Will AI Do Improv?

There has been a lot on the news lately about artificial intelligence and how it is impacting the future.  Already there are advice posts regarding how AI can enhance education, such as “7 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Change Higher Education” or “Could Online Tutors and Artificial Intelligence be the Future of Teaching?”.

Yet, this morning as I was driving and listening to Fred Childs on NPR, something his guest said resonated with me.  A pianist noted that even though songs have very clear “rules” in the form of sheet music, whenever he plays a piece, there is improv, because how he plays depends on who he is playing with and what the mood of the audience is.

This idea of improv reminded me of an unexpected flow on Twitter this week in my Northeastern University class on Social Media at #EDU6333.  The current class is a little different than earlier classes I have taught, in that – feeding off each other – they love to add GIFs to their tweets.  Whereas this might have happened infrequently in past classes, it happens every day in the current class.  And I would suggest “feeding off each other” is simply another definition for improv.

Wednesday night, I was grading papers and watching the hashtag feed when the following began happening (I added a few earlier ones, but most posted between 7:45-9:15pm):

Granted, this was only a fifth of the students in the class…though others the next day lamented missing the exchange.  But this is engagement…and dare I say it

It reminds me of the improv associated with teaching…whether K-12 or higher education.  This week we explored constructivist learning and TPACK…yet the dialogue on Twitter went in lots of directions.

We are not at the point yet where AI is a threat to replacing teaching.  After all, scientist last year made a teen robot…and it got depressed.  We have not yet reached the point where machines can empathize with us…though in some ways they are now thinking in ways we no longer understandWith the massive data crunching afforded by the cloud, artificial intelligence may develop new ways to improv in the future.  If anything, we are approaching the time when it will be a natural enhancement to good teaching.  But just as good pianists improv when playing a standard set of sheet music, both teachers and students need to improv when learning together…which is what constructivism is all about!