Lucy Sherwood from MoodleHQ recently met with Chad Outten, founder and CEO of mylearningspace, to discuss AI and education.
Chad recently presented at MoodleMoot Global 2023 in Barcelona about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on education. This presentation was one of the most popular presentations of the event, as voted by other attendees.
Join us as we deep dive into AI, including how AI is changing how we teach and learn, including challenges, opportunities, algorithmic bias, regulations, accessibility, and the social implications of using AI in EdTech.
Plus, Chad shares how AI is presently being used in education settings (including Moodle) and what opportunities there might be for teachers and learners.
Follow mylearningspace on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/my-learning-space/
Visit Moodle at Moodle.com
Hello, and welcome to the Moodle Podcast.Lucy Sherwood:
Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode with Chad Outten from my learning space. Today, we are talking all about AI, its implications, the opportunities in AI, AI bias, everything there is to know about AI and education. To get us started, Chad, why don't you introduce yourself and give us a summary of what you do.Chad Outten:
G'day, Lucy , thanks for having me and G'day listeners. Uh, I'm an educational technologist , uh, an educator at heart. Geez . I've been working in this space for close on 30 years. Um , my love affair with learning started as a kid in kindergarten. I loved school so much. I eventually went back as a teacher, worked in various schools and universities, and it was then about, a colleague introduced me to Moodle in 2003. It was about version Moodle, version 1.3 for me, that was a real lightbulb moment, you know, it , it showed me the potential of technology , uh, in education. So I registered on moodle.org, downloaded the software, started playing with, it, started contributing to forums, you know , asking questions, giving answers, and attending , uh, various Moodle Moots. So , uh, one thing led to another, and I started up a business called My Learning Space. So I founded it. And , uh, I'm currently CEO, we're a workplace learning company. Australia's longest serving Moodle partner, Australia's first premium partner. And , uh, you know, we're very proud to partner with a , a wide range of organizations in the corporate government education and not-for-profit sectors to deliver impactful learning to their people.Lucy Sherwood:
Love that. Okay. That's really interesting. I love that you said what Moodle version that you started with, because that seems to be a question that everyone wants to know. They're like, Ooh , when did you come into the fold? Interesting. I'd love to know, what is it about Moodle that you love so much?Chad Outten:
Oh , oh , look, I , I believe it's key point of difference is the fact that it's community driven . And it has been from the start. I mean, it started as one man's vision, Martin Dougiamas, you know, over 20 years ago. And he planted this seed, you know, the rest of us have nurtured it and, and us being , uh, the community, you know, so educators, researchers, developers, end users, partners cooperated and collaborated to, to build this extraordinary software that empowers educators to improve our world. So, you know, it , it , it shows the great strength and potential of humanity when people work together. So I think , um, you know , Moodle's a a great success story for open source. It's a great success story for humanity. So I think that's really what sets it apart from, from other software in the market.Lucy Sherwood:
I'm just gonna dive right into ai because it's the kind of hot topic that's trending at the moment in the ed tech world , and I guess in the world in general , like , everyone seems to want to know what is going to happen . You know , everyone's people like yourself find out what you think is going to happen. So I'd love to ask you some really big questions. How can ai improve education, the quality of education, the accessibility? What do you think are the opportunities there?Chad Outten:
I mean, look, I'm super interested in artificial intelligence. I mean, it's, it's been bubbling for quite some time, and you know, it's really exploded, hasn't it? In the last year or so. We, as end users have something tangible. We've got applications that, that we can use and, and , and harness and see the <inaudible> , certainly for education. So, you know , to me, this era feels a little bit like the internet boom in the 1990s, where you could sense back then that something was brewing that was going to transform and change the way we live and work and teach and learn. So look, as far as , um, ai's concerned, definitely for , for educators, I see it's potential as a mentor for teachers and academics and trainers, you know, in , certainly in , uh, the generation of ideas and content and media for their, for their courses. Uh , certainly to help them in the