lot of the fears around AI and this fear around taking jobs away. It's a real fear. It's an absolute real fear. And it's not only just in education, but it's in all areas of industries. In some cases, AI does take over jobs, it evolves the job. But in this particular case, one of the key insights that really stood to me was that AI is an enhancement to teaching.

00:05:02 Salvatrice

It is building upon what modules and mechanisms and ways in which we teach, providing just alternatives to teaching and really doing a lot of enhancements. I mean, that's kind of the biggest key takeaway I had. Did you have a key takeaway from it?

00:05:22 Leslie

Well, there's a couple of things. Firstly, I agree 100% with the idea that the opportunities that exist outweigh the risks. Like we talked about last time, you still need human interaction, you still need human input, you still need content experts, you still need someone to validate the product, the output. Monitor the output, maintain ethos and values around the output. So, there's still a role for that.

00:05:46 Leslie

And two things that came out in that ... there was a lot of stuff in that report, and it just came out in May by the way. So it's May, 2023. So, this is not stale stuff - was the importance of involving faculty and practitioners in the development and deployment of these technologies. Super important. It's not happening to us, it's happening with us, I think that's important.

00:06:08 Leslie

There was a quote in their summary, and I'm just going to read it because I think it was pretty cool. It said, "We envision a technology enhanced future, more like an electric bike and less like robot vacuums. On an electric bike, the human is fully aware and fully in control, but their burden is less and their effort is multiplied by a complimentary technological enhancement."

00:06:31 Leslie

And I think that goes to the other piece you were saying about how it's enhancing education, it's enhancing the workplace. It's a tool that we use that makes things easier and better for us. And we'll put in the show notes a link to this report, it's called Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning, Insights and Recommendations.

00:06:49 Leslie

The report itself is over 50 pages, and it's a really interesting read and there's a lot more to it, but I agree with those two main points.

00:06:58 Leslie

I wanted to kind of revisit this idea of opportunities in education as it exists, like broad stroke opportunities, some of which we already touched on last time. Things like personalized learning. AI powered systems can create personalized learning experiences tailored to individual student needs. That's important.

00:07:18 Salvatrice

What do you mean? Like what do you mean by that?

00:07:20 Leslie

Students have certain individual student needs and learning styles. AI analyzes vast amount of data like we talked about last time. So, they can analyze student performance, preferences, progress where they are. And these AI algorithms can adapt content and instructional strategies to maximize learning outcomes.

00:07:37 Leslie

So, that's kind of low hanging fruit. You collect all this data anyway in various ways, so if you're using it intentionally for the purpose of improving student learning outcomes, that's a win.

00:07:46 Leslie

Some of these things are already being done. This is not like we're saying in the future you can do, these are things that are happening, adaptive assessment. So, facilitating these adaptive assessments to dynamically adjust the difficulty level of content and tests based on student's ability.

00:08:02 Leslie

Again, they're collecting this data, here's where the student is. You can change the content in such a way that it's challenging the students appropriately. We talked about intelligent tutoring systems last time. There's also a lot of opportunity with language translation and accessibility for students who English or any language isn't their first language, and these tools can be very useful for that.

00:08:23 Leslie

Another interesting one, I don't know why I wasn't surprised or why I didn't think about it soon. It was the massive open online courses, the MOOCs, been around for years now. So, AI can enhance those by offering automated grading , feedback on assignments, facilitating discussions, things like that.

00:08:40 Leslie

And then one of the more interesting ones to me that we had talked about offline was the intelligent content creation. So, AI can help creating educational content like textbooks, videos, interactive models and modules and all of that. All of these things that we rely on, you know, publishers or other content generators, AI can participate in. AI can create that content as long as it's vetted, like we talked about before.

00:09:06 Leslie

There's a potential there to save a lot of money. If you're cutting out - you think about the publishing industry alone, there's a lot that goes into bringing a book to market, a textbook to market, why are they so expensive? That's why they're so expensive.

