I loved this response to an educator’s question about AI use by teachers vs students. It is concise, to the point:

You have a sound rationale for discouraging your students from using A.I. to draft their essays. As with many other skills, writing well and thinking clearly will improve through practice.

By contrast, you already know how to grade papers; you don’t need the practice. via New York Times Magazine

The suggestion here is that a worker who knows how to do a task may benefit from getting AI to take the repetitiveness and drudgery out of the task. How often does drudgery spur innovation?

It is all about Friction

It reminds me about another piece I read earlier this week:

ChatGPT is at odds with what education is for OpenAI wants generative artificial intelligence to reduce friction in our lives. But in the classroom, friction is often the point. …a tool capable of reducing (or eliminating) the friction that makes thinking, writing, and problem-solving challenging is often going to be at odds with the messy and difficult process of learning….I don’t assign summary and analysis because I need more summaries or analyses; I assign these projects because I want to help my students think through complex ideas and grapple with them. And I don’t ask my students to write papers because the world needs more student papers; I assign papers because I want my students to go through the process of figuring out what they think. The friction is the point. via The Boston Globe

Of course, the challenge is that it has gotten a lot easier to avoid friction at work AND school.

At work, the expectation is to use AI since you are expected to already know how to do something you are asking AI to do. The power to innovate faster is in your hands. Work doesn’t care if you learn, only that you produce. Learning something at work is a by-product of getting the job done, this attitude suggests. Should it be?

Workers Have to Learn

If your boss says “Do this,” and you don’t know how, you have to learn. Your boss may send you to get trained or not, it’s up to them.

But if you learn what you need to on your own, then complete the task, you got a benefit greater than a paycheck. You also can leave at any time…you don’t owe your boss or org anything because they got what they wanted—the product they put you in a room to make, often without straw a la Rumpelstiltskin tale.

In the end, you are an adult who has control of what and how they learn.

Student Learning

At school, as a student learner, the whole point of the experience is training minds to think. The product isn’t the desired outcome. To the extent an end product is your measure of success, the greater the disruption AI will cause in your classroom. The more the focus is on tracking growth from making your brain work, the less disruption AI will cause.

What matters is what you did that changed your brain. That moved you from surface to deep to transfer learning. The product is a “nice to have” example of the trip through the learning pit.

Image source

You must treasure every bump, bruise, swim across creature-infested bodies of water…because it makes your brain learn more. There are no shortcuts.

When you reflect on your experience, you deepen the learning.

Active Learning

For me, being an active learner is the point of life. If you are a worker merely producing product, why bother? The best work, in my opinion, is that which allows you to learn new things through a constant flow of unique problems in diverse situations.

Your access to problems and the solutions you develop determine your relevance to others, your value. Of course, you don’t have to share your solutions but that limits their quality.

It is only in public discourse that we find out if the solutions we struggled to put together are worthy of society. The ultimate validation is the replication, the use, of those ideas in other settings, separate from where they were created.

Struggle for Brain Growth

Student learners must have the opportunity to struggle with ideas, test their value, and share them for public critique, acclamation, or friendly, kind critique. If technology or AI arrests that process, students will rue the day they relied on AI.

Our Responsibility

What is our responsibility as adult learners? To model responsible use of AI. That is, to NOT use it when we do something that is unknown to us for which we must learn new things. And, to use it when what is known to us must be seen from a fresh, not necessarily new to the world but novel to us, perspective. Also, to eliminate repetitive tasks, drudgery. Although, to be honest, it is in trying to avoid those that I’ve come up with some great workarounds…innovative workarounds or changes that add value.

What do you think? Grab paper and pen, write it down.


Images in this blog entry came from some uncited document shared on LinkedIn. If you know their source, reply by email to let me know, ok?