The Role of AI in Education and the Changing US Workforce

By on November 1, 2018

From Brookings:  The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies (ET) is poised to reshape the workforce.[1] While the exact impact of AI and ET is unclear, experts expect that many jobs currently performed by humans will be performed by robots in the near future, and at the same time, new jobs will be created as technology advances. These impending changes have important implications for the field of education. Schools must prepare students to remain competitive in the labor market, and postsecondary institutions must provide students and displaced workers with relevant education and retraining opportunities. Innovations in technology will also create new tools to support educators, students, and others seeking retraining and employment.

Consequently, there is a multitude of policy-relevant questions that we may consider with respect to how AI and ET will impact education. Rather than focus on just one of these many questions, this paper provides an overview of some of the most salient issues we should consider with respect to what technological advances in AI and ET mean for education. Specifically, this paper discusses several types of challenges, opportunities, and risks that AI and ET pose to the field of education. This paper then concludes with several recommendations for adapting education in anticipation of the changes associated with advances in AI and ET.

CENTRAL CHALLENGES FACING EDUCATION

The types of jobs that are at the leastrisk of being replaced by automation involve problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, communication, and creativity.[2] The education profession is unlikely to see a dramatic drop in demand for employees given the nature of work in this field. Rather, preparing students for the changing labor market will likely be a central challenge for schools and educators. Policymakers and practitioners must adapt K-12 education to help students develop the skills that are likely to remain in demand (sometimes referred to as “21st century skills”). K-12 education should thus prioritize teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork across subject areas. Teaching students to become analytical thinkers, problem solvers, and good team members will allow them to remain competitive in the job market even as the nature of work changes. Equally important, these skills form a strong foundation for independent thinking that will serve students well no matter what career(s) they pursue throughout their lives.

In addition, an increasing demand for technologically skilled workers likely means that proficiency in education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects can position students to be competitive in the workforce. Education in STEM subjects should certainly be a priority, particularly given low levels of proficiency nationwide and large achievement gaps. However, given the increasing importance of developing critical thinking skills that span multiple subject areas, providing high-quality instruction in the STEM fields is only part of the solution to preparing students for the changing workforce.

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