Nearly every presenter brought up AI or specifically ChatGPT at SXSW EDU over the course of it’s four days. Several sessions, sometimes booked and planned months before the ChatGPT revolution, were devoted to the topic explicitly. There was “Teaching & Learning in the Age of AI” and “The Promises and Perils of Artificial Intelligence”, the first of which you can go back and watch if you have a credentialed account.
But even in the ones that weren’t explicitly about AI found ways to incorporate the currently infamous topic. Joanna Cannon made an interesting point in “How New Attention to R & D will Transform Learning” saying that despite all of the negative press about cheating, the survey we reported on found that most teachers were enthusiastic about ChatGPT. The majority had already used it to help with their own work and were teaching their students to use it as well.
Separately, Melissa Kincaid at “Gamify Questioning” and the panel at “Prepare for Adventure: Learn to Use RPGs to Teach“ demonstrated how to use ChatGPT to create classroom content; question games in Kinkaid’s case and story narratives in the panel’s. This type of use was echoed by teachers and administrators at a roundtable on “Retaining Teachers by Avoiding Burnout” with the idea that ChatGPT could be used to take some of the work off teachers’ shoulders.
As an added bonus, SXSW Interactive (the main conference) had a fireside chat this week with OpenAI President and co-founder Greg Brockman which anyone can listen to at the above link. He talks about the founding of OpenAI a decade ago and the journey that brought them to where they are today, indicating just how close he thinks true AI is. “We’re clearly moving to a world where (the internet) is alive. You can talk to it, and it understands you and helps you,” Brockman says.
The first true domino to fall to AI in the education space seems likely to be coursework creation and knowledge assessment (two spaces which are colliding fast). Currently at least three different companies are competing to package and simplify the kind of work that Kinkaid and educators like her are doing manually with ChatGPT now. NOLEJ.IO (pronounced knowledge), aiEDU, and finetune are all working on ways to quickly generate course content and test students on that content, sometimes with teacher guidance and sometimes without.
If VC dollars are anything to go by (which honestly, they are a middling predictor), this space could be a very profitable one. These companies likely want to court the $142 B textbook market, and McGraw Hill is not currently placed to compete against them.
This space and AI in general could open up space for competitors to try to take back some market share and stake out a bit of relevance. What would it look like to take a college readiness test that mostly focused on prompt engineering? Could chat based tutoring (like Paper.co) face competition from an AI based chat tutor? Will Khan Academy’s integration of GPT-4 catapult it from non-profit darling to true educational institution?
Only time will tell. Right now the hype train on AI is the highest it has ever been and any straight line predictions about where it will be in 5 years are probably overshooting what it can do. But in the short term, SXSW EDU showcased a lot of spaces where things could change very fast.
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