00:09:19 Leslie

And then you have open education resources. There's just so much opportunity for that intelligent content creation, particularly for education, that's really exciting to me. If you partner that with open education resources, and it's free and it's timely and it's constantly updated, I think that's pretty cool.

00:09:36 Salvatrice

I do. We go back to errors and I wonder when we think about intelligent content creation, I mean all of this, all of what you said is absolutely right, those are the opportunities. I also think there's a layer of our own human due diligence on the authenticity and the realness of the information, and I think that's stressed so much in any publication that we've read.

00:10:01 Salvatrice

It is that human element, that human that's in the loop of this information portal, if you will. The humans now become the catalyst to the information versus the human having the information. It's like they're this third party, we're becoming this third party between AI and the delivery, there's a bumper in between. Which led me to think about institutions and our role.

00:10:24 Salvatrice

I mean, there's a faculty's role, there's an educator's role, but then what about the institution's role in informing and involving faculty in a shared vision of AI? And how is AI maybe reshaping how institutions are positioning themselves in the community, how they're positioning themselves with industry, how they're positioning themselves with student success, how they're positioning themselves with the outcomes that we are chartered to fulfill.

00:11:06 Salvatrice

You know, AI has been around forever by the way, let's not forget that, it's been around for over 50 years. We're just seeing different phases and evolutions of it now more so than ever. But it's like it's forcing us to really examine our positionality in the space. And I think that that's a really great beautiful thing. And it ultimately, just trickles into the classroom.

00:11:31 Salvatrice

But I'm really curious about that. I'm really curious about where that's going to lead us as bodies of institutions and what policy is going to be put in place. Maybe there already is, and I'm not really quite aware of any policy changes around AI and education and teaching and learning.

00:11:49 Salvatrice

I'm sure there's things out there right now, but how does that influence or affect our work? And it leads to delivery, so what do we need for delivery?

00:11:59 Leslie

From an institutional perspective, there's certain kind of infrastructure investments that need to be made. I think two things from an institutional level, the institutions by and large should do everything in their power to minimize obstacles to implementation. And that can be anything from infrastructure investment to professional development, to acquisition of softwares, whatever.

00:12:24 Leslie

And like we had touched on before, the commitment to preserving the integrity of data that's collected, particularly student data throughout this process. So, that's kind of a high level from the institutional perspective, they need to empower the faculty to embrace the technology, they need to create an environment in which the technology can be leveraged across the board.

00:12:46 Leslie

There's a couple of other kind of really great opportunities for AI and education. And one of them is with, when you combine AI with virtual reality and augmented reality, technologies that already exist, you create these immersive educational experiences enabling students to explore virtual environments, conduct experiments, participate in simulations.

00:13:08 Leslie

And that happens still. That's happening now. But you can scale that and you can leverage that for work-based learning opportunities and activities, career exploration. I mean, imagine if it became so widely used that you could do something like this at the career services level.

00:13:22 Leslie

I want to do career exploration. Well, let me get this equipment, however it gets delivered so that students can actually begin exploring work sites and environments and occupations before they even commit to a course of study. Like at the very beginning of their career exploration journey, I think that's pretty cool.

00:13:41 Leslie

One of the greater opportunities for AI is it has the potential and it should democratize access. It can provide educational resources to remote or underserved populations, people that wouldn't ordinarily have access to these things. That's again, an institutional responsibility. All institutions, not just ours. Institution needs to ensure that all students have equitable access to new emerging and existing technologies across the board.

00:14:06 Leslie

Which kind of segues into this idea of what's the role of artificial intelligence and the digital divide in education. Like the digital divide it's not a new conversation. I mean, people have been talking about it at least since the nineties, but what are the implications for AI?

00:14:22 Leslie

Does it have the potential to increase access to education like we're suggesting? I think it does, but it also does have implications for the digital divide. And that digital divide refers specifically to the gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who don't, that simple.

