Much like what we have seen in the corporate office world with hybrid work environments, education at almost all levels is pivoting ever more towards hybrid learning environments, with digital signage technology and AI playing a central role in the transition.

Digital signage has a huge presence in the education space, from K-12 schools to university campuses. But in the age of AI, holograms and the so-called “metaverse,” just how can educators keep up with technology and provide students with an experience that is both human and humane? And how do kids, teachers and parents alike navigate safety amid the rapid pace of development?

For Dr. Micah Shippee, those questions have been at the core from the beginning of his wide-ranging career in education and technology. Shippee’s roles have included professor, instructor, entrepreneur, and more recently, his work helping Samsung find ways to tap technology to benefit education in his role as Director of Education Technology Consulting and Solutions at Samsung. Shippee joined this publication via video link to catch us up on the global trends in education technology.

As a thought leader in education technology theory and applications (also known as “edtech”), Shippee shared a realistic view of the challenges in the modern classroom, bringing personal experience as an instructor along with raising children in a new technological era. Even so, Shippee has an optimistic view that the education world can not only survive the current sea-change moment, but it can thrive in ways that would have been impossible before the age of AI, ChatGPT and other emerging technologies that are reshaping everything we thought we knew about the learning process.

Much like what we have seen in the corporate office world with hybrid work environments, education at almost all levels is pivoting ever more towards hybrid learning environments, with digital signage and artificial intelligence playing a central role in the transition.

Think differently

While the AI hype cycle has hit the education world, there is a risk with having limited imagination and over-focusing on AI-powered lesson plans.

“I think what we’re seeing, at least when we talk about education, is a lot of AI solutions are positioning themselves as will help you write lesson plans,” he said. “And that is a very nice intention, but in my opinion as an educator, we’re missing the target. So, writing a lesson plan is something that is more fluid and dynamic, something that is done by a teacher in a way that the AI can provide some guidelines, thoughts, and insights. But I think it can be used in a significantly more powerful way,” Shippee said.

Sometimes, reticence about new technologies can delay innovation, but Shippee feels there is more to it. “I also think there are some decisions being made for educators by outsiders. If you think of ‘for educators, by educators,’ then you get something that’s significantly more pragmatic as a product, and I think that’s what we should be looking for — who exactly is making this product, this intervention? And how does it enhance true pedagogy?”

How to teach better with AI

Still, even though there’s room for improvement in the way AI is currently evolving in classroom teaching, Shippee believes there is ample potential for positive use going forward.

“We should be looking for artificial intelligence to amplify what we know works,” Shippee said. “For example, perhaps the most classical form of education is the expert apprentice model. And for thousands of years, human beings have leveraged the expert apprentice model, whether it be parent to child or expert to community member.

“One-to-one has been the single best way to educate somebody… and what we found with traditional education is we’ve tried to scale that to a ratio of one expert to 25 or 100 learners, and it just plain doesn’t work in a lot of our classroom environments,” he added.

“What I believe will be the future is leveraging AI in a way that fits the middle part of that model. That model starts with an expert demonstrating how something works, explaining and showing, and then when it comes to providing the learner the opportunity[to try the skill on their own], this is where AI can provide responsive design and challenge and feedback with the educator circling around the room as an expert or a coach guiding the progress, retaining the human-ness [of the classroom] and having some reflective conversation with a whole group at the end.

“So that scenario, the front of classroom where you have interactive technologies, casting technologies, really amplify that model or stage setting, but also provide a place for summaries and what we call formative assessment, which is how are you doing in the process, rather than [assessing] how is the end product?”

In other words, the classical pedagogy of teaching skills, instead of forcing students to learn arbitrary facts by rote, can be greatly enhanced by emerging technologies, from digital signage and smart boards to artificial intelligence.

Practical examples

As an amateur language aficionado, I asked Shippee about how AI and digital signage innovations can reshape language learning; while he gave the caveat that language learning is not his realm of expertise as an instructor, he did illustrate how this exemplifies ways that tech can make the classroom more human-shaped.

