The Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire, believed in a collaborative approach to education, where both the educator and the learner contribute to the learning process. His work focused on promoting critical thinking and dialogue. In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he discussed his ideas about education as a collaborative process where both the educator and the learner work together to create knowledge and learn from one another. “The teacher and the taught together create the teaching” is a remarkable quote that summarizes his philosophy and long inspired my teaching (Freire, 1968).
Today, Freire’s teaching is not only relevant but necessary to adopt as we witness the transformation of teaching and learning. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) brought together educators from all walks of life to reflect, explore perspectives, examine implications on teaching and learning, as well as share fears and hopes. One thing that most educators can agree on is that methods of teaching and learning ought to be revisited—AI must be embraced and the integration of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and culturally response pedagogies no longer remain a choice. Collaboration in creating the teaching is at the core of new, yet very old, pedagogy.
Now is a great time to cultivate new opportunities and mitigate the challenges that, for long, faced both educators and learners. To foster a collaborative approach in teaching and learning, here are a few tips on how post-secondary educators and adult learners can create the teaching together, and how AI can empower both.
Engage learners based on their learning styles
Get to know your learners’ preferred learning style, then provide them with materials and activities that cater to their individual needs and allow them to engage in a way that works best for them. According to the Honey and Mumford learning styles model, there are four types of preferred learning styles: activist, reflector, theorist, and pragmatist. Activists prefer learning by doing hands-on activities, or experiential learning opportunities. Reflectors prefer learning through observation, reflection, taking notes, or engaging in reflective discussions. Theorists prefer learning through analysis and synthesis, and pragmatists prefer learning through applying ideas in real-world contexts. By combining this knowledge of learning styles and applying the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework in teaching, educators can provide multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement to cater to the diverse needs of learners and accommodate different learning styles and preferences. This sounds like hard work but it’s not as complex as it seems. Educators may benefit from using AI for inspiration on inclusive lesson planning that adopts UDL. AI can also help with case study write ups, generating reflection questions, gathering up-to-date facts, and providing examples of real-life applications of certain concepts. Educators can even delegate some of this research to learners themselves, while focusing on creating a process that builds learners’ critical thinking skills.
Activate the Cs of communication in teaching
Clear, complete, and concise communication is critical for effective teaching. Educators must use plain and straightforward language that learners from diverse backgrounds can understand. This will reduce the chances of misunderstandings. From a culturally inclusive perspective, it will also make it easier for learners from diverse cultural backgrounds to use AI-powered language translation tools. For neurodivergent learners, brief and straight-to-the-point literal communication will enable the breakdown of instructions into manageable chunks (NIMH, 2018). The combination of audio, visual, and written communication will cater to the different needs of learners and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all. AI can support educators in reviewing text, ensuring that plain language is used, and transforming text to multiple means of communication.
Emphasize collaboration as the secret to success
Educators must encourage collaboration and foster a team-based learning environment. This approach will help learners build connections, develop teamwork, and strengthen their effective communication skills; all of which are essential for career advancement. In the post COVID-era, these social skills are needed more than ever. AI-powered collaborative tools can help learners work together on projects and assignments regardless of their location; building on their real-time skill as well as their virtual collaboration skills (Wu et al., 2020)—another essential skill for career advancement and adaptation to the “new normal.” Tools like Slack, Teams, Zoom, Miro, Trello, Canva, Asana, and Padlet are just a few examples of popular AI-powered collaboration tools that can help teams collaborate more efficiently and effectively, and improve overall productivity and output.
Use multimedia to cater for different learners needs
VARK is another popular classification of learning styles developed by Neil Fleming in 1987. VARK stands for: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic. This learning style can impact how effectively we learn and retain information (Fleming, 2006). The use of multimedia is an effective approach for engaging learners, supplementing content, and presenting complex topics. Educators can use videos, images, podcasts, interactive simulations, and immersive experiences generated by AI-powered virtual reality and augmented reality tools like Google Lens1 or DeepFrame2.
