AI Will Be Crucial for Today’s Students, But Our Public Schools May be Ambivalent

Go to content

AI Will Be Crucial for Today’s Students, But Our Public Schools May be Ambivalent

Asian Heritage Society
“Learning how AI works and understanding its implications for our lives is at least as important as learning to read and write.” — Artificial Intelligence/ 101 Things You Must Know Today About Our Future, by Lasse Rouhiainen
U.S. Highway 101 that runs through Palo Alto is a highway and a metaphor for the economic and social division in this heart of Silicon Valley.
While the west side is the birthplace of companies like Apple, Google and Facebook and home to distinguished educational institutions such as Stanford University, the east side of the freeway harbors one of the poorer and educationally disadvantaged communities in the United States. And while public schools on the west side of US 101 have the resources to boost high test scores and opportunities for students, the east side faces the constant challenge of not enough money, resources and academic achievement.

“When you peel back the onion, you can see that our schools have been failing us for decades and have been losing ground every year,” says Peter Sibley, CEO of Journeys Map, a San Diego firm that matches student aptitude with potential careers. “The goal line is definitely moving,” added Sibley, somewhat critical of the overall acceptance of artificial intelligence in many public schools.

While private education seems to be working hard to integrate this relatively new technological tool, public schools, even in San Diego, considered a leader in artificial intelligence, may be lagging. The Classroom of the Future Foundation, partnering with the San Diego County Office of Education, is working hard to catch up.

For the first time in the eight-year history of the foundation’s future career summit, held in February, AI commanded the center of attention. One of the speakers taking center stage in that discussion was Dr. Patrick Gittisriboongul, assistant superintendent of technology and innovation for the Lynwood Unified School District in Los Angeles,

“Artificial Intelligence is a game changer,” said Gittisriboongul, contending that 80% of the work force in the near future will have between 20% and 50% of their tasks performed by AI. That might include web design, tax preparation, engineering, administrative and secretarial work, data managing, mathematician and customer service, according to Gittisriboongul, former assistant superintendent of innovation for the San Diego County Office of Education.

At the same time, he contends, only 18% to 28% of public schools in the U.S. have any strategy to deal with an AI future. Gittisriboongul is leading a task force in Lynwood to change that.

“Every organization, no matter how small, needs to develop a strategy now,” he said. “For example, an art teacher might ask: ‘Is it ok to generate art?’ and ‘Would you consider that an original piece of art?’ If we want to prepare kids where AI is part of our society, AI has to be part of that discussion.”

Currently, some 8.5 million high tech-and AI related jobs in the U.S. are not being filled despite mind-boggling salaries. In San Diego, for example, QUALCOMM and AppFolio are, respectively, looking for IT data scientists to earn between $180,000 to $270,000  a year in QUALCOMM’S case and $123,000 to $185,000 a year for AppFolio. Other openings include software and technical director, $155,000 to $277,530; software engineers, from $95,000 to $243,000,  and analytics engineers, $104,000 to $156,000.

Elsewhere in the country, openings call for senior machine learning engineers, $160,000 to $176,000 a year; graphics software engineers, $550 a day; backend software engineers, $180,000 a year; senior data scientists, $127,300 a year; and business systems analysts, $125,000 to $135,000 a year.

The National Institute of Science Initiative on Cyber Education has even identified 52 high-tech and AI-related roles that are not even listed yet by U.S. Department of Labor codes.

“Some require about eight months of education to get a job that would probably be comparable to a college graduate’s pay. The outlook for jobs is good,” said Sibley, who refers to them as neither white collar or blue collar but “blue-white collar” jobs.

Never before has such a vast array of power come together at the same time with the ability to disrupt and yet enhance the distribution of knowledge — from QUALCOMM’S superchip Snapdragon exponentially increasing the efficiency and power of mobile devices across varied platforms, to the speed of data processing from everywhere in nanoseconds, the increased` sophistication of algorithms creating the ability to cloud share vast pools of data from everywhere, the proliferation of global data centers like Amazon Web Services serving as holding patterns in the dissemination of knowledge and the vast infusion of capital from government and private industry.

All this is something that can’t be ignored.

In the end, most of that burden of acceptance rests on the individual teacher. Yet, how each teacher perceives and receives artificial intelligence will depend on familiarity with the technology and an understanding of the impact it will have. The reluctance by some thus far may be attributed to a fear of losing control in the classroom — or, perhaps, something deeper. Sibley reached  back in history with the following anecdotal analysis:

The invention of the printing press by Johanne Gutenberg in 1440, for the first time, made the wide dissemination of information possible. But it took 400 years for that to happen — 200 years for the first newspaper to reach a general public in Germany and another 200 years for the modern newspaper to make all the news that’s “fit to print” available to everyone.

That should have happened sooner, but, Sibley contends, “The powers that be were trying to control that. They did not want easy access to knowledge and did everything to control that and from democratizing different forms of education. Think of the hundreds of years it took for (the invention of the printing press) to have a global impact. I would posit that AI, by some data I have seen, will be a hundred times more pervasive.”

The ability to accumulate, harness and transfer such power is greater than ever. At the same time, while some students are being told “You can’t use it,” others are told “You must use it.”

Perhaps ambivalence is the biggest hurdle yet to overcome.
Leonard Novarro is vice president of the Asian Heritage Society and author of WORDSLINGER: The Life and Times of a Newspaper Junkie. Rosalynn Carmen is president of the society and an AWS Certified Machine Learning Specialty and AWS Certified Dev Ops Engineer Professional. © 2024 Copyrighted all rights reserved
Back to content