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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

If You Read One Higher Ed Book This Year, Make it 'Robot-Proof' | Inside Higher Ed - Technology and Learning

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"Where we fit, and how we must change, in the age of intelligent robots" argues Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL).

Technology and Learning

It is not an accident that I’m putting my review of Robot-Proof in "Inside Digital Learning." My goal is to drive maximum awareness of this book among anyone thinking about the future of higher education.

Aoun, a linguist who also happens to head Northeastern University, makes the case that our economy is on the cusp of enormous change. He is largely supportive of the argument that accelerating improvements in the bundle of technologies that comprise artificial intelligence (sensors, processing, big data analysis) will drive fundamental changes at every level of our economy. This artificial intelligence driven shift will be as consequential as the two earlier large-scale economic shifts, that of agricultural to manufacturing and then from manufacturing to services.

Our higher education sector, according to Aoun, is not moving fast enough in the face of this large-scale economic change. Just as our colleges and universities are finally getting aligned with today’s service-based labor market, we are doing too little to prepare our students for an age of smart machines.

What is the recipe for higher education to become robot-proof? This answer will be context dependent, as every institution must build on its own strengths and traditions. Aoun does not claim to offer any algorithm for organizational change. He is sensitive to the complexity of our institutions, and is not an advocate of simplistic notions around disruption. What Aoun does forcefully for is an end to the traditional thinking which places a liberal arts education in opposition to preparation for employment. He finds that liberal arts / employment preparation dichotomy no longer accurate, or particularly useful in evolving our institutions.

We should, argues Aoun, seek to align teaching and learning at our colleges and universities with the research on learning. What this scholarship demonstrates is that there are limits to both abstract and applied learning. The two must be married. Active and experiential learning opportunities are critical components of a valuable postsecondary education.

Aoun believes that in an economy where smart robots do much of the work that people do today -- including the information-based service work (accounting, legal services, etc.) that was previously protected from automation -- that the skills prioritized in a liberal arts education will be increasingly in demand. These skills include judgment, collaboration, curiosity, communication, empathy, team work, leadership and many others. These creative, social and leadership qualities represent tasks that can’t be automated.
Read more... 

Additional resources 

Robot-Proof: Higher Education in
the Age of Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press)
Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Joseph E. Aoun (MIT Press, 2017)

Source: Inside Higher Ed (blog)


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