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Stina Boge Mar 31, 20236 min read

Educating in a world of Digital Technology and AI

Translation generated by an AI translation service

Digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are playing an increasingly important role in the education system. Digitalization allows for new ways of learning, new assessment practices and the use of more resources. This means that the potential for more adapted and inclusive education is increasing. At the same time, digitalization brings with it new requirements for schools, for example in terms of increased digital competence, infrastructure and safeguarding the privacy of students and teachers.

Great potential for use of digital tools

Digital technology and AI can have many benefits in the context of education. It can provide access to a range of resources and tools that can enhance teaching and learning. For example, digital platforms and tools can make it easier for teachers to collaborate and communicate with students, as well as provide feedback and assessments. AI technology can also be used to tailor teaching and adapt learning to the needs of individual students.

However, this development requires educators to have good digital skills. Teachers and school owners must have knowledge of the various digital tools and platforms available, as well as the ability to use them effectively in their teaching. They must also be able to assess the quality and relevance of digital resources, and be up to date with the latest developments in digital technology and AI. Generative AI also raises questions about how we assess students, how students learn to write, and what is defined as cheating and plagiarism.

The lack of digital literacy among educators can lead to an underutilization of the potential of technology. It can also lead to students not getting the personalized education they need and teachers not being able to provide the best learning experience.

How are things at school?

But what is the actual state of digital competence in schools? We asked Øystein Nilsen, Director of the Department of Digital Services at the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Udir).

Øystein Nilsen, Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training

Digital competence is a moving target, since development is moving so fast. However, what we do know is that there are major gaps in the team, and the need in the sector is great

Øystein Nilsen, Director of the Digital Services Department, Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training

In the GrunnDIG (2022) research project, it emerges that teachers are the single most important factor in exploiting the opportunities offered by digitalization in schools. The results indicate that teachers are generally positive about digitalization, but that they have mixed opinions about the quality of local development work. Teachers also report that support for competence development is very important, regardless of how competent the teachers perceive themselves to be, but especially for teachers who believe that they themselves have low digital competence.

Nilsen explains that Udir's model for competence development is that municipalities, schools, kindergartens and owners themselves assess what is most important to them in their competence development;

"We work long-term with the tools we have, which is to ensure that everyone has good competence offerings. It's difficult for us at the Directorate to say that digitalization should be prioritized over special education, for example, and we have no desire to do that either, but that they choose what is right for them," says Nilsen, and continues:

"What we (the Directorate) want is school and kindergarten owners who are conscious in their choices and who make good analyses of their own needs. We strengthen this through other systems, including by sharing relevant figures and data with Norwegian schools."


Tools for digital skills development

To meet this challenge, there is a need for increased investment in digital competence in teacher education and in further education for teachers. Teachers must be given access to training and courses that provide them with knowledge and skills in digital technology and AI. It is also important to have good systems for evaluating and following up on teachers' digital skills.

Nilsen explains that Udir has a number of tools available when it comes to skills development, from grant schemes to continuing education and skills packages. They have recently published a competence package on artificial intelligence in schools that is designed to help increase owners, managers and teachers' understanding of the technology and lay the foundation for reflection in professional communities on the challenges and opportunities this can provide in learning work.

"The skills packages should be a good tool, even if you lack the capacity for training locally. We try to compensate, so that people can get what they want regardless of where they live," says Nilsen.

The competence package on artificial intelligence in schools is intended as a way to start a local dialog on how to handle the technology. It provides managers and owners with information about privacy issues, and teachers can see practical examples of how AI works without having to log in to the services themselves. There are examples of how it can be used as a tool in the design of learning programs, and towards customized education so that you can start reflecting on a pedagogical practice.

"Schools have been exposed to this from day one, so we need to give them something to start with. This is a package that we'll be updating far more frequently than anything else we've created; we have to keep up with technological developments and the services that are coming," explains Nilsen.

Lasting change in schools

To achieve lasting change in terms of digital competence in the school system, the Directorate is working long-term with the tools at its disposal, but the most important thing, says Nilsen, is to integrate digital competence into all competence enhancement measures.

"In all subjects, there will be digital elements, regardless of whether you're talking about special education, integration or math didactics, so the digital perspective should also be an integral part of all vocational training," explains the department director.

The Directorate is working actively on this, and one of the requirements is that all further education must include requirements for professional digital competence.

"Yes, there are challenges with the digitalization of schools, but there are also opportunities. It's all about being useful for what you want to achieve, and all knowledge indicates that the usefulness depends on competence," says Nilsen.

classroom students with hands raised

Will AI replace the teacher in the future?

On March 21st, Bill Gates published a 7-page letter on the future of AI. The letter came on the same day that Google released its AI chatbot, Bard, which joins Microsoft's Bing in the AI arms race, and a week after OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, announced the long-awaited development of its AI model, GPT-4.

In this letter, Gates predicts that AI could transform education over the next five to 10 years by delivering content tailored to a student's learning style, learning what motivates individual students and what causes them to lose interest in subjects. AI can also help teachers plan lessons and assess students' understanding of subjects.

"Even when technology is perfected, learning will still depend on good relationships between students and teachers," the letter says."It will enhance - but never replace - the work that students and teachers do together in the classroom."

Since the interview with Øystein Nilsen was conducted, Udir has launched three new competence packages on digital competence in schools.