By Oliver Pocknell, Director of Digital Technologies and AI, Hurstpierpoint College


In the eyes of many in the education sector, technology is the ever-present enemy; tiny rectangles that distract and corrupt students who would otherwise be studying for their weekly pop quiz. In some schools, where teachers scramble to establish whether or not homework has been plagiarised, blanket bans have been issued on AI platforms such as Chat GPT.

At the other end of the spectrum, AI is heralded as the silver bullet that will enrich learning, remove marking, and revolutionise the back office. Teachers might become free to fulfil their wildest dreams in the classroom, as they escape the administrative nightmare presently holding them back.

As is often the case, the reality of the situation lies somewhere between these two extremes. When used as a safe and effective learning tool, AI is definitely something to be curious about, rather than afraid of. In many ways, it has the potential to unlock new possibilities for teaching and learning as well as equip students with key digital skills; ones that they will inevitably need to enter the ever-evolving workplace.

As educators, it will be our responsibility to firmly take hold of the wheel and steer a course towards this much brighter digital future for schools, all the while keeping in mind its potential pitfalls. AI platforms, like the notorious Chat GPT, must not become ways to cut corners or make school life easier—they are not ends in themselves. Students must always be able to stand on their own two feet in the real world, without relying on technology to do everything for them.

If you flip the learning, you can get the upper hand on AI. You might challenge your students to mark an essay written by AI, and then come up with a better input. You could get more creative, asking English students to create themselves as characters using generative AI. The better the description, the closer the image will be to the character that they have imagined.

At Hurst, over the next few years, our aim will be to fully incorporate AI into taught curriculums, whilst always prioritising the pupils’ experience first. Staff and pupils, with all of the Hurst Education Trust schools included, will be trained in how to use this new technology appropriately and effectively, and we intend to collaborate with other leading independent schools to keep ahead in this digital landscape.

The opportunities for using AI in education, from essay writing and revision planning to Learning Support and Careers Workshops, will be ours for the taking.

Whether we like it or not, the future of artificial intelligence is already with us. It’s down to us to decide how best to use it.

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