The Conscious Classroom

A Human Relationship to AI

February 04, 2024 Episode 62
The Conscious Classroom
A Human Relationship to AI
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Discover how the relationship we forge with AI in our classrooms can go beyond mere functionality to touch the very core of our humanity. Join me, Amy Edelstein, as we unveil the transformative potential of AI when approached with the same reverence we approach the great mysteries and subtleties of sentience and life. It's an invitation to infuse our relationship to educational technologies with wonder, respect, and a co-creative spirit that not only advances our learning tools but also shapes the hearts and minds of learners. By instilling these values, we contribute to a learning environment that resonates with life’s mystery and fosters empathy among students, paving the way for a more compassionate and interconnected world.

This episode isn't just about the integration of AI; it's about how the spirit in which we do so can cultivate sensitivity, awareness, and a move toward a society anchored in love. 

Thank you for joining me on this reflective and inspiring exploration as we aim to craft a more conscious and caring future.

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Hello and welcome to this episode of The Conscious Classroom. My name is Amy Edelstein. Today I want to continue talking a little bit more about AI and new potentials in education. I want to raise some questions that we all should be thinking about. Questions that will allow us to dig a little bit deeper and to engage with our students in a co creative process around new technologies. 


Students will be able to allow their imagination to expand and extend and will also find new ways to communicate about their challenges and way in things that they feel will be supportive for their learning processes. So AI is on everybody's mind. We're using it more and more without even realizing it and if you're like me Somewhat interested in new technologies and the potential but averse to taking precious time to learn how to work with new technologies Then considering these questions will provide Maybe a more productive use of your time and contemplation around AI. 


It's not the only thing we'll be talking about as we move forward in the conscious classroom. But I really did want to bring some of the things that I've really been reflecting on into this space because mindfulness tools, compassionate tools, growing wellness extends It's foundational, it's not an add on, it's not something we pepper into everything else.


And so of course, anything related to our ability to educate well is going to be part of what we explore in the conscious classroom. 


So one of the things around AI is how Are we relating to these chatbots? Are we relating to them simply as tools that are human created and have human limits according to their designers, their developers, their engineers? Or are we relating to them as, in their own way, having a life of its own. And if we relate to them as having a life of it's their own, then we extend a kind of reverence. 


and wonder and care around them. There's a tradition in eastern countries where sacred books are not put on the ground. They're always lifted up, placed on something as a sign of respect. My own relationship to books, ever since I first was able to read, when I was About five or six was one of just awe and wonder.


To me, books had presence. They opened up worlds. They spoke to me. I fell in love with characters. I fell in love with reading and whenever I had a book, the one big problem I always had was I could never put it down till I finished, which led me to stay up very late, often, over and over again. 


So the idea That we could relate to AI with a sense of wonder and care and reverence doesn't necessarily have to do with how we relate to machines per se, but it's how we relate to anything in our environment that opens up our own heart and curiosity, that enables us to think more deeply, to care more, to connect more, to have empathy, to learn and discover. 


That can help us get out of some of the technical and complex issues around sentience in artificial intelligence or not and relate to our co creative processes working with AI and other technologies in a way that really catalyzes our own human imagination. So teaching your students how to Be kind and positive and polite in interactions online, even with chatbots, is an important aspect of learning how to respect everything that enters our sphere. 


Because if it's entering our sphere, we're in some way in relationship with it. And when we're in some way in relationship with it, then We set something in motion in our attitudes, and if our attitudes are one of respect, gratitude, curiosity, openness, and this co creative, emergent, enabling, then all kinds of things will come forth in our own ideas in relationship to it. 


And as we know these chatbots and large language models are getting smarter and smarter. So they're learning from our interaction with them. If we want the best out of our AI, not only do we need to train. it on the great ethics and morals and parables of various traditions from the beginning of recorded and linguistic history. 


We also need to train it on our, the way we interact. So frustration, negativity, curtness. disrespect gets embedded. It gets embedded in our approach, if not embedded in the way that the language models learn from us. But it certainly gets embedded in our approach. And given how we used to feel that The natural world was divorced from the human mind and was an object, and we included species in that.


We even, in the colonial days, included other peoples, large mammals. Our waterways, our airways, so you can see that lack of respect in some way gave rise to some of the problems that we've been enabled to unwittingly create. So let's learn from that as we move forward. And as teachers, as we really think about shaping our students minds, we want to shape them to recognize that everything in our learning sphere is part of our human relationship with it. 


So initially, We want to engender awe, wonder, respect, and gratitude for what we can do in our interactions with artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality. So let's shift our mindsets from seeing these tools as only what they can give to us. And let's see it as a dynamic interrelationship. 


When we cultivate that dynamic interrelationship, it sets a tone for what we're doing together. And it brings a sense of life and wonder, mystery, into our classroom. And that spills over, affects how students relate to each other, how students relate to their teachers, to us. So I know there's a lot of talk about what AI can do for students in education.


I do think that's very important. I do think that the customized learning, the ability to respond individually to many students and provide culturally relevant examples and individual tutoring and questions to draw out a student's interest are going to grow by leaps and bounds exponentially in terms of their sophistication, appropriateness, and ability to stimulate immersive learning and dynamic learning rather than boring and rote.