00:14:37 Leslie

And we saw some of this kind of percolating up during COVID, during the lockdown when everyone was transitioning to this online environment. And I remember hearing stories about students were going to McDonald's to get their Wi-Fi, neighborhood infrastructures would'nt support everybody online at the same time, they were having issues.

00:14:56 Leslie

Even here at PCC, we had students in the parking lot to access the Wi-Fi. The campus was closed, but you could come park in the parking lot all day to access the Wi-Fi.

00:15:04 Leslie

So, the digital divide, well, maybe a day to term is not a dated concept. And it's still very much a thing now, even though we don't see it that way because everybody's got a cell phone and everybody's doing all the things. But there is a potential for AI to kind of play into that in some way so.

00:15:23 Salvatrice

I mean, as I'm hearing you talk this through, you're right, term might be outdated, but the reality is still the reality. And this idea of how does AI positively influence the infrastructure, I'm trying to really visualize that and imagine that in my head, what might that look like? That would be really kind of interesting to do a deeper dive research on areas, cities, counties that are putting some serious effort around that, outside of our own, and to do a study about that.

00:15:58 Leslie

I mean, I think it varies by community and it varies by school district and it varies ... there are a lot of socioeconomic variables in terms of what the infrastructure looks like between schools and resources. It's nothing new, depending on why is it so important to where you live if you have kids? Because if you have children, you want to live in the right area so they can go to the better schools.

00:16:19 Leslie

Because what makes a better school? Greater access to resources and better infrastructure, they're prepared for college. Digital divide, I was to revisit, there's kind of three segments as we're talking about it. One would be an access divide, referring to the possibilities that people have to access the resource in the first place.

00:16:37 Leslie

One is a use divide, referring to the lack of digital skills, which impedes the handling of technology. And the last one - there are more, but the third one is quality of use gap, refers to the significant lack of opportunity. I think those three institutions have a responsibility for helping mitigate the negatives of that.

00:16:55 Salvatrice

Say that again. It was the access, the use divide ...

00:17:00 Leslie

The use divide, and the quality of use divide, the quality of use gap, rather. So, that refers again to the lack of opportunity to use it. So, you don't get to use it as often and you don't get as much quality of experience with it. I'm trying to think of like ... because everyone has a cell phone.

00:17:15 Leslie

Well, some people still have ... I think of my father, he has a flip phone. Yes, he has a cell phone, but there's definitely a quality of use gap there. He's not doing any of the fun stuff, he's literally just answering his phone. So, there's a different level of engagement with technology, that's just a silly example.

00:17:35 Salvatrice

That's also an affordability factor. Like it doesn't have to be someone in that generation. It could be someone in our generation or younger that it becomes access to resources.

00:17:44 Leslie

That's where it becomes the institution's responsibility and the city's responsibility and so on, government's responsibility to ensure that inhabitants have access to these things that are necessary. So, access to technology, that was a big one.

00:17:59 Leslie

So, AI-powered educational tools that rely on digital devices and internet connectivity. Disadvantaged communities or developing communities may not have access to those in equal measures. So, that's important to address.

00:18:11 Leslie

Again, the technological infrastructure in general, these require robust technological infrastructures. A lot of the AI tools that we're talking about require robust technological infrastructures.

00:18:22 Leslie

So, at bare minimum, any college, university or K through 12, any school district, needs to invest in the technological infrastructure in order to implement these tools, first and foremost. And then you need to invest in the people. So, the professional development.

00:18:40 Salvatrice

I would really like to hear from our listeners who currently addressing this within their own institutions, within their own cities and within their own states; how are they addressing the AI and learning and teaching, the future of learning and teaching? And then how are they also addressing this divide that we just talked about?

00:18:59 Salvatrice

I've never heard it separated like you just did. I've never heard it compartmentalize in those three buckets about access, use, and quality.

00:19:08 Leslie

Yeah, and different people segment it different ways.