design of curriculum, be it programs or courses or individual learning experiences, and the ai also be able to assist them with the design of assessment and potentially grading and the feedback to, to the learners. For the learners. I mean, they're , they're set to benefit from , from all of this as well. For certain, perhaps the ai, you know, the agent or the assistant or how we, how we view it, may act in a different role. I think it will be less as a mentor, perhaps more like a tutor that, that will assist learners on, you know, their, their learning journey, certainly in, in the research phase as they're, you know, investigating a topic , um, you know, collecting information and ideas, processing, synthesizing, and , and looking to represent that tutoring students on a range of topics, supporting them, certainly outside the typical school or university or workplace , um, you know, calendar or timetable. And that that ai tutor may assist learners as well with their assessment and feedback as well. So, you know, if students were to submit , uh, their ideas or their drafts to the, to the ai application, let's say, and , and get timely feedback, and then the learner would be able to go away and iterate and improve on their, their final piece of work , uh, for submission. So the , the , I mean, that's a few ways, certainly in , in which I can see ai helping us in education as a mentor and as a tutor.Lucy Sherwood:
Wonderful. And what do you think about ai bias and the potential for ai algorithms to be biased? What are your thoughts on that?Chad Outten:
Oh , look, it's a real thing for sure. It definitely exists. Um , we've gotta recognize that. I mean, the , the question is, I mean, I would ask the audience this . I mean, what goes into the massive data sets used to train the ai systems? Well , their algorithms that, you know, underlie the, the ai applications and the algorithms are essentially opinions embedded in code. So these massive data sets , they're typically scraped from the internet. And, you know, that's a quick and and cheap process for these big tech companies. But this process, I mean, it's one in which the ai absorbs the biases that inhabit the web and which mirror society. So, and that includes all the ugliness that's baked in, you know, whether you're talking about , uh, gender or racial biases or other forms of , uh, Injustice Or stereotypes or misinformation. So it , it exists in real life, in society, on the web, and certainly in these ai applications. So we've gotta recognize that. The scary thing in all of that, really, I mean, we use humans as the ai users when we use these applications and feedback, you know, we are training the machines to become more intelligent. So, you know, we're part of the problem here potentially, you know , um, in that we're, we're perpetuating reinforcing these biases which exist already on the web in , in mirror society. So I think as long as, you know, we are conscious of this, we recognize it as ai users, you know, we've gotta be critical in our thinking, evaluation, and judgment like we would just in a , in everyday society and just as we do in using the internet from day to day . I mean, on the same token, beyond the , the bias in ai, we've gotta , we've gotta recognize that it may contain misinformation. So , you know, the various applications, I mean, chat GT's a good example. Um, you know , it's notorious, in fact, on occasions it's known to hallucinate, lie and provide false information in response to our text-based prompts. So same thing, it's not always telling the truth can't be relied upon as a source of truth. So we need to acknowledge that and , uh, not always defer to it. I mean, my concern with, you know, biases and misinformation in ai is that, you know, we, if we rely too heavily on it, you know, we are gonna get a bit shallow in our, in our thinking. So we've gotta, you know, maybe certainly use it, but not refer to it as the source of truth.Lucy Sherwood:
I like to think of it a little bit more like asking a friend a question rather than finding a source of truth. So I think that's a great way of explaining it, like consider it an opinion <laugh> more than the truth. Perfect. All right . So there's a lot of talk about social ethical implications of ai on society and technology, so I would love to know what your thoughts are on what the ethical and social implications might be and how we deal with that.Chad Outten:
Yeah, look, we've , with all of this, I mean, the stakes are so high, aren't they? I mean, the , the race is on at the moment to own the future. The ai and, and the winner's gonna take all, you know , so mean you look at Microsoft, they recently invested over $10 billion in, in open ai that created of chat PT and , and Dali . And, and this year to date , um, six major tech companies have amassed something like 4 trillion US dollars in added market value. So we're talking about Microsoft there , apple Alphabet, which is , uh, the parent company of Google, Amazon Meta , formerly known as Facebook and Nvidia, the the chip manufacturer. So that's a lot of zeroes that they've added to their , to their market value this year. And a lot of that can be attributed to recent gains in, in ai. You know, it's, it , it's a concern. I mean, you know, as I said, my heart's in education and, and this sort of thing keeps me up at night. On the same token, it gets me outta bed in the morning, you know, I mean, the fundamental challenge we've got here, when you talk about sort of ethics and and society with , with ai, I mean, the , the challenge is gonna be aligning the objectives and ambitions of business with those as society. Can we line those things up or is there a, a , a disconnect that we can't reconcile between what businesses aiming to achieve through ai and what society wants and needs? Um, that's, that's my real concern. So having said that, I mean , we're gonna need really strong ai controls to protect humanity , um, at , at the moment. I mean, there's no rules, there's no regulations, there's no laws that govern ai. So it's a bit like the wild west. Who's leading the wild west? Well, there's no, it's the tech giants. Um, and , and look, to be honest, to date, none of those companies I just mentioned there before, you know, the market leaders , um, have been ethical in their mission. So that's a real concern. And why is that? I mean, their primary motivation is profit, okay? It's profits before people, and they're accountable to shareholders who have invested in these companies. My honest thought is we can't entrust , um, the future of education of these kind of companies. Um, you know , it's upon us as educators. It's our responsibility to ensure a better future for humanity.Lucy Sherwood:
And on that, that discussion about regulations , um, and legislation around ai, there's some that has been proposed in the EU and in other parts of the world to regulate ai. So in some cases, ai may be , may be considered high risk and subject to those strong regulatory requirements. I'd love to know what you think the impact of that regulation might be on educationChad Outten:
Education . Well , you're right. I mean, I , I've been following this one closely. Um, it's, it's good news. I talk about the wild West and, and I mean, it looks as though the eus going to have the world's first comprehensive ai laws. They're currently in draft and yeah , scheduled for approval before the end of this year. Look, as far as education's concerned, I don't think it's gonna be classified as high risk. Um, I mean, high risk might be, you know, defense in healthcare, for example, you know, where it's life or death on the line. If , um, you know, if, if ai were to make the wrong decision , um, and , and, you know, certain, certain jobs and occupations , um, need to be entrusted and safeguarded by humans, let's be honest, on the same token, as I said there , I mean , algorithmic bias could represent or misrepresent many things. And, and ai is becoming very intelligent very quickly. I mean, a year ago it had had the IQ of a, a nine year old , and now it's smarter than the average adult know . So for us as humans, I think the challenge here , um, without the regulation is how do we know what's real or fake? That's a real concern, but I, I think it is a , you know, an answer to your question, I think it's, it is good news that there's regulation coming sometime soon. So, you know, the genie's out of the bottle is probably the way to think of it, and we can't put it back in. So we've got off , we've gotta find ways to effectively manage and control. Um, and as I mentioned there before, the, you know, the kind of reconcile, you know, the ambitions of business and those society here and find a, find a fair and reasonable balance.Lucy Sherwood:
Wonderful. What do you think that the most significant positive impact of ai will be on education? Is there any one thing that stands out to you that you think will justChad Outten:
Incredible for educators or for learning in general,Chad Outten:
For educators, ai has the potential to improve the quality of education through , uh, you know, the generation of content and media. I mean, you know, Jeez going to reduce the time and the cost involved in designing learning experiences. So that essentially liberates, you know, it frees up the educator to focus on more human interactions with their learners and, and more personalized facilitation of learning. I think that's a big win there for educators who use ai applications and for learners. I mean, it's obvious the big gain is going to be increasing the accessibility to education, and that will mean potentially a virtual tutor available 24 7, 365 on any topic, potentially there to assist them, you know, if they've got a question or they need tutorship or guidance or they're stuck, they need ideas. I think they're the, the big gains there.Lucy Sherwood:
I'd love to know what you think about the potential loss of work for many people due to ai. Like what you think might happen or what you think needs to happen in that area.Chad Outten:
Yeah, well, look, it's no secret that the machines are coming. They've been coming for our jobs for quite some time, and it , and it's happening already. There's a recent report put out by the O E C D , um, and it says something along the lines that around 30% of our jobs will be displaced in the next five years. So that sounds pretty terrifying. But , um, you know, I think in whole , you know, the job threat will vary by industry or sector. And for a lot of us, it won't mean we we'll be outta work, but we may need upskill or reskill, or there may be some sort of sideways movement. Yeah, I think overall there won't be a , uh, a net loss of human jobs. We just, many of us will, will be doing or need to be doing things sometime very soon. Manufacturing is an o obvious example, and it's been happening for decades, you know, where that's been automated by, by robots and , and then robots are just one component of artificial intelligence, right? That's a very broad, that's a broad area, and it includes applications and the intelligence behind it as well, not just the, the kind of robots that have been synonymous with it, right? For decades. I , I think law, medicine and finance, these particular sectors are at risk of automation as well, to be honest, you know, in, in the short to midterm. But, but us as educators in our sector, I , I I sense we're relatively safe if we adopt ai and are prepared to upskill , um, the , the key here. I mean, we, as humans, we need to differentiate ourselves from machines to stay relevant in our jobs and organizations into the future. That's the key thing. We've gotta, we've gotta continue to be human, but on the same token, you know, we need to upskill and , and learn to embrace ai and adopt it effectively and use it, you know, to better the quality of education that we're delivering. Um, going back to that O E C D report, it talks about, you know, the recent developments in ai have increased the demand for two broad skill sets . Firstly, the skills to develop the ai applications, and then secondly , uh, the skills required to use those ai systems. Um , very few of us would fall into the first category of skill sets . You know, they're the really deep technical knowledge , um, and skills and understandings to, to , to build and maintain the ai systems, right? So, you know, very small percentage. I think the majority of us fall under the second , uh, skillset . And you know, that we will need the skills to adopt and interact and effectively use the ai application. So, of course, you know, we're gonna need a basic knowledge of ai, what it is and how it works. We're gonna need, as we do already , um, digital literacy skills, you know, so the ability to use a computing device or a smartphone, you know, a range of cognitive skills. So, you know , skills of analysis, problem solving, critical thinking and judgment. And then some other skills around creativity, communication, teamwork, multitasking. Again, this is all according to that report. And, and look, to be honest, many of us , uh, involved in education and using technology already would, would have , um, many or most of those skills. So we're well positioned to harness, say , ai and use it effectively in our jobs and organizations.Lucy Sherwood:
Awesome. I'm really glad we talked about that, because I think you're right, being a bit flexible and being willing to sidestep is really important, especially in tech. There's always something else. It's always changing, moving, growing. A lot of people have gone from learning in person to a hybrid environment or a completely online environment, and all things considered it was relatively successful, you know, so I think that that's another thing to think about when framing ai. That's a really great point, and I love that you brought it up about jobs being changed, growing, but the human touch is so important . If anyone thinks back to a time in their life where they've learned something, whether it's from a parent or a friend or in a formal education setting, they're thinking about the person, not necessarily the information shared , but the relationship with that person. That relationship is really important. I'd love to talk about underserved communities. It's really important that , um, we , we think about people that don't have as much access to education, and how can we help them? It's important to us to bridge that divide. I'd love to know what you think about how ai can help to address that disparity in the educational space with underserved communities.Chad Outten:
