“The Precipice” – A Call to Action for Modern Education: Embracing Existential Risk and Our Students’ Future

"We need to take decisive steps to end this period of escalating risk and safeguard our future. Fortunately, it is in our power to do so. The greatest risks are caused by human action, and they can be addressed by human action." (Toby Ord, The Precipice)

In the sphere of educational research, we continually aim to find ways to deepen student learning, foster student agency, and promote equity. As we delve into this task, we encounter a range of theories and viewpoints, all of which provoke thought and prompt reevaluation of our established norms. A recent encounter with Toby Ord’s book, “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity,” has stimulated such reconsideration, expanding the discourse on the role of education in navigating existential risks.

Ord’s masterstroke lies in the urgent need to address existential risks—threats that could cause our extinction or irreversibly cripple our potential. These risks include natural hazards, such as asteroids and supervolcanoes, but are mainly human-made perils, like nuclear war, climate change, and potential drawbacks of advanced AI. Our task is to translate this narrative into the context of our educational mission.

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Precipice
  • Ord, Toby (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages – 03/23/2021 (Publication Date) – Hachette Books (Publisher)

Reimagining education involves recognizing that the stakes have never been higher. With humanity on the precipice, the school system must incorporate deeper learning, fostering an understanding of complex, real-world issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and geopolitical tensions. Students need to grasp the gravity of these issues, discern the links between them, and understand how their actions can contribute to solutions.

Ord’s ideas also resonate strongly with the need to enhance student agency. As we navigate this precipice, the active participation of students in their learning becomes paramount. They must be involved in problem-solving, decision-making, and value formation regarding the issues at hand. Incorporating project-based learning and collaborative problem-solving into the curriculum are ways to prepare our students to address existential risks and steer humanity away from the brink.

The theme of equity is an undercurrent in “The Precipice,” particularly when considering who suffers most from these existential risks. It’s a stark reminder that educational equity is more than just an ideal; it’s a necessity. Students from all backgrounds must have equal opportunities to understand and confront existential risks. To achieve this, we must remove barriers to high-quality education, ensure diverse representation, and empower students with the skills, knowledge, and tools to shape the future positively.

Toby Ord’s “The Precipice” is not a book about education per se, but it holds an urgent lesson for all educators. Our current education system, with its emphasis on standardized testing and rigid curriculums, falls short of preparing students for the existential risks we face. But by embracing deeper learning, promoting student agency, and ensuring educational equity, we can better prepare our students to navigate and shape their futures in this uncertain world.

To paraphrase Ord, we are the stewards of humanity’s future. It’s our responsibility to educate our students with this in mind. Let’s not shrink away from this precipice but rather use it as a springboard to leap toward a more informed, engaged, and equitable education system. It’s not just our students’ futures at stake – it’s the future of all humanity.

FAQ

Q1: What are the main themes in “The Precipice” by Toby Ord?

A1: The primary themes in “The Precipice” include existential risk, the future of humanity, artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war, and the responsibilities of our generation to future generations.

Q2: What does Ord mean by “existential risk”?

A2: By “existential risk,” Ord refers to potential threats that could cause human extinction or drastically hinder our ability to reach our potential. These threats could be natural (like asteroids and supervolcanoes) or human-made (such as nuclear war, advanced artificial intelligence, and climate change).

Q3: How does Ord propose we should respond to these existential risks?

A3: Ord suggests that humanity needs to recognize these risks and take coordinated, strategic action to mitigate them. He emphasizes the need for comprehensive research, international cooperation, ethical decision-making, and the prioritization of long-term sustainability over short-term gains.

Q4: How does the book relate to the concept of “student agency”?

A4: Although not directly about education, “The Precipice” can be related to student agency in the context of preparing learners to navigate, understand, and act on existential risks. It advocates for empowering students to become active participants in their learning, equipping them with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to confront these global challenges.

Q5: What is the connection between the book and the concept of educational equity?

A5: The existential risks outlined in the book have unequal impacts on different populations, reflecting the broader issues of global inequality. In an educational context, this underscores the importance of providing equal opportunities for students of all backgrounds to learn about, understand, and address these risks.

Q6: How can “The Precipice” be used to inform educational practices and policies?

