Empowering Learners for the Age of AI

Centre researchers take part in a conference on Empowering Learners for the Age of AI

At the end of 2020, Centre researchers Simon Buckingham Shum, Kirsty Kitto, Simon Knight, and Jane Hunter took part in an Australian conference Empowering Learners for the Age of AI, organised by a consortium of universities to engage key stakeholders with the learning challenges in an age of AI, empowering learners through AI, empowering learners to use AI, and empowering learners to question and critique AI and the systems it embeds.

These questions are fundamental to the Centre,

Informed and engaged citizens and professionals need to learn about AI, some will be building systems, but many more will be using and choosing systems, and need to understand features of the tools and their effective and ethical use. Moreover, AI is also changing how we learn, with 2020 marking 30 years of the international Journal of AI in Education and its documentation of AI technologies to support learning across contexts.

Global investment in AI continues to grow, in both the technical and infrastructure capabilities, and understanding how to support people to use AI effectively, and ethically. The conference was a free, national, online event with a combination of international and national expert speakers, and structured participant discussions, developing the public conversation around how Australia can equip its citizens to engage productively and ethically with AI and its data infrastructures.

Through these sessions, we asked:

  • How can data, analytics and AI be used not to disempower or automate work, but to empower learners and professionals?
  • Who needs empowering, why, and to do what, going deeper on what we mean by “empowering learners”.
  • How must modern knowledge systems (such as schools, universities, corporate training and development, government agencies) change to prepare people for an AI society?
  • How to track and assess the qualities that equip people for this future?

We heard from international experts including Professors Rose Luckin (University College London) and Sidney D’Mello (University of Colorado at Boulder), and from Sydney Professors Toby Walsh (at UNSW) and Judy Kay (at Sydney), as well as a range of industry and academic panelists. Each of these experts discussed aspects of the history and future of AI in education, and how we can work together to build AI futures worth having.Panel events were capped off with a panel on the AI Action Plan for Australia with Tim Bradley (General Manager in the Federal Government’s Emerging Technologies in the Digital Economy & Technology Division), and Ian Oppermann (Chief Data Scientist and CEO, NSW Data Analytics Centre), along with ed-tech company Practera’s Ruth Marshall (Director of R&D and Data Integrity), and from academia, three leaders in Analytics/AI and learning science for academic and professional learning: Shane Dawson, Kirsty Kitto and Lina Markauskaite.

This panel started conversations around the following questions, and we’d love to hear from you about how we can work to address these issues together:

  • What is the best way to ensure Australians have the skills and capabilities they will need for an AI enabled future?
  • What is the best way to ensure Australian businesses have access to the AI workforce they need for an AI enable future?
  • Is there more the government can do to support responsible and human centred development and use of AI in Australia?
  • What approach should Australia take internationally to steward its values and commitment to the responsible and ethical use of the AI?

Find out more at the conference website.

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Keith Heggart
Keith Heggart
Senior Lecturer

Dr Keith Heggart is an early career researcher in the School of International Studies and Education, with a focus on learning and instructional design, educational technology and civics and citizenship education.