Definitely. Look, ai has the potential to, to bridge that gap, bridge that digital divide. I mean, for, for learners, as I mentioned, I mean, it , it could well act as an ai tutor on a range of topics, you know, be it creative writing or mathematics, languages, computer coding, that could be, you know, with these underserved communities. I mean, it could be somewhere remote. Obviously it's contingent on a smart device in an internet connection of, of some sort. But it may be the ai may be able to serve these underserved communities where, where there isn't a school or there wasn't , isn't a teacher with that particular training or knowledge or qualification that unlocks so many possibilities for educators. Uh , the ai's going to assist more so as a mentor with the learning design, you know, the bigger things such as the curriculum design down to, you know, the kind of, the course, the activity, the resources, and the assessment. On the same token, you know, educators may not have all the knowledge and the skills that they need. So for them to be able to, to lean on a , a virtual assistant to deliver more impactful education to their learners , um, through, through ai, that's, you know, that's, that's powerful. So many possibilities here, you know, with this, I mean, on the same token, I I , I think as far as the digital divide is concerned, I mean, I mean, what we've just said, there's all about, you know , bridging that gap, but there's, we've gotta recognize there's the potential that ai could, could deepen that gap or divide. I mean, much like with the internet and its advent, it, it came along and, you know, it was a , it was a new technology, a new thing, and well, we needed a smart device to be able to use it. Um , we needed digital literacy skills , um, you know, to, to harness the internet and make the most of it, whether it's for research or education or, or, or work or communication and so forth. So the ai , um, you know, the advent of ai posits a , you know, a similar challenge. Again, we're gonna need internet , we're gonna need the smart device , um, digital literacy plus, you know, another layer of requisites here in ai skills, as I said before, you know, we need to know what ai is, how it works, and, and have skills around critical thinking, evaluation and, and judgment to, to make the most of it. Whether we're the educators trying to implement it in our jobs and organizations, or whether we're the learners trying to work out what's real or what's fake. You know, what's fact or what's fiction as we're, you know, researching , um, and, and trying to learn.Lucy Sherwood:
You reminded me. We just actually launched a Moodle Academy course, which is about ai basics for educators. So that's an interesting one to, for people to consider as well. Okay. I'd love to know about what applications of ai you've seen in your work, because I've really talked about your work , yet, we've talked about all these broader concepts, but I'd love to know about some real world applications.Chad Outten:
There's so much happening in the ai space at the minute. Much of it's applicable to education, and there's much of it happening outside of the education space as well, you know, where we talk about law or medicine or finance or , or other industries and sectors. But look as, as far as education concerned, I mean , uh, you know, the obvious one that comes up all the time is, is Chap , G P T , um, you know, it uses a large language model to create a brain that , uh, responds to questions that humans ask of it. Certainly, it's got its place in education for , you know, educators. It'll act as a, a mentor , uh, for, for learners. It'll act more as a, a tutor. Um, you know, I'm concerned to see that some schools and universities have come straight outta the gates and, and banned ai tools such as chat , G P T, and I think that's really just a little bit myopic and, and they're not understanding this new technology and its potential. I mean, you know, there's, there's challenges, there's risks here with it for sure, with anything new such as, such as ai. But where there's a challenge, there's an opportunity, right? I mean, more specifically in the Moodle space, I mean, the, the kind of things going on, you know, learning analytics , um, has been baked into Moodle core for, for many versions now, you know, and it uses machine learning, predictive models such as students at risk of dropping out. And, and what it does, I mean, it assists educators to make informed decisions and intervene in a timely manner. So, you know, it's, it's trained on massive data sets and, and really helps educators, you know, support and encourage and ensure their, their learners continue to be engaged with their courses, their online courses in particular, when it can be a bit challenging and tricky to know if students are active and participating and engaged and, you know, logging in, submitting poster forums or submitting assignments and so forth . So learning analytics has been there , um, for quite some time. You know, one of the benefits obviously of open source , um, such as Moodle, beyond, you know, the, the community we talked about there before is this extensibility. And, and Moodle has , uh, more than a few thousand third party plugins that are being contributed that , um, any, any , uh, Moodle administrator can install