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Embracing the AI Revolution in New Zealand Schools: A Make-or-Break Decision for Education’s Future

by Susana Tomaz | STEAM Coordinator Westlake Girls High School | Across School Lead – Pupuke Kāhui Ako at Ministry of Education of New Zealand

As the AI revolution unfolds, digital literacy becomes more important than ever. It poses a crucial question to New Zealand schools: Will we embrace AI or shy away from it? This decision will undeniably impact how well our young people are equipped to become agents of change in shaping a better future for themselves and society.

The integration of AI education in schools holds great potential for transforming the learning experience for students, teachers, and school staff. Nevertheless, it also raises concerns about privacy, security, and safety, particularly when it comes to the involvement of our rangatahi. Therefore, it is essential to address both the anticipated risks and unintended consequences of AI implementation in education.

On the 30th May, the Ministry of Education published guidance for schools and teachers on what to consider when using degenerative AI in school. 

Given the ever-growing presence of degenerative AI, teaching students how to use these tools ethically is vital. Nonetheless, some schools have chosen to ban student use of AI tools, perceiving them as comparable to plagiarism or passing off someone else’s work as their own. However, pushing AI underground will not equip our young people to tackle the risks and ethical dilemmas that come with this technology. This calls for a serious reevaluation of our assessment practices, especially if our current methods hinder the preparation of successful school leavers who will inevitably engage with AI in the workplace. 

To effectively navigate the realm of AI, open conversations need to take place proactively, rather than reactively. Ignoring the challenges and opportunities posed by AI will not support our school leavers in a future where AI will undoubtedly be an integral part of their professional lives.

Francis Valintine’s recent article, “New Zealand – Seeking your interest in starting the critical conversation around generative AI”, provides valuable insights into global developments in this field. It also presents an opportunity for educators and EdTech to contribute their thoughts and kickstart meaningful conversations through this survey.

An Opportunity for Positive Change: Transforming Education Through AI Integration

If we fail to acknowledge the rapid evolution of AI, we risk falling behind. Neglecting to address this technological advancement may further diminish the relevance of formal secondary education for young people. However, by taking advantage of this opportunity, we can make exciting and positive changes to our teaching, learning, and assessment approaches before it becomes too late. Collaboration with educators presents a gateway for EdTech to develop an array of new resources and engaging AI activities that seamlessly integrate with the curriculum. Additionally, providing professional development opportunities for teachers to enhance their understanding of AI ethics and effective integration strategies will be crucial in guiding students effectively. However, also paramount is ensuring equal access to technology for all students and in bridging the digital divide and preventing the perpetuation of inequality during this era of digital transformation.

EdTechNZ EdTechNZ is the voice of EdTech in New Zealand, supporting the growth of the sector. Our purpose is to drive the creative use of technology, inside and outside the classroom, for better student outcomes. We aim to facilitate a world class education system for all New Zealanders and showcase local EdTech to the world.