On May 22nd, Schools That Can hosted groundbreaking leaders in conversation on education and AI, and how AI could potentially make us better humans. Listen to the full session, featuring Paul LeBlanc (President, Southern New Hampshire University) and Sanjay Sarma (Chief Executive Officer, President and Dean of the Asia School of Business & professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT) below, and scroll on for big ideas. 

Food for thought:

“There’s an opportunity here to flood our K-12 school system with amazing teachers and counselors and social workers, and coaches and make it work again, as a massive public good. There’s an opportunity here to rebuild a mental health care system that has been decimated in America. We use our prisons and our jails as our mental health care system with terrible impacts. If anyone on this call has been caring for an aging parent, we need a compassionate, affordable, high-quality system of geriatric care for an aging society. We need to rebuild the broken infrastructure of America. There’s so much we can do. AI will not do those jobs. Those are human jobs. But they are jobs that we don’t like to pay for in America today, and this is the big fundamental shift, I think, that is about to happen. Jobs that bring us back out into the world and into our communities and with other people that lift other people up— those are amazingly rewarding jobs, that’s a calling that many of us have. But we don’t choose those jobs, because in our current society, they’re not supported. They don’t have status, they’re not well paid for, and post-Ronald Reagan, we want fewer and fewer of them. I think this is the optimistic flip that’s available to us with AI.” -Paul LeBlanc


“I think what we’ve done partly comes down to assessments, in my view. We’ve sort of reduced education to that one high-stakes exam, where you take it and you get a score, and you’re done. If you do well in the exam, then I did my job. But one of the things you did at SNHU, which you told me about, is all the support systems. My view with all this is that if if AI takes away the validity of that exam, because the AI is going to outperform you, then it may clear the table to do authentic stuff. A football coach wouldn’t pick a quarterback based on how accurate their throw is and how they can jump, right? They look at a whole bunch of things. They look at: can they bounce back from adversity, from injury, from a loss? Can they deal with teammates who have different perspectives? Can they be coached? So we don’t have that snapshot test, which is sort of where we’ve done with assessments: it’s not authentic, it’s a proxy. Often the proxy is not representative of what the learning really should enable. Another way to look at this is to truly develop competencies and to focus on competencies that are actually more human than things that robots will take away. In some ways, our education system is designed to create automatons, and we shouldn’t be shocked, when the real automatons just showed up, to see people lose their jobs.” -Sanjay Sarma


“So many teachers and so much of schooling don’t have time to be in human relationship. To extent that they’re teaching to an exam, that they’re doing knowledge transfer, AI will be better. I’m convinced AI will be the best teacher/ tutor, [and] personalized learning, much maligned because the attempts have been poor, will actually be possible. What teachers will then be able to do is worry less about that and worry about: how do I build a community of learners? How do I pay attention to my individual students? How do I exercise judgment and wisdom and helping them work through that learning, [for] it to be their guide? How am I going to be there for them when things are troubled at home? The jobs, the way we will think about educators and teachers, will be very human-centric coaching models […]  that’s what makes a difference. That’s what changes kids lives.” -Paul LeBlanc


“It’s extraordinary. I do think it becomes the middle way to the world. It’s you, the world, and there’s something in the middle. I was thinking that the curriculum that AI is being put through is extraordinary. I’m envious of it. It gets read all the books in the world, and every piece of material. It’s taught ethics, it’s taught how to be human. I wish that, maybe, in some ways, we should learn from the curriculum for human beings. But I also think that we will, to your point, view the world through a lens, literally. That lens going to be artificial. And we better get it right. But we also better train the human being to interpret that lens properly.” – Sanjay Sarma