A6: “The Precipice” can guide educators towards integrating deeper learning about real-world issues into the curriculum. It encourages the promotion of student agency, collaborative problem-solving, and project-based learning. Moreover, it underscores the necessity of ensuring that all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, have equal access to quality education and the tools needed to shape the future positively.



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101 creative ideas to use AI in education: A crowdsourced collection

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

The open crowdsourced collection by #creativeHE is a dynamic compilation of 101 innovative uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, created in early 2023. This collection embodies collective creativity and the spirit of experimentation, offering a range of ideas in their nascent stages that could potentially revolutionize learning, development, teaching, and assessment. It emphasizes the importance of diverse perspectives and a collaborative community of practice, providing numerous examples of inventive AI applications in education.

As educators design new learning experiences and unique engagement opportunities, this collection serves as an inspiration to push boundaries, collaborate radically, and innovate for a transformational student experience. The collection is expected to grow as educators continue to experiment and evolve their practices in the realm of AI in education.

Read the full report here.



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Micro-credentials, Open Learning and Transformative Ideas for Higher Education: An Interview with Mark Brown, Keynote Speaker at EdMedia2023

In an interview with AACE, Professor Mark Brown, Ireland’s first Chair in Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL), discusses the potential of micro-credentials, the adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER), and the impact of AI tools in higher education. Brown highlights the disruptive potential of micro-credentials, which could challenge traditional models of recognition and university qualifications. However, he also acknowledges the likelihood of micro-credentials being supplementary to existing macro-credentials.

He emphasizes the need for educational leaders to consider whether micro-credentials are a good fit for their institution and the strategic drivers behind their adoption. Brown also discusses the barriers to the widespread adoption of OER and Open Pedagogy, citing organizational culture, educators’ traditional mindsets, and the political economy of EdTech as significant factors. He further explores the concept of ‘rewilding’ online education, encouraging educators to push new boundaries at the edge of innovation. Finally, he advises on balancing digital well-being for students and instructors in digital learning environments, emphasizing the importance of a ‘Pedagogy of Care’ and the right to disconnect.

Read the full interview here.



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Generative Textbooks

David Wiley explores the potential of generative AI, like ChatGPT, in transforming the traditional textbook model. He proposes the concept of “generative textbooks”, which would consist of structured collections of highly crafted prompts that learners interact with, instead of reading static, linear text.

This approach would turn the learning experience into a conversation, allowing learners to ask for overviews, in-depth explanations, personally relevant examples, and immediate feedback on interactive practice. Wiley suggests that this model could enhance metacognitive skills, information literacy, and the ability to ask useful questions. He also predicts that many students might prefer the interactive, open-ended, and personalized nature of generative textbooks over traditional ones.

Read the full article here.



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UK universities set out plans to use AI in teaching

The Russell Group, a collective of 24 public research universities in the UK, has published new principles outlining how its institutions will responsibly and ethically use AI technologies like ChatGPT.

The guidelines, agreed upon by all the group’s vice-chancellors, include training staff to help students use AI tools and adapting teaching and assessment methods to incorporate AI technology. The group believes this could enhance student learning experiences and prepare them for real-world applications of these technologies.

However, there are concerns about students using AI to complete coursework and assessments, which some academics view as undetectable cheating. As a result, all Russell Group institutions have updated their academic codes of conduct to reflect developments in AI and clarify when its use is inappropriate. Read the full article here.

A comprehensive AI policy education framework for university teaching and learning

The study titled “A comprehensive AI policy education framework for university teaching and learning” aims to develop an AI education policy for higher education by examining the perceptions and implications of text-generative AI technologies. The research collected data from 457 students and 180 teachers and staff across various disciplines in Hong Kong universities, using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Based on the findings, the study proposes an AI Ecological Education Policy Framework to address the multifaceted implications of AI integration in university teaching and learning. This framework is organized into three dimensions: Pedagogical, Governance, and Operational. The Pedagogical dimension focuses on using AI to improve teaching and learning outcomes, while the Governance dimension tackles issues related to privacy, security, and accountability. The Operational dimension addresses matters concerning infrastructure and training.

