Co-evolution of intelligent technologies and humans transforming learning practices- highlights of the fourth GenZ Talks seminar

The GenZ Talks seminar, hosted on May 5th, 2022, brought together scholars Dr. Ilkka Jormanainen (University of Eastern Finland), Assoc. professor Mutlu Cukurova (University College London) and professor Nikol Rummel (Ruhr-University Bochum) to discuss the co-evolution of intelligent technologies and learning practices in their keynote speeches. The seminar ended with a multidisciplinary panel discussion that tackled relevant GenZ –themed questions and drew together the keynote speeches. The panel discussion led to the formation of a unique “GenZ Manifesto” - a joint declaration delivered by the speakers on the future of learning practices shaped by the co-evolution of technology.
GenZ panel discussion
GenZ panel discussion

Keynotes: Intelligent technologies in Education

The keynote speakers Nikol Rummel, Mutlu Cukurova and Ilkka Jormanainen addressed the GenZ theme co-evolution within the educational field in their talks. Co-evolution was discussed in terms of the emerging new technologies, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence). Rummel’s keynote “Learning together in digital environments: Support for students and teachers during computer-supported collaborative learning” discussed the potential of digitally mediated learning. Jormanainen’s keynote “AI Education for All - Do We Need It?” approached the co-evolution theme with a pragmatic angle of implementing AI in educational contexts, and Cukurova’s keynote “Multimodal Learning Analytics in Real-world Practice: A Bridge Too Far?” introduced reflective and critical views on the conceptualization and implementation of Multimodal Learning Analytics in real-life contexts.

At the end of the seminar, the keynote speakers and Hanni Muukkonen, professor of Educational Psychology from Oulu University, gathered for a panel discussion to tackle the following GenZ –themed questions:

  • What new capabilities are needed in an increasingly digital world? 
  • How can those capabilities be strengthened?
  • What opportunities and risks can intelligent technologies bring to learning and education? 

The panel discussion was led by Simo Kekäläinen from WELLO2 Ltd.

Multifaceted views on AI in education

Professor Sanna Järvelä and GenZ assistant professors Jonna Malmberg and Noora Hirvonen commented on the keynote speeches. According to Järvelä, the keynotes collectively offered a complementary understanding of AI in education: Rummel viewed education from the perspective of augmented intelligence, Cukurova applied a critical methodological approach to understanding learning with IA -based methods, and Jormanainen considered AI as a context of learning about AI.

In the panel discussion, the speakers expressed critical views on incorporating intelligent technologies into education, but these viewpoints were presented with practical advice and potential solutions. Cukurova, for instance, explained that intelligent technologies inevitably shape our information practices – thus, practicing diverse thinking in our ways of knowing in the educational arena is a human competence and an antidote to any potential threats brought about by the evolution of intelligent technologies. On that note, Rummel and Jormanainen called for the importance of technology and AI awareness, meaning that students and people working in the educational arena are aware of what data is being collected.

According to professor Sanna Järvelä, AI in education has many promises – more research and deeper questions about ‘what it is’ and ‘what it means’ are needed. Such in-depth questions are indeed at the heart of GenZ’s research practice. Furthermore, Noora Hirvonen commented that people in the educational field need to also know what purposes AI data is used for – a viewpoint which consolidates the importance of AI awareness as promoted by Rummel and Jormanainen.

The panel discussion equally addressed the potential of AI in education. Jormanainen and Muukkonen noted that for AI to reach its potential in educational contexts, more hands-on practice is needed. However, Rummel pointed out that an overall “digital revolution” in learning and education (for instance one that would involve AI) may take time, because systemic changes tend to occur slowly.

The engaging panel discussion led to the collaboratively formed “GenZ Manifesto,” which was twofold; the future of learning practices should be multidisciplinary and coordinated with human values.

A multidisciplinary future of education entails co-operation between different actors, as well as an incentive to understand complex relations between humans and technology. Gaining mutual understanding and creating spaces for co-operation has been and remains a challenge for humanity. A multidisciplinary approach utilizes a holistic view of the world, and professor Järvelä views the strength of the GenZ Manifesto as being rooted in it. Moreover, Järvelä explains that if we wish to help people, we must understand the complexity of their learning minds, the nature of technology and how humans collaborate with technology. These aspects alone are not enough for developing solutions for learning in the future – but when combined, they offer us a multifaceted view of learning.

GenZ’s co-evolution theme extends the term “evolution” beyond its original context of biology. GenZ’s research premises, such as how humans grow alongside the new emerging and evolving technologies fall under this theme. An intriguing metaphor of machines as evolving species of their own was raised in the seminar – species evolve, and so does technology. The turning point of the discussion was that machine capabilities need to be developed to benefit humans, not the other way around. Promoting human-centric values remains crucial in the future.

The GenZ Manifesto thus envisions a future which is not only co-operative but also aligned with human values. GenZ director Pentti Haddington connects the core of this manifesto to social sustainability, the need to educate and prepare future generations to live in a world permeated with digitalisation. Haddington summarizes the core mission of GenZ being to strengthen the human competences in the digital era. In this way, the GenZ manifesto succeeds in corroborating the essence of GenZ and offering us a human-centric view of the future, one in which technology and humans can co-exist. Haddington adds that we can never really overemphasize the human point of view when contemplating our co-existence with technology. We need to make efforts to understand more – that is the main principal of GenZ’s mission.

Read more about the GenZ research visions in the GenZ White Paper.

Last updated: 31.5.2022