Generative AI biggest game-changer in education since '90s internet boom, UAE experts say

Emerging tech could help students with special education needs or personalise learning

Generative AI will change the way students are assessed, said UAE experts.
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Generative artificial intelligence will transform education and completely overhaul the way students are taught and assessed, experts said on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.

The Future of Generative AI in Education event drew senior representatives from government, the private sector and academia.

Generative AI technology can produce various types of content, including text, images, or other media.

Experts said that teachers would need essential training and cautioned that students would need to use generative AI tools with a discerning eye as there remained room for bias and error.

A panel of specialists on education and technology spoke about the impact generative AI is having on education systems, teachers, and students, at the University of Birmingham Dubai’s campus this week.

Dr Ruchit Agrawal, assistant professor and head of outreach at the School of Computer Science at University of Birmingham Dubai, told The National generative AI would be the biggest game-changer in education “after the internet boom of the late '90s and early 2000s".

“It was a great boom that changed the way universities operated. Content could be online, digitalised and offered in one go to a wide variety of people,” said Dr Agrawal.

The way educators assess will change because now we want to see whether students are really understanding the content
Dr Ruchit Agrawal, University of Birmingham Dubai

“With generative AI, education and the education industry will see a paradigm shift, both in the way we teach and also in the way we assess.”

Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard are at the forefront of generative AI and can create content based on prompts.

“The way educators assess will change because now we want to see whether students are really understanding the content," said Dr Agrawal.

"We need to see their presentation skills, soft skills, contextual awareness, because these are the traits that generative AI models don't possess currently.

“The shift of focus has to go from problem solvers to problem creators, who can actually think of new problems, and also problem catchers, who can catch problems with existing technologies."

Dr Agrawal said teachers would have to undergo training, change their methods, and motivate students to have a discerning eye and not blindly trust AI because as it has inherent limitations such as bias or inaccurate information generation.

He said the beauty of generative AI was that it could work across multiple modalities such as text, images and audio.

In education, it could be put to use to help students with special education needs or to personalise learning.

Noshaba Anbreen, assistant professor of education and academic digital lead at the University of Birmingham Dubai, said generative AI was a "really polarising debate in education at the moment and there remained a kind of fear of the technological tool", but people needed to focus not on the fear, but on the opportunities.

"I would say this is probably the single-biggest transformative change that's really been necessitated in education, it's really been needed," said Ms Anbreen.

"In terms of what the potential is for assessment and rethinking authentic assessments, that's where it's really kind of shone the light, particularly when it comes to developing and using AI tools for personalised learning within education."

Ms Anbreen said teachers must be able to fully apply advanced technologies to their work to ensure students were prepared for a future where AI would be embedded within most jobs and sectors, as well as daily life.

She said the pace at which generative AI had developed and come to market has had huge implications for the education sector and it was critical that researchers and teachers were able to navigate this shift and its challenges.

UAE schools are set to embrace artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology by introducing AI-generated tutors to classrooms, the Ministry of Education announced in March.

Next week, the UAE will host Dubai Assembly for Generative AI, which aims to shape the future of AI and introduce governments to the opportunities it provides.

Hamad Al Shirawi, director of Dubai Assembly for Generative AI, said it was important to "recognise the fact that this technology has been absolutely transformational, changing the way we work, the way we study and the way we conduct our lives".

“Dubai has always been at the forefront of capitalising on emerging technology," he said.

"It comes with absolutely no surprise that Dubai is now looking at generative AI and how we can how we can convert that opportunity, that specific emerging technology into creating promising opportunities, enabling a very positive economic ecosystem and also improving quality of life."

Updated: October 07, 2023, 6:38 AM