AI in education? What’s your irreplaceable algorithm?

Will teachers be replaced?

Is a creative brain replicable?

Can I translate my own personal teaching style into an algorithm?

These are all questions I have been thinking on lately. As I talk to schools about the big why for embracing technology, as I design courses and realise that there is only one of me and as I play with futuristic artificial intelligence software to see how it might be put to good use in classroom and education contexts.

Playing with AI painting software dall.e initially felt a but uncomfortable. I’m an artist, how can a machine do what I do? When I input some very specific style and colour notes into dall.e (an AI image creation tool) I was able to create a pretty interestingly ‘me-like’ painted image. It is pretty fun but should I feel threatened? Will it replace artists? If so, could it replace art teachers? And if art teachers, what about the rest?

Ownership of ideas

The me-like-image created out of my description is pretty interesting to think about. If an AI program creates an output when I have created the input, the intellectual property is still technically mine. So where does that leave me? If I keep gathering experience and being an active thinker/tinkerer/maker then all combinations of ideas I can create are also still mine. It makes me need to be able define ‘me-ness’. Perhaps this is the challenge with advances in technology, how can we keep the creative upper hand? It is through creativity that we will be able to maintain something irreplicable of ourselves.

So what else might be possible?

There are some obvious time saving benefits of playing with AI. Imagine feeding a machine a range of thoughts and letting it combine, remix and re-interpret the variables in multiple combinations. Could it weigh up the most useful idea? Could it distil and blend like a human? Could it rearrange ideas with a lens of empathy? There is potential to create a myriad of new ideas with a super fast algorithm. The possibilities for streamlining thinking and wondering if all potential combinations are first laid out for us so quickly could be fun to explore, critique, weigh up, rank and analyse. We can use our personal lenses critically to reinterpret the outputs.

Why should we explore it?

Have you ever used a randomiser or a word tuning tool? I’ve played with narrative writing bots, word tuners and title generators derived from search engine optimisation and key word finding algorithms. They are fun as a foundation tool. We then get to tweak and play and realign it to what we want it to be. We can recognize patterns in the algorithms, debug and fine tune by actively applying our ‘personal algorithm’ to make it ours again. Subjectivity, as applied from a highly individualized subject (you, is valid as a form of algorithmic ownership.

What else?

A good tattooist friend of mine has also been dabbling with AI. We’ve discussed how it can be used for good, how it can use search engines to recombine genre and art historical references so quickly. It spews out visual ideas that, even though they look finished for some, are the seeds for creatives like us to reinvent and continue to mindfully mess with. It is also fun to play with absurdist prompts. It is like a 21st century version of the dada newspaper photocollages of the early 1900s – except on internet steroids.

Unexpected take aways

The unexpected takeaway from this thinking is that we need to be able to define our personal algorithm and that we also need to embrace creativity and critical thinking as vital 21st century skills. It is affirmation that teachers will not he replaced as long as we continue on a creative teaching trajectory.

Deacribing a colour exactly as it is seen in your mind is difficult. Is it magenta, cerise or bloody crimson? There is so much fun to be had exploring how words can be interpreted and how adjectives, nouns, verbs and adverbs can be remixed in literacy-rich exercises. I have this image in my head- how can I decompose it into words? How can I tweak the descriptors to be more accurate? How can we make language be more performative? It’s like filming dreams backwards somehow and there is so much unexpected magic in the process.

What is your personal algorithm?

Every facilitator/lecturer/teacher will bring something of themselves to learning experiences. It is an interesting thing to think about – what do you bring that constitutes ‘youness’? How could this be an algorithm that you can actively take ownership of? Can you claim it and copyright it? Embrace what is creatively you. There is nothing artificial about that, but there is a lot of intelligence in knowing.

I described one of my own paintings with very specific colour notes and paint application instructions (I do not hate the results).
“Beautiful laundry” composition ideas generated by AI. It looks like it is channeling Rita Angus. Back-mapping to guess the descriptors/inputs that resulted in the generated image would be a fun exercise.

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