Teaching & Learning


Generative AI and education futures

Video highlights from Professor Mike Sharples' keynote address at the 2023 UCL Education Conference, which explored opportunities to prosper with AI as a part of education.

Professor Mike Sharples in conversation

7 August 2023

Professor Mike Sharples is the Emeritus Professor of Educational Technology at The Open University. His keynote has been edited into short videos. You can also access the full recording of the keynote address on MediaCentral


Professor Sharples gave an overview of what generative AI is and how it should be treated critically. 

It would be difficult and unwise to ban or evade the use of AI, he suggested, but emphasised that embracing AI in education will be a long-term process of building trust. 

What is GPT-4? 

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Is GPT-4 reliable?

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How can we respond to AI?

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Opportunities for educators

Professor Sharples suggests that prompting the AI to act as a 'Socratic opponent' could be a particuarly useful tool for students. An argumentative, polite dialogue with AI can provide a helpful challenge to a student's thinking, encourage them to ciritically engage with the technology, and could be used to inform an argumentative essay.

With the right prompts, AI could be an effective tutor or 'Guide on the side' on almost any topic, giving students dynamic feedback. 

Example interaction with AI: ‘Possibility Engine’

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Example interaction with AI: ‘Collaboration Coach’

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Example interaction with AI: ‘Socratic Opponent’ 

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Example interaction with AI: ‘Guide on the Side’

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Can AI play a role in giving students feedback?

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Using AI in a discipline like Maths

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Accessibility and biases

Professor Sharples encouraged students and educators to try out open access generative AI tools. However he emphasised universities need to provide reassurance, policy and guidelines to address the divide between those students who are confident using the technology, and those who are afraid to engage.

He also raised concerns about the cultural bias in datasets that AI tools draw from. 

How accessible is AI?

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How can we tackle the cultural biases of AI tools?

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Could AI widen social inequalities?

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The importance of AI tools for translanguaging and sign language

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Responsibility and creativity

Professor Sharples offered some reassurance on the safety of AI tools and that the caring professions will be the last to be replaced by AI.

He spoke of the need to develop policies around AI in partnership with students and argued that rather than homogenising thought, AI can be a genuinely creative tool. 

How safe is it to use AI like GPT-4?

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The need for AI literacy and policies

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Is AI likely to replace educators?

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As a creative tool

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Further resources

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