Just because you’re one of the wealthiest people on earth doesn’t mean you know your science (Bill Gates, learning styles and more)

Bill Gates just wrote 7 pages worth of predictions about how AI will change our lives. I’m not an expert on AI, but if his predictions are as good as his educational knowledge, I’m not sure if all of this will happen. No, I’m not talking about all the failures of the Gates foundation in education. I just want to talk about something I do know a lot about.

Read this quote from the post by Bill Gates:

But I think in the next five to 10 years, AI-driven software will finally deliver on the promise of revolutionizing the way people teach and learn. It will know your interests and your learning style so it can tailor content that will keep you engaged. It will measure your understanding, notice when you’re losing interest, and understand what kind of motivation you respond to. It will give immediate feedback.

Let’s see: feedback could be the case, although the experiments are mixed. Motivation? Well, that’s already a bit more difficult, but using algorithms to keep you interested? Yes, that’s something that, amongst others, TikTok has mastered. Oh, wait, that’s not education, but the accelerated reader has done something in the same vain.

But the elements that show that Gates knows little about cognitive science:

  • Changing how people learn? If he means AI will change our biology, we should all be afraid right now. But I don’t think he means this. I think he’s thinking what people in EdTech have been thinking for decades: technology will change how we learn. We checked this in our first myth book: no, this never happened as they hoped.
  • And no, there is no such thing as learning styles. Yes, people have learning preferences, but following these preferences doesn’t have any effect on learning. It was one of my first posts on this blog, and I really hoped we would have come further after a decade. But because of this post, people will again be fed this educational myth.

Oh, I don’t want to be negative by definition. Therefore I want to share also this quote:

New tools will be created for schools that can afford to buy them, but we need to ensure that they are also created for and available to low-income schools in the U.S. and around the world. AIs will need to be trained on diverse data sets so they are unbiased and reflect the different cultures where they’ll be used. And the digital divide will need to be addressed so that students in low-income households do not get left behind.

Agree, but this will be much harder than one thinks. And maybe, just maybe, not the biggest priority in education when fighting inequality. Enough good teachers for all children, enough social security so that they have less toxic stress so they can learn more, and a good curriculum should come first, IMHO.

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