Teaching Reflections · Technology in Education

The Future is Here: AI Robotics; Data Mining and Analysis; Complex, Collaborative Problem Solving

I recently attended the OCEdiscovery conference in Toronto, Ontario where I had the opportunity to attend as part of a Ministry of Education delegation.  This amazing conference brings together various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship in Ontario. My job was to observe, and collaborate with colleagues from across the province, then report back to my school district about how my experience could lend itself to the classroom and student learning.

Throughout the two day conference, I had the opportunity to view a keynote speaker as a hologram from Hong Kong, and another who was a former VP of Google, observe a humanoid robot converse spontaneously and deliver an address that captured an audience of 3500+, collaborate with colleagues about ‘big ideas’ in education (interdisciplinary learning, engagement, use of technology), and visit a showcase floor full of amazing innovations and entrepreneurs.

What did I learn? The future is here. And in education, we must do our best to evolve just as quickly.

The most anticipated key speaker of the conference literally embodied a central message for educators: AI is here, and we need to teach our students to communicate with, program, interpret and interact with robots. 

Sophia the Humanoid stole the show with her fascinating ability to not only appear human, but speak and interact with humans. Sophia’s creator, David Hanson of Hanson Robotics followed Sophia’s keynote with a further discussion of his vision of the future of humanoid robots in industries such as health care, manufacturing, retail/service industries, business, and yes….education. The days of wondering when AI humanoids will be part of our society are over. They’re here, and more are coming. As educators, we need to respond and react to this reality.

The second key take away in regards to education was the need for future employees in the fields of data mining and analysis. This is due to the massive amounts of data gathered electronically that requires human interpretation. Many keynote speakers mentioned the importance of numeracy, mathematical  and coding skills, as well as understanding societal and human trends. Interestingly enough, the morning I returned home to Sudbury I heard a radio advertisement for Cambrian College’s new program……Data Analytics.

Finally, the most significant message that was repeated again and again at OCEdiscovery was the idea of the need for students to learn in interdisciplinary, collaborative ways. One of the key speakers at the conference, Megan Smith (former VP @Google), put it best when she stated:

“Don’t divide subjects because we ring a bell between them; the universe doesn’t.”

This idea was further extended to the concept that only through interdisciplinary, collaborative learning can students truly apply learning strategies such as the design process, problem solving and inquiry based thinking. Moreover, it was also noted that the future will require our students to have exceptional communication skills, which can again be learned and refined in collaborative settings.

The world is changing at a drastic pace, and as educators, we need to replicate and react to these changes in our classrooms and daily practices. Realizing this brings forth many uncomfortable questions about what we once believed about learning, but they are challenges we need to face if we hope to remain relevant.

I’m very grateful for my opportunity to attend OCEdiscovery, and will absolutely be applying my learning to changes in my classroom.








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