“In general, technology is attractive when it is — we often use the word personalized, when it gives that dynamic response,” Shippee said. “I think as a society we thought of it as overly attractive, because of the idea of ‘responsive design,’ and wanting to sit children down at the laptop for hours at a time. While the learning might be dynamic and measured with the learner, it dehumanizes the learning process.

“So, we have to come back to a balance there. And having an adult make content approachable is really important. So, if I see a human being master something, it makes me feel like I as a human being can achieve that, as opposed to a bot that does something — it’s dehumanized, and it’s like, ‘Okay, well, that’s a bot, of course they can do it, I could never do that.’ And that’s dangerous.”

In other words, technology is at its best when it makes the experience more human shaped – a theme I’ve seen while observing and covering AI developments for the past year, from Dirty Dough’s automation in cookie dough prep to White Castle and SoundHound.ai rolling out AI in drive-thru ordering.

How do we make sure AI is safe for students?

It’s no secret that the massive pace of AI development has taken society and the business world by storm. From the 2023 SAG-AFTRA protests and author lawsuits related to AI to the New York Times lawsuit against Open.AI and Microsoft, industries and governmental entities have been scrambling to make sense of how to respond, including questions about whether the answer lies in self-regulation by industry or in governmental actions like the European Union’s groundbreaking AI legislation.

“If it’s [AI as a teaching tool] done right, and I think that’s where the caution is you know, when we are working in education, we’re working with our planet’s most precious resource, and that’s our children. And when we’re working with our children, we have to be incredibly cautious with security and data privacy.

“And we can’t be searching large language models that scrape the entire internet and provide data back to the entire internet, about our children’s learning challenges, which are appropriate challenges. We should be challenged when we learn, we should fail when we learn. We don’t need that to be public knowledge across the internet. So, when we’re working with students, we need to make sure that there’s some data security, significant data security, in place, there’s been multiple forms of legislation United States that have been put in place to ensure that.”

Use AI to model empathy for your students

Shippee suggested that modeling right behavior is one of the best ways to keep the classroom safe.

“I think that it’s really a form of teachers willing to model their use of this technology in the front of the classroom,” he said. “So if I’m on my phone, and I’m using ChatGPT in the classroom, I can cast my phone to an interactive display, I can pull up what the responses are, grab my highlight tool, circle examples, and say, ‘Look at this response. Does that sound like the type of response the human being would make?’

“Well, while AI gets increasingly better, it makes responses that are logical, but sometimes they’re not empathetic. So, we need to teach students to leverage their empathy and their gut, [and say] ‘Yes, this might make sense how to structure a society, but that’s not how people work.’ And so front-of-classroom technology can provide a way of demonstrating that model.

Shippee has also seen teachers use AI in exercises where students must examine media and determine which represent human art and which were machine-generated, defending the logic in their choices. “Now, that’s going to be increasingly harder to do over time, but for now, a level of transparency from the expert educator in the room is really helpful for students to see: ‘Okay, this is how an adult uses this technology.'”

When asked if Shippee feels that legislation is the best path to enhance safety, thinking of the recent direction in the EU’s approach, he stressed that he isn’t a legal expert and approached the question more as a parent.

“I’m no expert on legislation, but as a dad, I want my children protected, and I know that protecting them through legislation is important. But nothing will move a human being more than something that touches their heart and mind, and that’s through our relationships.”

The future of teaching

But will the pace of technology change the very nature of teaching? Shippee thinks the near future will bring two major themes for educators.

“I’ve got to return to what we were taught when I was a kid in the 80s or early 90s,” he replied, explaining that learning how to run Boolean searches changed his life — and that this form of early prompt engineering is now even more essential with the new AI tech. In other words, it’s not about knowing everything; it’s about asking the right questions in the right way.

