Keeping up with reality

Thank you to those who braved the very changeable weather to attend our AI Information Evening on Tuesday, and thank you too to my colleagues who presented. I know that all parents have received the slides (see PDF below).

Those of us who remember the advent of the internet in 1990 had little idea of how quickly it would develop and transform so much of what we do. Social media has had a similar seismic impact, and I think we'd agree that we let the genie out of the bottle before putting the necessary protections in place. Even now, I am not convinced that the recent Online Safety Act (2023) will exert adequate pressure on the tech giants to impose much-needed controls. It is my sincere hope with generative AI that our knowledge and understanding will develop quickly enough to ensure that ethical considerations are given due weight.

Without professing to be at the cutting edge of expertise, our speakers on Tuesday were able to illustrate some of the positive uses of AI to which we are exposing our young people, whilst also warning about some of the risks and pitfalls. We are keen to benefit from its use as a tool (to support education and administrative tasks), but also to be careful to manage content and quality. You will know how much discussion and experimentation AI is generating currently, so we are hopeful that some consensus will be reached over best and most appropriate use in education. I am attending a Heads’ conference in London in a couple of weeks, which is devoted almost entirely to the topic. So, please be reassured that we are monitoring developments carefully, eager to support our pupils, staff and parents.

Listening to the Today programme as I drove in on Tuesday morning, I heard a journalist talking about a new and expensive wearable AI tool, the ‘AI Pin’, soon criticised by the BBC as ‘Bad at almost everything’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/cljdnw77ge6o )! The next article concerned the violation another journalist had felt when viewing an “incredibly invasive” deep-fake porn clip that had been made of her (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-68823042 ). So, we still have much to learn, and it is vital that the control should remain in the right hands.

It remains really important too that we teach our young people to pause and be critical of what they see, rather than plunging in the fast-moving online world down seductive but ill-chosen rabbit holes. More than ever, our job as educators will be to ensure that they leave us as adaptable and moral learners, able to turn their imagination and creativity to good and safe effect in their future careers and lives.

Bots and the virtual world will continue to develop apace – and this is both exciting and challenging. I hope that (with sunnier weather), we can all benefit from the actual reality and beauty of springtime and human connections in the days ahead.

Best wishes,

John Watson
Headmaster and Principal