Tuesday, March 21, 2023

We've just gone from a simple teacher-learner model to a new world of AI teachers - a new pedAIgogy

As new products from OpenAI, Google, Khan Academy, Duolingo and others are launched, with hundreds of millions using them, the learning game has taken a shift. The new pedAIgogy has unleashed a wave of innovation that not only changes our relationship with knowledge away from transfer, search and access, to dialogue and co-creation.

This takes place at several levels. At the level of global culture as LLMs literally take all of our accumulated culture (language, images, audio, video) and mirrors it back to us. It takes place at the level of the individual who can use, talk to and co-create knowledge. This is what Vygotsky talked about with socially constructed learning, mediated by 'tools'.

The learning game used to be simple. We had 'Teachers' and 'Learners'. 

Schools, Colleges, Universities and Workplace Learning (L&D) has this as its fundamental model or premise. This is still likely to continue as the model for young children, who have less autonomy in learning. But the world for everyone else has suddenly changed. Our whole relationship with knowledge and skills has changed. The nature of work will also change so how we learn will changed. We need less long-form courses and a more dynamic, personalised approach to learning, one that is also motivating and exciting.

That brings us to a fresh and different model, as there are two new kids on the block. 

  1. Human Teacher
  2. Human Learner
  3. AI Teacher (such as ChatGPT and its integration into tools such as Khan Academy & Duolingo)
  4. AI Learner (the AI model trained on a gargantuan amount of data and some human training)

We have moved from Human Teachers and Human Learners, as a diad to AI Teachers and AI Learners as a tetrad. But there is a twist to this tale.

Human Teachers are skilled but those skills tend to be subject specific, they know one topic really well and are not generalists.  They also have valuable teaching skills but these level off or plateau. 

Learners, however, need to learn more efficiently. 

AI learns (see red arrow) and gets exponentially better, AI Teachers therefore get better as they draw upon these improvements from the AI learner.

This means that the balance between teachers and AI changes. Teacher skills plateau, whereas AI Teachers and Learners get better.

AI Teachers get better across ALL subjects. AI Teachers are also available 24/7/365 and are becoming multimodal to deliver speech, text, graphics and video. They also delver dialogue and effortful activity, such as case studies, examples, debate and assessment. We have a new pedagogy based on personal, one-to-one dialogue. This was something researched by Bloom in his paper, The 2 Sigma Problem (1984).

He compared a lecture, lecture with formative feedback and one-to-one tuition. Taking the lecture as the mean, he found an astonishing 84% increase in mastery above the mean fo the formative lecture and 98% increase in mastery for one-to-one tuition.

The final stage, and this is some way off, is the elimination of the human teacher, to provide one-to-one tuition using AI. W are now in that age.

This is an uncomfortable debate but we have now crossed that Rubicon. We can now see that the path to faster, cheaper and more effective learning is through faster, cheaper and smarter technology - that technology, as I've been saying for many years, is AI.



Love Vygotsky? You should love ChatGPT4
Can you name his two major works? Vygotsky is the most oft-quoted but rarely read learning theorist I know. Let me start by saying I am not an extreme  social constructivist but in using ChatGPT3 and 4, I have become more Vygotskian. ChatGPT and Bard are the almost perfect examples of Vygotskian teachers. Let me explain.
Ultimately the strength of Vygotsky’s learning theory stands or falls on his social constructivism, the idea that learning is fundamentally a socially mediated and constructed activity. Psychology becomes sociology as all psychological phenomena are seen as social constructs. Vygotsky's theory does not propose distinct developmental stages but instead emphasizes the role of social interaction and cultural context in cognitive development. He believed that social interaction plays a critical role in children's cognitive development and argued that children learn through interactions with more knowledgeable individuals, who provide guidance and support.
This is exactly what ChatGPT4 does, in general, but also in a more formal teaching experience as in Khan Academies implementation. It provides the ‘knowledgeable other’. In fact, this ‘knowledgeable other’ is better than any one teacher as it covers all subjects, at different levels, is available 365/24/7, is endlessly patient, polite, encouraging and friendly.
This is the cardinal idea in Vygotsky’s psychology of education, that knowledge is constructed through mediation, yet it is not entirely clear what mediation entails and what he means by the ‘tools’ he refers to as mediators. In many contexts, it simply seems like a synonym for discussion between teacher and learner. However he does focus on being aware of the learner’s needs, so that they can ‘construct’ their own learning experience and changes the focus of teaching towards guidance and facilitation, as learners are not so much ‘educated’ by teachers as helped to construct their own meaning and learning.
This is exactly what ChatGPT4 does as a ‘tool’. It mediates and allows the learner to construct their own sense and meaning by driving the learning process. It uses language, the key form of learning and social development for Vygotsky, to patiently go at the learners own pace, level and even identify mistakes.
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
Vygotsky also prescribes a method of instruction that keeps the learner in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), an idea that was neither original to him nor even fully developed in his work. The ZPD is the difference between what the learner knows and what the learner is capable of knowing or doing with mediated assistance. To progress, one must interact with peers who are ahead of the game through social interaction, a dialectical process between learner and peer. 
Bruner thought the concept was contradictory in that you don’t know what you don’t yet know. And if it simply means not pushing learners too far through complexity or cognitive overload, then the observation, or concept, seems rather obvious. Bruner was to point out the weakness of this idea but also replace it with the much more practical and useful concept of ‘scaffolding’.
ChatGPT4 is a brilliant scaffolder. It’s patience and usefulness in providing dialogue to move through a topic is extraordinary. Khan Academy has put this to great use in their first iteration of their brilliant tutor service.


Vygotsky, L.S. and Cole, M., 1978. Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Harvard university press.
Vygotsky, L.S., 2012. Thought and language. MIT press.

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