The framework fosters a nuanced understanding of the implications of AI integration in academic settings, ensuring that stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and can take appropriate actions accordingly. The study highlights the importance of students playing an active role in drafting and implementing the policy. The research also addresses the growing concern in academic settings about the use of text-generative artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT, Bing, and the latest, Co-Pilot, integrated within the Microsoft Office suite. The study found that nearly one in three students had used a form of AI, such as essay-generating software, to complete their coursework. This has led to calls for stricter regulations and penalties for academic misconduct involving AI. Read the full study here.

Teaching AI Ethics

Leon Furze’s blog post titled “Teaching AI Ethics: The Series” presents a comprehensive guide to understanding and teaching the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The series, initially a single post, has been expanded into nine detailed posts, each focusing on a unique ethical concern related to AI, including bias, discrimination, environmental issues, truth and academic integrity, copyright, privacy, datafication, emotion recognition, human labor, and power structures.

Designed primarily for K-12 education but also applicable to tertiary-level discussions, each post provides case studies, discussion questions, and lesson ideas to facilitate a deeper understanding of these complex issues. The aim is to equip students with the necessary knowledge to navigate the ethical landscape of AI in an increasingly digital world.



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Innovating Pedagogy 2023: Exploring New Forms of Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The Innovating Pedagogy 2023 report, published by The Open University, explores ten innovations that have the potential to provoke major shifts in educational practice. The report is designed to guide teachers, policymakers, and educational technologists in making informed decisions about new forms of teaching, learning, and assessment.

  1. Learning through Open Data: Open data is publicly available information that can be freely used, modified, and shared. The report suggests that open data can be used as a teaching tool to develop students’ data literacy skills, critical thinking, and understanding of complex issues.
  2. Student-led Analytics: This innovation involves students in the process of collecting, analyzing, and using their own educational data to support their learning. It empowers students to take control of their learning and make informed decisions.
  3. AI Teaching Assistants: AI teaching assistants can provide personalized learning experiences, answer students’ questions, and give feedback on assignments. They can support teachers by taking over routine tasks, allowing teachers to focus on more complex aspects of teaching.
  4. Micro-credentials: Micro-credentials are digital certificates that recognize small amounts of learning or skills. They offer flexible pathways for lifelong learning and can be stacked to form a larger qualification.
  5. Learning through Multisensory Experiences: This approach uses technologies such as virtual and augmented reality to provide immersive learning experiences. It can help students understand complex concepts and develop skills in a safe and controlled environment.
  6. Humanistic Knowledge-Building Communities: These are online communities where learners and teachers collaboratively create knowledge. They foster a sense of belonging and support the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  7. Learning from Robots: Robots can be used in education to support learning in various ways, such as teaching coding or providing social and emotional support to students.
  8. Blockchain for Learning: Blockchain technology can be used to create secure, transparent, and tamper-proof educational records. It can also support the recognition of micro-credentials and facilitate the sharing of learning records across institutions.
  9. Decolonizing Learning: This involves challenging the dominant Eurocentric perspective in education and incorporating diverse knowledge, cultures, and ways of knowing into the curriculum.
  10. Action-Oriented Learning: This approach involves students in real-world problem-solving and social action. It develops skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and civic engagement.

The report (available here) emphasizes that these innovations are not standalone solutions but should be integrated into a broader pedagogical strategy. It also highlights the importance of considering ethical issues, such as data privacy and the risk of AI bias, when implementing these innovations.



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The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Prime Day 2023 for Educators

Amazon Prime Day 2023

There’s a certain thrill that comes with the arrival of an Amazon package at your doorstep, isn’t there? The anticipation, the excitement, the joy of unboxing – it’s all part of the Amazon experience. And when it comes to scoring great deals, there’s no day quite like Amazon Prime Day. This year, Prime Day falls on July 11 and 12, 2023, and it’s the perfect opportunity for educators to snag some deep discounts for their classrooms. So, teachers, it’s time to treat yourself! If you’re fortunate enough to have a classroom stipend or grant money to spend, Prime Day is an excellent way to stretch those funds while stocking up on classroom supplies.

Prime Day 2023: A Bonanza of Deals for Teachers

Prime Day 2023 kicks off at 3:00 a.m. ET on July 11 and runs through July 12. Throughout this period, Prime members will discover a plethora of early offers and deals. Amazon is already promising big savings on products from popular brands like YETI, The Drop, and Sony, as well as more deals than ever before from small businesses.

