Yvette Larsson is an IB Educator and the Co-Founder of the Learning and Innovation concept AHA. She is an international Swede, who is passionate about applied neuroscience to enable societies to foster healthy relationships focusing on our joint human potential. Her work comprises the key question: What does it mean to be human in a global age of technology? Yvette developed a sense of creativity and entrepreneurial mindset from growing up in Lapland, a UNESCO-protected area with omnipresent nature at her doorstep. She organizes global youth hackathons based on design thinking and project-based learning, to enhance youth voice and agency. Yvette has developed well-being programs and advocates outdoor education and physical activity.
“Will we continue to write poetry?” a colleague asked me last week, as we delved into the labyrinth of challenges and possibilities posed by AI. It was a question that struck a chord in me, resonating deeply with the key question about which I am highly passionate and doing research: What does it mean to be human in a global age of technology? This article aims to join the ongoing discourse, urging educators and schools to nurture a more human and planet-centered learning experience for learners in the era of AI.
In this ever-shifting landscape, it is crucial that we reflect on the role that schools play in shaping our understanding of this context. Our humanity is interwoven with our ability to, for example, learn through our senses, to nurture creativity, and empathy, and, most importantly, to foster meaningful relationships to self, others, and earth, which empowers us to work collaboratively and build thriving communities.
This article delves into the place where humanity and technology meet, highlighting how an intensified focus on the arts and humanities within our educational systems can elevate well-being and ignite innovation in these times. It explores the profound significance of essential skills in the age of AI, emphasizing the pivotal roles of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving in navigating the challenges before us. Moreover, it looks into the possibility of reimagining assessments, making them more relevant and purposeful for students. In this transformed landscape, formative assessment, a process that emphasizes ongoing feedback and improvement, shares the stage with summative assessments, which represent the culmination of demonstrated learning. In this article, you will not get suggestions on which antiplagiarism programs to use. Those discussions are in abundance at schools already.
Why advocating for such a shift? It’s about liberating precious time to allow us to be more human and to concentrate our efforts on making a positive impact in our world, with the help of AI.
The qualities that make someone fall in love with you is an essential part of what makes you human. People fall in love with you because of attraction, and it may be because of your humor, your curiosity, the way you truly listen to someone, your kindness, your wit, your charm, the way you make eye contact, the words you choose to say and how you say them and so forth. It’s the core of what defines you, and it’s why others develop a strong appreciation for who you are. One part of the essence of being human resides in our ability to perceive, interpret, and interact with the world through our senses.
Let’s embark on a cinematic journey, a collection of life’s poignant moments connected to our senses, our humanity, and our need for creative expression, let’s look at some scenes from the grand story of ‘Life’ that plays before us:
- A birthday celebration, where you craft a personalized card that mirrors the person it’s meant for, resulting in a radiant smile as they read words tailored to their unique self. Such a gesture requires a deep sense of connection to the other, writing skills, reflection, and the courage to authentically express yourself.
- Teenagers immerse themselves in music for hours, losing themselves in a world of emotions evoked by the power of sound and lyrics. This experience is rooted in connections to sound, lyrics, dreams, and memories, stirring emotions deep within the old part of the brain.
- The allure of galleries and museums during autumn, where we explore exceptional art and unravel the symbolism within. Art possesses the unique ability to move our souls, bridging gaps in our understanding of the world. Two weeks ago I went to The Dali Cybernetics Experience in Copenhagen and experienced Dali art through VR glasses and I was taken beyond my imagination into a Dali world that felt real! As the rain continued outside the gallery, Dali’s surrealist art woke me up and it had me thinking of diversity and a lust to learn, as Dali seemed to be a lifelong learner open-mindedly exploring many styles of expressions throughout his life. It also had my daughter wanting to take up portrait drawing again. Symbolism can be very powerful as we humans are geared toward visuals when it comes to learning and understanding the world.
- In the comfort of our homes, someone might prepare a delightful meal, possibly inspired by the creations of a Michelin-starred chef showcased on Instagram, or a meal that you had during your holidays this summer. The preparations demand inspiration from someone or something, a taste memory, buying the produce, taking time to prepare, setting the table, and sharing a meal together with loved ones.