and configure and set up for their end users. So there's a few there already that relate to ai. Um, so if you go to moodle.org/plugins and you search Openai, these will come up. Uh , you've got a , um, a chat block. So what that chat block does, it provides , uh, mood 24 7 chat support on ai support on their Moodle site. So you can put this block , uh, pretty much anywhere you'd put a block in your Moodle at the moment, you know , on the home, the dashboard, the course page, and there's options to customize the persona of the ai assistant. You know, the prompt you give it will influence the text that it outputs. So, you know, you could tell it that it's , uh, an expert Moodle support agent, assisting administrator, educators and learners in a , in a school or university or workplace setting. For example, there is a, a ai text to image plugin. And what that does, it delivers ai generated images via the middle file picker and uses dully. And that's , um, the system project at chat g p t from open ai. So, you know, you put in a text space prop to use some natural language description, and it very quickly, in a matter of seconds, it generates some images that you as an educator could use with your learners in your middle course. Now , wherever you like, you know, it could be just uploaded as a file resource, or you could attach to a forum, put it in a quiz, use it as an , an image on the , a label or a, you know, it could supplement a section heading in your course. So there's , there's a few ways you could use, there's ai generated images, and then there's another plugin. You know, the ai converts text to questions that you can use in your quiz. So again, it's using open ai, but essentially , um, you know, you give it a , a prompt or a , an some sort of story, a narrative, and it generates the quiz questions. They go into your course question back and you pick the ones you want to use in your quiz activity. So, I mean, each of these things could really help educators , um, certainly save them time , um, focus on, you know, the human interactions and the human facilitation , uh, you know, in their physical or blended, overt classroom and helps 'em creatively and, and brings a fresh perspective to the learning experience design as well. So I think all of those things are good.Lucy Sherwood:
You've already kind of given some incredible advice, but I'd love to know if there's one piece of advice you could give to educators who are looking to embrace ai and technology as part of learning. What would that advice be?Chad Outten:
Geez , uh, um, probably a fair bit of advice. I th I think maybe three things, but look, I mean, we , we've gotta acknowledge, of course, ai is everywhere. Um, many of us are already using it every day . It's a big trend , big trend, you know, as big as the internet boom back in the nineties, if , if you remember back to then. So, you know, we really do need to pay attention. Um, the traditional education model, it's outdated, it's broken, it's ready for disruption. So ai presents us a gift that presents us the perfect opportunity to reimagine education as we know it. You know, the advice is this, I mean, as educators, we, to stay relevant, we need to embrace ai to differentiate ourselves from the machines. So there's three things we could do right away. Firstly, re-skill for ai. So that may mean reading a book, it may mean, you know, rolling in a course or attending a conference. I mean, a good conference to attend would be , uh, a Moodle mood in, you know , whether it's a global mood or a mood in your part of the world. If you're looking for an ai related book or course, I reckon a great place to start would be prompt engineering, you know, that will help you use the right natural language descriptions and text-based prompts to interact with ai tools such as Chat , GPT and Dall-E. Secondly, we need to adopt artificial intelligence in our jobs and organizations with the intention of improving the overall quality of education. And thirdly, and , and perhaps most importantly, we need to encourage and support our learners so that they positively engaged with ai. I'd say that is , you know, that's the challenge, but you know, we're up for it. As I said, it's presenting us as educators, the perfect opportunity to , to rethink education as we know it.Lucy Sherwood:
I think it's really important to talk about that improving quality in the education space. That's where the opportunity lies, and it was so great to speak with you. Chad. Thank you so much. I would love if you could tell the listeners where to find you and connect with you and my learning space.Chad Outten:
Yeah , certainly. Uh , our website, my learning space.com au, LinkedIn, you'll find us there. We've got a company page , uh, or you can reach out to me, contact me directly via LinkedIn as well on my personal page. Thanks, Lucy, for the invitation and , and great to talk with you today. Awesome .Speaker 3:
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.