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Education Information Warfare

by jcp

By Richard Boyd, the Founder and CEO at Tanjo Inc

How AI and Machine Learning Can Equip Schools to Create Tomorrow’s Better Global Citizens

We’re all familiar with the idea and we’ve heard of it under many different names: Fake News. Clickbait. Misinformation. Manipulated Content. Media Bias. Propaganda. Content Farming. Sloppy Journalism. The list is long. Although this concept has existed for centuries, it is social media that created a crucible for information warfare because of how rapidly fake news can spread before facts can be checked and confirmed.

While access to information is at its heart a positive thing, the firehose of news that is constantly spreading across the internet is difficult to keep up with. This lack of information accountability is enabling nefarious individuals or organizations aiming to create public panic or further their agenda of promoting chaos or civil and political unrest simply by pushing out misinformation, targeting specific demographics, and using their platforms to manipulate public perception with a click of the post button.

Protecting Our Children

In many ways, misinformation is itself like a virus–it can spread so rapidly through humanity, quickly embedding itself in peoples’ brains, to drive divisive, destructive, or simply poorly-informed human behaviors. It is challenging enough for adults with fully-formed brains to tell the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to internet news, which has contributed to the political and social unrest that has become the norm during recent years.

But the more frightening issue actually relates to the next generation of thinkers. For Gen Z and the generations that will follow, looking to social media and the internet as their primary source of news is all that they know. If an adult has difficulties recognizing fake news from the real, imagine the effect on school-aged children whose impressionable brains can easily fall victim to manipulated information.

The implicit danger in this era of information warfare is that young minds can be co-opted and manipulated by influencers with sinister or underhanded agendas, and they can do so essentially undetected and with impunity, using the internet as a platform.

With all of this as backdrop, it’s critically important to find ways to equip today’s youth with the skills and education necessary to identify fact from fiction on the internet, as this is the gateway to making them the responsible digital citizens of tomorrow.

The Critical Thinking Gap with Existing Curricula

The ability to process, digest and evaluate information is a learned skill. Although reasoning and logic begin to form between the ages of five and seven, studies have shown that the real ownership of logic and critical thinking begins around the time that students reach the 4th grade. Today’s youth are in need of a new type of fluency that goes beyond simple comprehension and logic — they now must learn that not everything they read or hear is the truth. It is crucial for the future of the nation and the world that they learn this type of fluency in information synthesis.

Unfortunately, current curriculum systems are not designed to be adapting and evolving as rapidly as is currently necessary to keep up with the trends and challenges of the information world we live in. The approach to the American public education system has remained largely unchanged, rooted in its Industrial Revolution-era mindsets. The skills currently taught in schools are more in line with creating people who are prepared to work in factory settings. Through AI and Machine Learning, we are presented with a great opportunity to prevent youth mind corruption with a view on the future. And this is where AI and Machine Learning come into play, manifesting itself in a few different ways, both immediate and longer term gains.

Leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Teach Teachers and Develop Curricula

The greatest challenge facing the future of curriculum development, and schools in general, is the fact that information is currently proliferating at too great of a speed for humans to keep track of it by themselves. This is truly the issue at the root of the fake news pandemic. It is too difficult for educators to know how and what to teach their students about how to discern fact from fiction on the internet because the tactics and approaches being used to spread misinformation are evolving so rapidly that the human brain alone cannot keep up.

Based on the current scholar system, teachers are faced with the impossibility of learning and synthesizing information rapidly enough to relay it constructively to their students. However,  with the help of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, such as that seen in the Tanjo Enterprise Brain, mapping the deluge of new information and emerging technologies into curricula centered on embedding them with teaching critical thinking skills is possible.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning do not replace teachers or even curriculum developers, but rather they augment them with their robust ability to digest and analyze information. The analytics that come out from these analyses empower the answers to the problems about understanding student/human behavior and adapting to meet these ever-changing and emerging needs.

Artificial Intelligence also empowers adaptive assessment that can be used to frequently evaluate and retool educational approaches for all subjects and at all levels. Small, frequent assessment is the best way to evaluate approaches and behaviors. When coupled with an up to date education system, these types of insights can assist  teachers in educating students and preparing them for the challenges of today’s society.

Reasons for Hope

While these challenges seem real and insurmountable, there is hope. As the past has taught us, we will always have misinformation and manipulation trying to infect impressionable and unsuspecting minds like viruses with a healthy body. What we also have today is the power of technology, which if applied in the right ways, can make a crucial impact.

There’s a meaningful and necessary debate taking place right now among governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens around the uses of Artificial Intelligence. We believe that Artificial Intelligence, properly deployed, is and will be a critical resource to unlock human potential.

Viruses, both actual and metaphorical in terms of misinformation, have evolved. We are capable of evolving as well, and the development of Artificial Intelligence is an important milestone. As seen in robust Artificial Intelligence applications, it is possible to harness and analyze the deluge of information and use this to inform the future of our schools, and ultimately our citizens of tomorrow. Leaning into technology as a means of spearheading a renewed emphasis on critical thinking is important for the future of the American democracy and beyond, ultimately leading to better-equipped work forces, better digital citizens, and a healthier society — and it all begins with a focus on education.

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