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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Student Preparation for Future Success: Q&A With Ezra Barany

This month I had the privilege of talking with our first IBM AI Foundations for Educators badge earner, Ezra Barany, a Physics teacher, though he may sometimes claim otherwise, at Leadership Public School in Hayward, California. His passion for preparing students for the modern workforce we live in and for exposing them to the tools they need to be successful is inspiring. Ezra champions the idea that by not preparing students for jobs that will change due to AI, we are preparing them for failure.


Take a look at his journey, his fierce ideals on AI’s role in society, and his palpable energy for doing what is right for his students.


Ezra Barany, Physics teacher at Leadership Public School


Q: Tell us about your current role.


A: I either teach Underwater Basket Burning or Physics, not sure which. I teach at Leadership Public School in Hayward. My victims of inspiration are 11th graders. My Physics motto is, "I have a particular set of skills. Stay curious. Or I will find you. And I will inspire you."


Q: Why did you start AI implementation within your classroom?


A: My concern is the future. With the increasing need for entrepreneurs, I hope to include "Preparation for future success" as a value. I feel that we are getting to a point when jobs will change. Just like there are no more horse-carriage drivers, but there are Lyft and Uber drivers, there will soon be no more Lyft and Uber drivers since self-driving cars will likely be the norm by the time our students are adults.


With the onset of housing being produced by 3D printers within a day or things like clothing, kitchenware, and furniture can also be 3D printed at an affordable cost, careers will change. 


What jobs will be available? What career positions will be created and will be in demand when other careers will be replaced by AI and robotics? 


Q: How do you address teachers who don't feel AI is important?


A: Get used to telling your students at graduation who have prepared to be managers, technicians, dispatchers, hearing officers, personal finance advisors, pilots, computer programmers, economists, investigators, and other jobs likely to be replaced by AI: "Congratulations! Sucks to be you!"


In the future, there will be a bigger need for workers with the skills of creativity, critical thinking, ethical awareness, empathy, and other skills that AI cannot perfect anytime soon. There will be a bigger demand for entrepreneurs and designers and world-problem solvers. I want our students to know how to fill those shoes. 


Q: How would a teacher incorporate AI content into the classroom?


A: Step 1: Consider the skills that humans can improve upon, ones that AI will struggle with accomplishing for a long time. These skills include empathy, creativity, critical thinking, and ethics.


Step 2: Find the aspects of your curriculum that require these human skills, and emphasize those skills in that curriculum.


Step 3: Find the skill sets of your curriculum that will likely be replaced by AI, and challenge the students to figure out how AI might replace those skill sets.


Step 4: Eat chocolate and say, "Ha, ha! Robots can't taste how good this is!"


Q: What was the biggest takeaway from the IBM AI Education webinars?


A: The more we rely on AI in the justice system, in banking, and in the everyday workplace, the more susceptible we are to the bias that is programmed into the AI. By including diversity in AI design, there is a reduced risk of implementing bias.


Fortunately, businesses typically perform better financially when the workplace is filled with people of different cultures and backgrounds, so there is also a financial benefit to incorporating diversity. To me, this suggests the advancement of diversity in AI design is inevitable. Ultimately, it means humanity is not doomed by the approaching increase of AI technology, and we can all get back to learning Underwater Basket Burning without the fear of being harvested by robots.

 

Hopefully Ezra’s journey inspires you to think about your students’ career paths and how you can incorporate AI foundations into your content to prepare them for a future that will undoubtedly be impacted even more by this technology.


mindSpark Learning, a leader in professional development for educators, has partnered with IBM, a leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI), to bring educators in North America IBM AI Education, an immersive, interactive professional learning suite of online and in-person experiences crafted by and for educators to guide you through AI’s foundational concepts and K-12 classroom connections.


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