JAM | May 6, 2023

The AI discussion: Teachers and education

Shemar-Leslie Louisy

Shemar-Leslie Louisy / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
External view of the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean’s (UCC) main Worthington Avenue campus in New Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo:

The rapid adoption and development of AI tools such as ChatGPT, Dall-E and Google’s Bard and the risks to certain jobs have become a hot topic in academic discussion.

Questions of job security, accessibility, dangers and relevance were the points for discussion at a recent panel discussion for the 3rd Annual Rickert Allen Memorial Lecture titled Navigating AI and Education at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) on Wednesday (April 26).

The panel discussion featured four experts who shared their insights on the topic.

Rachael McDonald, a former Spanish teacher who is now an education consultant, highlighted in her presentation that AI tools already exist in education and is utilised for personalising learning.

“Personalized learning in this context literally means that AI can help students to learn at their own pace and in a way that is really tailored to meet their individual needs and interests,” said McDonald.

She pointed out online platforms that use AI software such as Coursera and Duolingo are now engaged as tools for student learning. She also cited the role gamification and virtual reality play in augmenting learning and education and the way they can offer inducements to motivate students with rewards. The game Minecraft is an example of how to promote creativity, critical thinking, and collaborative skills to foster greater education endeavours.

Rachael McDonald. (Photo: LinkedIn @Rachael McDonald)

Founder of Jamaica Artificial Intelligence Association (JAIA), AI expert and another panellist, Matthew Stone cautioned that despite AI’s potential for good, without guardrails, it can be used to exploit vulnerable people, especially in developing countries.

“Especially now, with AI being a very transformative technology that can impact every industry, life as a whole will change in the coming years and I think it’s a very important time that we pay a lot of attention to ethics,” said Stone.

He went on to add that the collection and analysis of data for AI applications can be employed to magnify cultural bias and racial disparities thus exascerbating the gap between developed and developing countries .

Matthew Stone

Edtech entrepreneur and tech expert Godiva Golding, founder of STEAMhouse a panelist who made thought provoking contributions to the debate, gave her considered perspective on the role AI can play in education.

“I want us to think about what is the main objective of Education; there are two things that jump right out at me, one is career and job readiness and the more all-encompassing objective of a well-learned, holistic, citizen able to participate in this world and make their contributions in a positive way,” said Golding.

She maintains that interest in AI in Jamaica has been increasing but there is still a need to address Jamaica’s poor collection of high-quality data for AI usage, describing the country as containing pockets of “data deserts.”

Data collected for AI models need to be disaggregated, relevant and capable of providing insights that can enhance modern education.

Godiva Golding Founder and CEO of STEAMHouse (Photo: Contributed)

Golding challenged each audience member to close their eyes and recall their favourite teacher and consider what about them made them stand out. For most of the audience, it came down to the human connection formed with the teacher which cannot be replicated by AI.

She closed by encouraging educators to use AI which will allow more time to make meaningful human connections with students.

Cyber security expert, tech evangelist and CEO of 876 Tech Solutions Trevor Forrest, drew attention to the importance of cybersecurity in the age of increasing technology and digital transformation.

As AI technology improves and we move towards a more digital world with data becoming a premium, cyber threats become more prevalent and the need to protect sensitive data will be more evident.

Trevor Forrest

Forrest added that there is currently a shortage of cybersecurity experts in the global marketplace and the sector is projected to grow by US$300 billion by 2030. He supported his position pointing to a plethora of threats that already exist – malware, ransomware, IoT attacks, fraud, espionage, crypto jacking and data breaches readily come to mind.

Matthew Stone gave Our Today his thoughts on the presentation, sharing “I think today was a great event and an important first step in raising the awareness that AI can have on Jamaican society.”

Dr. Haldane Davies, shared his thoughts on the lecture series and said, “I think we had a very informative presentation today. The recommendations have been made for the future of AI and I think it is going to tell us all what will be required from our education system and as a country as a whole .”


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