Valuable Encounters At Nolai's First Birthday Party
After weeks of preparation, the time had finally come: the NOLAI Meeting. On a stormy Thursday afternoon in November, education professionals, scientists, policymakers and partners from the business community gathered at the Brakkesteyn estate in Nijmegen, along with all the NOLAI staff who also braved the autumn storm to celebrate NOLAI's first anniversary.
The atmosphere was upbeat and expectant. Outside, autumn storm Ciarán raged, but despite the strong wind, the sun shone through the high windows of the former chateau. Operations Director Stephan Dormans opened the festive gathering with a warm word of welcome. He outlined in a few sentences how NOLAI grew from a unique idea to an ambitious plan in a short time, which has been recognised over the past year.
Expectations and Inspiration
Stephan asked his audience the question: Where do you go from here? What are your expectations, and will you go home inspired tonight? One of the teachers present replied, "When I report to my students tomorrow about this afternoon, I know they will get excited by my story." An answer that was echoed by the many teachers in the room.
Keynote Inge Molenaar
After Stephan's introduction, the floor was given to Inge Molenaar, Professor and Director of NOLAI. In a sunlit room, she gave her keynote speech, talking about the origins of NOLAI and its growth in its first year. Using her six-stage automation model, Molenaar then showed where we came from, where we are now, and where we are going with AI in education.
Room for Discussion
After the keynote speech, participants split into three groups. In three short sessions of half an hour each, they explored in depth with each other. Around the tables, great conversations with scientists on the various areas of interest took place. In another room, questions were answered about the ten projects starting this year, whilst in another room, participants talked about 'Everything but Generative AI'.
Brainstorming and Philosophising
In a relatively short time, great plans emerged, along with preliminary ideas for new co-creation projects. Robin de Lange of the VR Learning Lab: "NOLAI offers a very nice opportunity. You can come as a school or a teacher with a problem or an idea, and then they brainstorm with you whether they can develop a solution. That's unique."
Opportunities and Benefits
Some of the teachers present were clearly sceptical about AI in education; others, on the contrary, wanted to start using it as soon as possible. Rector of Candea College in Duiven Léon Lucas: "I see a lot of advantages in this and many opportunities, and it's not going fast enough for me. It can save you so much work! Now, speed up the things that bring you back to supporting students, keep it fun, and see what it brings. Allow yourself the fun of developing too. Unfortunately, getting everyone moving in the same direction takes a lot of time."
Barend Last on Generative AI
The second keynote speech was given by Barend Last, blended learning specialist, teacher and author of Chatten met Napoleon, a book on working with Generative AI in education. He started with a warning about the biases of Generative AI, stating that systems can be quite biased because of the data they are fed. We, as educated adults, are often able to recognise those biases, but learners are often not (yet). They do not see the biases well, especially in text. According to Barend, we need to keep in mind what a system like ChatGPT is. "The system doesn't care if what it says is true," he says.
Ban, embrace or rethink?
How do we deal with AI in education? Are we going to ignore it or ban it, bypass it or embrace it? Barend suggests we embrace it. The current education system is focused on performance; it often comes down to teaching to the test. Assessing in this way leads to high performance pressure among pupils. Many teachers can agree: "If you test, learning stops." Moreover, it encourages fraud. But if we focus on growth and the learning process rather than on tests, is AI still a threat, and is plagiarism still possible? Something to ponder! To be continued...
Photo: Rob Gieling
- Organizational unit
- National Education Lab AI (NOLAI)
- Artificial intelligence (AI)