00:19:10 Salvatrice

Yeah. But I love it. Honestly, this is the first time I've heard anyone divide it up as such. And so, I'd be super curious. I know that you would too, because we dig this work. I would be really interested in hearing, "This is how we're approaching this. This is what's worked for us, this is how we've enhanced our infrastructure in order to support the elements of AI as well as the divide that continue to be a challenge."

00:19:41 Salvatrice

And quite frankly, it's going to always be a challenge. Unless every institution, every industry, every business owner, every municipality, every state is following the same playbook. But it's going to take quite a bit of time. But in the meantime, there are models that are working and I'd be curious to explore that if one of our listeners has an example of that.

00:20:10 Leslie

Yeah, I think that'd be really fascinating to hear from somebody. Kind of to wrap up that idea, there are, let's say four kind of ways that we might address some of the challenges. And one of which, no really two of which kind of touch on what you just said.

00:20:24 Leslie

The first one is the infrastructure development, which we talked about. Governments and organizations need to continue to invest and building and expanding technological infrastructure. That's a given that has to happen in order for us to all keep pace with technology as it's evolving in general.

00:20:40 Leslie

Another one is equity-centered design. AI systems and tools should be developed with an equity-centered approach, taking into account the needs of diverse learners and addressing potential biases. We talked last time about unintended biases and how we have to be mindful of that.

00:20:57 Leslie

Comprehensive digital literacy programs should definitely be implemented to equip teachers, students, communities with the skills necessary to navigate. That's a big one.

00:21:05 Leslie

The last one, which kind of touches on what you are talking about is everybody using the same playbook, is this idea of partnership and collaboration. Collaborations between governments, educational institutions, nonprofits, the private sector, they can all help to bridge the digital divide. If everyone is pulling together for the same common goal, then that minimizes the impact of the digital divide.

00:21:25 Leslie

It facilitates resource sharing, promoting affordable access to technology, and supporting the development of inclusive AI solutions. So, I think keeping this idea of equity, and again, we try to keep that in our conversations for everything we do.

00:21:40 Leslie

How is it equitable? How is it just? How does it matter? Does it hurt anybody? What are the unintended consequences? Those are the conversations we have internally in EWD, and also, at Pasadena City College, that's how we do.

00:21:52 Leslie

And so, I think it's important for this conversation as well. So, if we actively address this concept of a digital divide and implement inclusive practices, then there's really no reason why AI and education can't be harnessed to provide equitable opportunities and who knows what sort of benefits, all sorts of benefits.

00:22:11 Salvatrice

Well, that's a really great way to sunset this conversation. And I think we did another unpack, and I loved it. We have so much more to unpack, but I certainly enjoy these conversations because it does give the listener a little glimpse about what's on our mind, how we even process the information.

00:22:33 Leslie

Right. We're learning as we go.

00:22:36 Salvatrice

That's right.

00:22:36 Leslie

Again, I want to invite the listener to access and download the report from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. I think it's really interesting. And don't take our word for it, read it yourself, it's pretty cool.

00:22:48 Salvatrice

That's right. Well, thank you so much, Leslie, and we're off to the races again, and there's so much we're doing here at PCC and at EWD, and I look forward to the next solo chat. Again, so much more to unpack.

00:23:03 Leslie

There's so much stuff. Thanks for hanging out and sharing this time. This is great. I love our conversations.

00:23:09 Salvatrice

You bet. Catch you next time.

00:23:10 Leslie

Take care.

00:23:11 Salvatrice

Thank you for listening to the Future of Work Podcast. Make sure you're subscribed on your favorite listening platform so you can easily get new episodes every Tuesday.

00:23:21 Leslie

You can reach out to us by clicking on the website link below in the show notes to collaborate, partner, or just chat about all things Future of Work. We'd love to connect with you. All of us here at the Future of Work and Pasadena City College, wish you safety and wellness.