“With AI, every student can now have a personal tutor.” Words by Sal Khan, during a TED Talk this month. The CEO of Khan Academy also said that such personal tutors “can impersonate historical figures, debate with students, and help them finetune arguments without judgment.”
We are in the middle of an EdTech revolution fuelled by the AI boom, and Khan’s vision of AI super-tutors helping an “above-average student reach excellence” was exciting, intoxicating even.
But as the scope of AI-assisted teaching widens, so does its ability to become a dangerous tool–especially for our tech-savvy children.
On 23rd May 2023, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a rare advisory. It states that social media creates a “profound sense of harm” to the mental health of children. So whether it is social media use or AI-assisted education, the terrain is a worrying one. The advisory cautioned, “Immediate action must be taken to protect kids. ”
What do parents say?
Speaking to BOOM, Abhishek Chakrabarty said, “AI could potentially misuse data by continuously tracking and storing our online activities.” Chakrabarty, who's the father of a thirteen-year-old worries that AI can extract specific details such as the child’s browsing history, location and even chats.
He argues that our bid to let AI assist in the day-to-day could discourage children from making decisions for themselves. “It is possible that AI would make decisions about children’s lives, leaving no space for parental intervention or guidance,” Chakrabarty added.
Soumyajeet, a ninth-grader from Kolkata, remembers a time from only a few years ago when the extent of ‘Smart Classes’ meant school classrooms being fitted with SmartEdu projectors. Now it is a diverse form of ‘hybrid learning’ that divides his time between classroom exercises and the use of online content.
“Prior to 2020, I did not even own an email account. Online lectures required me to create one, and that was my first time learning how to set up an ID,” Soumyajeet confessed. “Until then I would use my mother’s email account for online games only. But now I also know how to switch permission settings and authorise account access on multiple apps,” he added.
Therefore, there is a need for greater responsibility on teachers and parents to equip themselves and their children with media literacy tools. Tannishtha Adhikari, a secondary school teacher believes, “Now that we have returned to in-person teaching, we have a responsibility to continue efforts in training children how to navigate the internet.”
But what do we mean when we say ‘media literacy’ and why does it need more focus?
With the increased use of social media and promoted content, the amount of news produced has dramatically increased. Online information is automatically filtered to appear more palatable to users depending on their interests and beliefs. A way in which they do this is through “recommender algorithms”. These algorithms create filter bubbles that encapsulate like-minded users, prohibiting them from being properly informed. Plus, given AI is as good as the data it is fed, there is potential for AI to be used for widespread disinformation.
So to begin with, we can make our children aware of how misinformation can spread in everyday news consumption and how we can ‘fact-check’. In a conversation with BOOM, Yasmine Claire, a teacher from Stonehill International School, Bengaluru said, “The key is to always be inquirers. We must question and assimilate information critically.” According to her, a digital literacy starter pack must include efforts to “analyse information, investigate its sources, search for other viewpoints, and a comparison of different representations of the same information.”
Here is a checklist that we use as fact-checkers. It can be used to navigate the internet safely.
Who is the creator or producer of the content you consume?
Do they disclose why they made it?
Are there multiple versions of the same content reported differently?
How does the content benefit the creator?
Who’s included in the message and who’s missing?
Does the website you’re using have a lot of pop-ups? What do you think the creator gets from making this?