Best Prime Day Deals for Teachers

Tips for Navigating Prime Day 2023

To help you make the most of Prime Day, here are some tips:

  1. Start your Amazon Prime trial: If you’re not yet a Prime member, you can try Amazon Prime free for 30 days to get access to all the Prime Day deals. You’ll likely get hooked on the Prime services, such as free two-day shipping and streaming movies and TV for personal and classroom use. If you’re working on your advanced degree and have a .edu email address, you qualify for Amazon Prime Student, which gives you a six-month all-access free trial and then Prime for just $49 a year—half the price of a regular membership. Working teachers also get exclusive perks.
  2. Request access to the invite-only deals program: New for Prime Day 2023, Prime members can request an invitation to access special deals that are expected to sell out quickly. Look for the yellow “Request Invite” button on products marked “Available by Invitation.”
  3. Download the Amazon app and set up deal alerts: Download the free Amazon app to easily find the top deals during Prime Day. Go to the Prime Day page and set up deal alerts any time between now and Prime Day. You’ll receive push notifications when your deals are starting.
  4. Set up deal notifications on Alexa: Alexa can remind you about deals on any products added to your cart, wishlist, or saved for later. Just say, “Alexa, add [name of product] to my cart.” Then ask Alexa to notify you when the deal is live.
  5. Make an Amazon list: Turn your wish list into a reality! Make an official Amazon list of the items you hope will go on extreme sale for Prime Day. If these items go on sale, you’ll be notified through an Amazon app push notification.
  6. Start watching deals early: The Prime Day deals will be revealed a day or two before the event begins. New deals start as often as every 5 minutes for 30 hours straight.
  7. Join the waitlist if you miss a deal: If an item is 100 percent claimed, click the “Join Waitlist” button on the product page. If additional items become available, you’ll receive a notification on your mobile device through the Amazon app.

And remember, the early bird catches the worm. So, start preparing now, make your wish list, set up your alerts, and get ready to score some fantastic deals on Prime Day 2023!



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An Echo of Things to Come: Book Review

"“The lesser of two evils, or the greater good. Get a good man to utter either of those phrases, and there is no one more eager to begin perpetrating evil.”" (James Islington, An Echo of Things to Come)

Title: An Echo of Things to Come

Author: James Islington

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars

In “An Echo of Things to Come,” the second installment of James Islington’s Licanius Trilogy, readers are treated to an even more intricate and thrilling narrative than its predecessor. The narrative resumes a month after the brutal assault on Ilin Illan, with the four main characters—Davian, Wirr, Asha, and Caeden—each embarking on different paths to stave off a potential invasion.

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An Echo of Things to Come: The Licanius Trilogy, Book 2
  • Audible Audiobook
  • James Islington (Author) – Michael Kramer (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/22/2017 (Publication Date) – Podium Audio (Publisher)

Islington’s character development is commendable. The protagonists, Asha, Davian, and Wirr, though fundamentally the same individuals introduced in “The Shadow of What Was Lost,” have evolved significantly in response to both personal and larger-scale challenges. Their occasional reunions and fleeting conversations serve as poignant reminders of their shared past, adding a layer of depth to the narrative.

Caeden, arguably the most pivotal character, is on a quest for self-discovery. His narrative, oscillating between the present and flashbacks, initially confounds with its focus on unfamiliar characters and places from millennia ago. However, this narrative choice effectively mirrors Caeden’s own process of piecing together his hidden memories and determining his true identity. His journey raises intriguing questions about morality, identity, and the nature of power.

"The true evil is always in the reason and the excuse, not the act. I was fooled. I was angry. I wasn’t thinking. I had to do it, else worse things would have happened. It didn’t hurt anyone. It hurt less people than it would have if I hadn’t. It was to protect myself. It was to protect others. It was in my nature. It was necessary." (James Islington, An Echo of Things to Come)

Despite the complexity of the plot and the vast world-building, Islington’s writing style remains accessible. The world of the Licanius Trilogy is one that readers can easily immerse themselves in, making “An Echo of Things to Come” a rewarding read for fans of epic fantasy. The book leaves readers eagerly anticipating the final installment of the trilogy, eager to see how the characters’ paths will converge in the face of the looming threat.




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