Engagement and that's, one of the advantages that I think people who are in the ed tech world are really trying to move forward very quickly on. I think that's a wonderful thing. I'm certainly exploring that myself with the compassion and purpose driven. Approaches and how we can bring that into education and embed that and still that in all of our curricula. 


At the same time, there's, we want to bring into the conversation, what's our relationship to this? Because our relationship to new frontiers is something we want to build on the best of what we've learned over all of our human history. So we can see that when we focus on everything being part of a living, creative process, an emergent process, it brings out the sense of unity. 


When we focus on living beings, and especially all other people, as having the same desire for a fulfilled And healthy and wholesome and creative existence. Then our relationship with the world becomes one not of fear and alienation and feeling other than. It creates a sense of warmth, appreciation. And curiosity. 


So if we look at the wondrous birdsong as just a thing that they do, a mechanical process of their mating or their food gathering, then we fail to connect with this other living creature who has, from whatever impulse, the urge to express, to communicate, to connect, to convey. To sing out into the world. 


What AI can do. Maybe AI is going to take all this tedious grading away from me. Maybe AI is going to make sure I don't Send that email that probably shouldn't go out. Or maybe AI is going to be able to help me connect better with parents and find meeting points with them. Or maybe AI is going to recognize when my students are in distress and point me to them in case I've missed. 


Those human cues with the hundred and fifty students I teach every week. 


These are really important supports, and we want those to make our lives easier. And as I mentioned at the beginning, we may be feeling some trepidation about how long is it going to take to learn these things? And are they really going to work? And do I really have time? To do this and what about my own creativity, my own skill, my own voice, my own process of learning and getting better at writing problems in a creative way, of creating essays and, essay prompts in a creative way.


We want to maintain and further our own creativity and passion for education and for knowledge and for creativity and discovery. We don't want to just become Bland and dull and lazy because we can ask a chatbot to do it for us. 


If we're not relating to AI as this other just made to make our lives better, but if we're relating to our interaction with a chatbot as holding a sense of mystery and wonder and emergence, then it becomes a co creative process. 


So I'm not talking about imbuing. Our computers with some imaginary thing that they're not, but they are getting to the point that our engagement with them can be filled with a sense of playfulness and delight and wonder, just as when we go hiking in a new place and there's a little stream, we dip ourselves into that, dip our toes into the stream with playfulness and delight and wonder. 


We don't have to be pantheists or panentheists. We can simply delight in that process and connection and feeling and sensation and playfulness of immersion in that stream, just as we can delight in that process of working with technology. And that shifts us from consumers, from a transactional relationship, which I think is one of the biggest dangers. 


of the way AI is being spoken about for our own sense of humanity. Because most often it's being spoken about as in this cost benefits analysis, in this transactional way that, that doesn't bring forth our hearts and our humanity. Which is really what we're doing with our students. We're teaching them knowledge.


We're teaching them skills. We're teaching them to do that so they can flower as human beings in this world. Moving forward with your approach to the way your students engage with technology, encourage them to maintain their highest level of behavior, their highest level of self respect and respect for others, their highest level of care and curiosity, their sense of being in, interacting with the world around them in a way that cultivates a kind of sensitivity. 


and humanity that our world really needs. 


We can really lean into this moment in time and create a sense of trust, a new beginning that recognizes the momentum that we're currently working with, but a new beginning with these new technologies that allows us to reset norms and levels, that allows us to reset behaviors. And allows us to really recognize that when we're involved in interaction with anything, it's a co creative process.


It's an opportunity for emergence out of that interaction, out of that relationship. It's not a given what's going to come forth because we're engaging, we're leaning in. And when we're engaging and leaning in, we want to do that with the best of ourselves. With our respect, our care, our oneness, our love of discovery, our recognition that of what others have to contribute, whether that other is our chatbot, our teacher, our pet, our natural world, our artistic world. 


We don't live in a static environment, we live in an environment where things are constantly changing. In motion, in process, in relationship, interconnected, codependent, influencing one another. So let's not simply try to fix the problems or perpetuate the sense that tools are there for us just to use. 


Tools are there for us to have a relationship with, to see what we can create together. Michelangelo's chisel was not just a chisel in his hands. It was part, it was an extension of his vision and artistic skill. He couldn't have carved those enduring statues of beauty without that tool. So that tool in his hands had a life, had an interaction with him. 


And our interaction with our tools moving forward has a life and a potential and a possibility. Let's relate to this moment in time as one that can really reset expectations, that can really create a sense of sensitivity, oneness equality of a right to be, equality in importance of being a contributor. 


That little molecule of oxygen that we're breathing in that came from a distant star explosion billions of years ago is essential for us to breathe and be able to speak and relate and love. So everything is worthy of our care and respect. And relating to bringing technology more and more into our classrooms and supporting students more and more with new capacities.


With this technology can come with this sense of relatedness and wonder and respect, which will shift the container that we exist in our schools. And as that shifts, then our own feeling of being happy and connected and valued and worthy, important, also shifts. Let's consider some of these questions as much as we're considering what next to invest our school dollars on. 


Let's consider how we're going to do this and how we can already start without needing to invest some of our scarce and precious time just in learning how to do things, but in contemplating. how to be with each other and with all these new things that we're able to do. Let's really work to make our classrooms conscious.


And so our conscious classrooms can create more and more conscious and sensitive young people who will grow into more and more conscious and awake and sensitive adults. And so our culture can shift from one of fragmentation to one of love. Thanks so much.

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