The classroom of the future, if it’s successful, will teach students this skill, one that Shippee argues is lifelong and transferable; by extension, pedagogy and institutions that train teachers will need to emphasize this kind of education, along with forging a laser focus on each student’s learning needs as an individual (again, highlighting the power of new technologies to create individualized experience, from business to education).

“It’s really learning how to master change, rather than master technologies, and skills about understanding use case — understanding how to help a student. What does the student need, starting from the learner? And how can we intervene?

“A lot of medical fields are doing that, where they do problem-based learning to start with the problem and then work backwards about the skills — you know, there are some physician assistant programs in my area that are doing that.”

With 22 years as an educator, Shippee feels he has personal skin in the game, noting the centrality of professional development for educators. Similar to many business leaders I’ve interviewed, Shippee highlighted the importance of learning how to engineer experiences for your target user: in this case, students.

“Professional development is important — knowing that you don’t know everything,” Shippee said. Knowing that you constantly need to be in a state of growth, your growth spectrum continues. You don’t want it to plateau. At Samsung we have a team of amazing educators that are offering professional development in areas like AI design thinking, skills for public speaking, slides design, and engaging learnings in different ways — even engaging parents and community members.”

While most people may think of ‘upskilling’ as something for the technology sector, it’s a vital element of any instructor’s practice, according to Shippee.

“This is a this is we have a 60 page catalog [in which] we offer a professional development for teachers, anywhere from a couple hours, half day, full day, multi day virtual workshops, and we even work in a coaching model to support longitudinal relationships with people seeking to grow more in their career.”

Near term AI, edtech predictions

With the obvious caveat that after the whirlwind year we’ve all experienced mean that making predictions is a hazardous occupation, I asked Shippee what he thinks we will see in edtech in the near future — for example, will we see holograms catch on in the classroom?

“Well, it’s really hard to say anymore,” he said. “I mean, for AI, I was investing a lot of my time in augmented and virtual reality – I even wrote a book on it, [arguing that] this is the future — and in a way, I think it still is. But then, with the launch of ChatGPT making more accessible technologies that have been around for a little while, we’ve seen a real disruption in a way that your average person has an idea of what this is, where even today, your average person has never been in a VR experience. So that accessibility of tools is interesting.

“In terms of holograms, I don’t really know. At Samsung we make beautiful displays which I think are incredible in storytelling, in engagement, from both a pedagogical and a consumer perspective, and I think that will always have a place in our society, again, both in commercial and consumer, education and public sector spaces.”

Digital signage in education

In digital signage and education, AI is going to continue growing, according to Shippee, and we’ll see continued growth in kiosks and self-service in consumer spaces.

“We’re going to start seeing AI brought into instructive spaces,” he said. “We’ll also see AI brought into consumer spaces. There’s, I mean, again, I’m in education, but I’m also a consumer. And I see in my community a job shortage in fast food restaurants. And I see a place for things like kiosks and for kiosks that can provide an efficient experience, to augment a lack of a workforce.

“So, I think we’ll start to see more of that — more of the everyday life things, and to the point where people don’t even realize this isn’t just a database of algorithms. This is AI, and this is adding some logic to it. That part of our life, I think, is going to be increasingly around and that will find its way into education and instruction.”

I closed our conversation to ask Dr. Shippee what his favorite recent example of digital signage in education; he said he can’t talk about it yet (as it’s still in development), but he did mention that his favorite example that he can talk about was the digital signage project at Syracuse University (his alma mater), which included innovative LED installations designed to share school culture with current and prospective students. A video overview of the project is available below.

When asked if he had a closing thought or encouragement for teachers after all the challenges they’ve faced recently, Shippee kept it simple: “You have the most important job; stick with it.”

(2024, January 03). Daniel Brown – Editor, Network Media Group. Retrieved from https://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/articles/how-to-make-classroom-teaching-more-approachable-safe-humane-with-ai-digital-signage/