- At night, diving into a novel by a newly discovered author, losing yourself in a world crafted with vivid metaphors and similes. An author arranges words in a way that fuels our curiosity and captivates our imagination. We humans have been storytellers since early history. We also learn facts better if put into a storyline.
- Walking barefoot on the beach on a summer’s day, listening to the waves crashing to shore, smelling the sea, feeling the urge to swim in the sea. We are nature and nature is a healer, so the sea is boosting our well-being.
These uniquely human experiences, integral to our well-being and learning, are parts of the essence of our existence. They serve as examples of what makes us human. Let’s bring more of it into human and planet-centered learning spaces, in schools.
The role of arts and humanities
In the age of fast-paced technology, there is a growing urgency to enrich school curricula with the arts and humanities. We must ensure that these subjects are not just confined to early years but are given a substantial place in upper secondary education as well. While more theoretical subjects are vital, the later years of education should not forsake the creative disciplines. It’s time for a revaluation of priorities. It seems to me, that the older the students grow, the less creative subjects the school offers and prioritizes. My daughter is 16 and my son is 19. At the moment, none of them has art, drama, or music as part of their school programs. My daughter attends a highly academic national curriculum and my son takes IBDP2.
The arts and humanities offer students a place-holder to explore their creativity, emotions, and their own identity. A comprehensive education that encompasses art, music, drama, philosophy, and literature nurtures creativity and instills a profound sense of cultural awareness. These qualities are irreplaceable, even in the age of AI. While AI may mimic linguistic expression, it can never experience emotions embedded within the arts, the feelings that are provoked. Thus, the arts nurture creativity, and creativity fuels innovation. Innovative ideas, in turn, have the potential to create a brighter and more promising world.
Now, let’s reimagine the way we assess knowledge and skills. Assessments should be meaningful, relevant, and purposeful. At the heart of this transformation is the “what” of what we are assessing.
For every educational unit I create, I run it through, what I refer to as an internal “relevance scanner.” The key question is, “Will this be relevant to my students?” If they fail to see the relevance, their engagement evaporates, leading to limited learning. In contrast, when students find the material relevant and purposeful, they become engaged, taking charge of their learning journey.
Now, looking at the reality of teachers. I, for one, have a total of 100 students divided into 5 classes. Imagine if I could boost the learning of each student, making the learning more individualized. I do believe student engagement would elevate. AI can play a significant role in this process, providing insights into students’ progress and learning needs. This approach allows educators to tailor their teaching to individual students and fosters a deeper understanding of the material and enhances motivation.
Essential skills in the AI era
Looking at the state of the earth we need to become excellent communicators to solve challenges one conversation at a time, we need to be driven collaborators who harness the collective power of diverse perspectives to solve societal and planetary challenges together, and we need to develop our courage and critical thinking skills to empower us to challenge the status quo, adapt to shifting landscapes, and take ethical stands in an ever-evolving world. AI can manage repetitive tasks, but it is humanity’s ingenuity that brings creativity and emotional intelligence to the table.
Making a difference
When we advocate for these changes, we envision an education that fosters innovation and encourages students to tackle substantial challenges through care, conversations, and collaboration. With AI lightening the load of routine tasks, we gain the precious gift of time. With this gift, we can embrace our roles as solution-finders, innovators, and devoted members of our communities. We can redirect our energies toward addressing the pressing societal and planetary issues of our time.
Looking at the world today I see societal instability and two wars going on in the European geographical area, climate change, polarisation, and well-being challenges. When addressing the ¨what¨ in education, I am geared towards thinking about how important it is to be a solution-finder, an innovator, an excellent communicator, and a well-developed team player. Humans are good at working together in small groups, ref. Hare and Woods’s “The Survival of the Friendliest” and Rutger Bregman’s “Humankind”. If we want to add real purpose, meaning, and relevance to the lives of students, then what we teach must have relevance in their lives. It is important to instill hope and a problem-solving approach. In addition to literacy and numeracy, we need to add problem-solving as a highly prioritized skill. Let us embrace the opportunity to create a future where our schools are incubators of relevance, meaning, and purpose.
Humans possess an innate desire to express themselves, and storytelling has been part of our nature since time immemorial. Therefore – and to answer my colleague’s question – we shall continue to write poetry and express our uniquely human experiences, emotions, and perspectives, through the AI era too.