Treat feedback as a source of learning
Feedback is essential for learners to understand their strengths and weaknesses and improve their learning outcomes. It is the source of teaching and learning that is overlooked by most educators. It is important to provide regular and timely feedback on learners’ assignments and assessments. As grading and providing meaningful feedback is time consuming, many educators provide standardized one-size-fits-all feedback to their learners. AI-powered grading tools can help educators automate the grading process, provide immediate feedback to learners, and reduce some of the grading load for educators (Wu et al., 2020). AI-chat bots can also be utilized as grading assistants, and with the right prompts they can provide feedback that can be personalized and tailored by educators.
Make learning personal and personable
Acknowledging that learners learn differently and adapting the teaching style accordingly will build trust and connection between learners and educators, and create an enabling and supportive environment for learning. AI-powered personalized learning platforms can help educators provide individualized learning experiences based on learners’ abilities and preferences, and will allow them to learn at their own pace. Duolingo is one example of an AI-powered language platform that provides personalized instruction for over 30 languages. There are many other platforms that provide instruction and interactive resources on a variety of subjects.
Stay ahead of the curve
Lifelong learning is crucial for both educators and learners to stay ahead of the curve. Educators must continuously update their knowledge and teaching practices to provide the best learning experiences for their learners. The learning-to-learn competency is another essential skills for the evolving era we are currently living in that is characterized by rapid changes and continuous transformation. AI-powered learning platforms and teaching technologies can provide educators with access to the latest research, teaching resources, and trends in education, and enable them to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends (Wu et al., 2020).
Embrace the evolution of AI
The role of AI in education is rapidly evolving. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors on a microchip would double approximately every two years, while the cost of computers would be halved over the same time. Known as Moore’s Law, this prediction is believed to be the driving force behind the rapid evolution of technology in the 21st century. As computer processing power continued to increase, it became possible to train increasingly complex and sophisticated AI algorithms; enabling AI to move from a basic rule-based system to a more advanced machine learning and deep-learning model. This forward move will not be reversed. On the contrary, it will evolve further and change the landscape of teaching, learning, and working. Educators need to move ahead in their emotional spectrum towards the use of AI and start experimenting with it to create engaging learning environments that foster collaboration and personalize learning experiences. By embracing the evolution of AI, we will be able to save time, obtain necessary support, stimulate our creative minds, and increase productivity for all.
Manal Saleh is a faculty at the School of Business and Creative Industries, the Nova Scotia Community College. She holds a BA in business administration from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt and an MA in economics for international development from the American University in Cairo. For the past 20+ years, Saleh has been working on empowering communities through collaborative educational pedagogies. In 2018, Saleh settled in Atlantic Canada to find her ‘Ikigai’ in post-secondary teaching. Her current passion is assistive teaching and engagement technologies. Her mission is to support herself and other in unleashing their unlimited potential and ascending themselves through seeking and sharing knowledge.
Fleming, N., and Baume, D. (2006) Learning Styles Again: VARKing up the right tree!, Educational Developments, SEDA Ltd, Issue 7.4, Nov. 2006, p4-7. Retrieved from https://vark-learn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Educational-Developments.pdf
Freire. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed (New rev. 20th-Anniversary ed.). Continuum.
Honey, P., & Mumford, A. (1986). The Manual of Learning Styles. Peter Honey.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. ASCD.
Wu, H., Tennyson, R. D., & Hsia, T. L. (2020). A review of artificial intelligence in education: Technical and pedagogical perspectives. Educational Research Review, 30, 100326. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351470728_A_Review_on_Artificial_Intelligence_in_Education
 This is an AR tool that uses AI to analyze images and provide information about the objects in them. It can be used for a variety of purposes, such as identifying plants and animals, translating text, and searching for products online.
 This is an AR display that uses AI to create holographic images that appear to be part of the real world. It can be used for a variety of applications, including entertainment, advertising, and education.