Teaching NSW kids to thrive in the future

NSW students need the tools to help understand artificial intelligence, a report has found.
NSW students need the tools to help understand artificial intelligence, a report has found.

For many people, artificial intelligence means robots are coming and are going to wipe us all out.

But, a University of Sydney report has found this "moral panic" is not helping young people gain the skills and understanding to thrive in a future surrounded by artificial intelligence.

"There is at the moment a moral panic about artificial intelligence ... it's an unhelpful narrative," lead report author Professor John Buchanan said at the report launch in Sydney on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by the NSW Department of Education, describes Australia's education system as "very good" but suggests schools need to give young people greater capacity to understand and respond to the challenges presented by artificial intelligence.

It suggests better collaboration between educators and employers so students can understand how their knowledge can be applied in the real world.

Students need to develop skills beyond coding and understand how to respond to and use technology appropriately, the report says.

One of the report's authors, Professor Rafael Calvo, says artificial intelligence has created a "war for children's attention" and schools need to try and keep their attention on what really matters.

"They need to teach them (students) how to defend themselves," Prof Calvo said.

He believes "attention has become the new currency" and people need to learn how to self-regulate the information they see and the platforms they interact with.

"Self-awareness is a skill we don't teach in schools, we need to develop that," he said.

One of the report's recommendations is for schools to look at healthy technology use in a similar way to how healthy eating habits are promoted.

Students need to develop skills to be able to focus on one thing for a sustained period of time and to understand how technologies may be used to manipulate emotions, the report says.

While artificial intelligence will create disruptions, report author Sandra Peter says the young people going through school now can help build how it changes the future.

"This future is not happening to them ... they can change this, they can think differently about how this changes our lives," Dr Peter said at the launch.

Australian Associated Press