The Promise of AI: A Journey Beyond Time-Saving.

As the Director of e-Learning at Marlborough Boys' College, I find myself constantly navigating the evolving landscape of educational technology. The latest buzz is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential to save time for teachers with developing new worksheets or lesson plans in the blink of an eye. I have watched on my social feeds as my international colleagues have attended the most recent ISTE conference in Colorado and been introduced to plethora of AI tools that promise to free up and save time. 

While this promise is alluring, a closer examination reveals that the history of time-saving technologies tells a different story. Moreover, our understanding of time itself, especially from indigenous and non-capitalist perspectives, challenges the very notion of time as a commodity to be saved or lost.

Throughout history, many innovations have promised to save us time. From the invention of the vacuum cleaner to the rise of personal computers, each technological leap was hailed as a liberator of human hours. Yet, paradoxically, these advancements often led to increased expectations and workloads, rather than the anticipated leisure and simplicity. The time saved by technology often translates into more tasks and responsibilities, not less.

Being from New Zealand, I look at the indigenous people, the Māori for some insight on how time can be seen differently. At present, we are celebrating Matariki - the Māori new year. From a Māori perspective, time is not a linear commodity but a cyclical and interconnected aspect of life. It is not something to be hoarded or wasted but a dimension that intertwines with the past, present, and future. This can be seen by the Maramataka - the traditional Māori calendar. Which has a cycle of periods of time, which repeat.

This view contrasts sharply with the Western, capitalist notion of time as money. In Te Ao Māori (the Māori world), time is about relationships, community, and balance.

Non-capitalist perspectives also reject the idea of time as a mere resource to be optimized. Instead, time is seen as a space for living meaningfully, building relationships, and fostering well-being. This approach encourages us to focus on quality rather than quantity, presence rather than productivity. 

Within capitalist frameworks, there is a relentless push for increased productivity, often measured by the amount of work done within a given period. This has seeped into education, where teacher productivity is often gauged by the number of tasks completed, lessons delivered, or students taught. Such a view reduces teaching to a series of quantifiable outputs, ignoring the nuanced and relational nature of education. It pressures teachers to perform, often at the expense of their well-being and the quality of their interactions with students.

So, how can AI be harnessed in education in ways that align with these indigenous and non-capitalist views of time?

Enhancing Relationships and Community: AI can facilitate personalized learning, allowing teachers to focus on building stronger relationships with students, providing teachers with more opportunities to engage deeply with students, fostering a sense of community and connection.

Promoting Balance and Well-Being: AI can support student well-being by providing insights into their learning patterns and needs. This allows teachers to provide necessary support, promoting a balanced approach to education that prioritizes mental and emotional health.

Fostering Lifelong Learning: AI can create adaptive learning environments that cater to individual learning paces, encouraging a lifelong love of learning. This aligns with the Māori concept of Ako, where teaching and learning are reciprocal processes between students (ākonga), kiako (teachers) and whānau (family) that continue throughout life.

Supporting Indigenous Knowledge and Practices: AI can be used to preserve and promote indigenous languages and knowledge systems. For example, AI-driven language apps can help students learn Te Reo Māori, ensuring that this vital aspect of Māori culture thrives in the digital age.

Redefining Teacher Roles Beyond Productivity of Student Grades: AI can help redefine what it means to be an effective teacher. Instead of emphasizing productivity and pass rates, AI can assist in nurturing the roles of teachers as mentors, guides, and supporters of holistic student development. This shift moves away from viewing teaching as a series of tasks to be completed and towards an emphasis on the quality of educational experiences and relationships.

The key to integrating AI in education lies in our approach. Rather than viewing AI as a tool to save time, we should see it as an enabler of richer educational experiences. By embracing indigenous and non-capitalist perspectives, we can use AI to enhance education in ways that honor cultural values and promote holistic well-being.

In conclusion, while AI holds great potential, its true promise lies not in saving time but in enriching the educational journey. By shifting our focus from time saving to relationship-building, well-being, and lifelong learning, we can harness AI to create a more meaningful and connected world for our students.

As we navigate this new frontier, let's remember that the most valuable aspects of education cannot be measured in saved minutes or hours. They are found in the connections we build, the knowledge we share, and the lives we touch. Let us use AI not to escape the pressures of time, but to deepen our engagement with the timeless essence of learning.

‘He aha te mea nui o te ao? Māku e kī atu, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata’

What is the most important thing in this world? It is people, it is people, it is people.


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