LIVE @ ISTE 2024: Exclusive Coverage

Look Who’s Talking: Founder and CEO Hadi Partovi on the Hype and Hope of AI in edtech

The evolution of AI will continue to introduce new capabilities that will reshape educational practices

In true grand finale fashion, #CoSN2024 will wrap up with a pair of industry heavyweights talking through what might be the most momentous point in edtech history. You can listen and read Mike Trucano’s thoughts further down the page. Here, Hadi Partovi shares some preliminary insights for what will undoubtedly be a highlight of events next week. Have a listen:

Hadi Partovi is a tech entrepreneur and investor, and CEO of the education nonprofit

Born in Iran, Hadi grew up during the Iran-Iraq war. After immigrating to the United States, he spent his summers working as a software engineer to help pay his way through high school and college. Upon graduating from Harvard with a Masters degree in computer science, Hadi pursued a career in technology starting at Microsoft where he rose into the executive ranks. He founded two tech startups that were acquired by Microsoft and Newscorp respectively, and he has served as an early advisor or investor at many tech startups including Facebook, Dropbox, airbnb, and Uber.

In 2013 Hadi and his twin brother Ali ‘94 launched the education nonprofit, which Hadi leads full-time as CEO. has established computer science classes reaching 30% of US students, created the most broadly used curriculum platform for K-12 computer science, and launched the global Hour of Code movement that has reached hundreds of millions of students spanning every country in the world.

In the spirit of the topic, we had ChatGPT assess the interview.

The transcript captures a conversation between two speakers, primarily focusing on the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. Speaker 1, identified as Hadi, provides insights into the current state and future prospects of AI in the educational landscape. Key points discussed include the potential of AI to revolutionize education, the evolving role of teachers, challenges related to student safety and ethical considerations, and the necessity for schools and educators to adapt to technological advancements proactively.

List of Takeaways:

  • Impact of AI in Education: Hadi emphasizes that the impact of AI in education is significant and likely underestimated. Drawing parallels to past technological advancements like the personal computer and the smartphone, he asserts that AI is of a comparable scale, if not larger.
  • Diverse Nature of AI: AI is not a singular technology but a diverse field encompassing various rapidly progressing software. The evolution of AI will continue to introduce new capabilities that will reshape educational practices.
  • Changing Perceptions: Addressing concerns about AI, Hadi argues that the fear of AI replacing human teachers or facilitating cheating should prompt a reevaluation of educational goals and standards. Rather than viewing AI as a threat, it should be embraced as a tool for enhancing learning outcomes.
  • Role of Teachers: While AI may automate certain tasks, Hadi believes that the role of teachers will evolve to focus more on personalized mentorship and coaching rather than content delivery. AI can alleviate the burden on teachers, enabling them to engage more meaningfully with students.
  • Administrative Considerations: School administrators need to adopt a proactive approach towards integrating AI into education. This involves providing teacher training on AI usage, ensuring student safety, and revising educational practices to accommodate technological advancements.
  • Ethical Concerns: While acknowledging the benefits of AI, Hadi stresses the importance of addressing ethical considerations, particularly concerning student safety and AI bias. Schools should implement safeguards to prevent negative consequences of AI usage.
  • Preparedness for Change: Schools must recognize that AI represents an ongoing technological shift rather than a one-time event. Embracing change and preparing for continual advancements in AI is essential for ensuring the relevance and effectiveness of education in the future.

Below is a machine-generated transcript of the interview.

00:00:04 Speaker 2 

OK, Hadi. Thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it. 

00:00:08 Speaker 1 

Thank you for inviting me. It’s wonderful to speak with you. 

00:00:11 Speaker 2 

Let’s jump right into it next week you will be down in Miami at CoSN of 2024 talking about, I guess I would say, what else? But AI, the the topic is certainly something that has taken the oxygen out of the room for a lot of other topics when it comes to education, technology, hugely important but. 

00:00:31 Speaker 2 

As I mentioned to Mike, sometimes I wake up in the morning and I and I wonder if. 

00:00:35 Speaker 2 

Maybe it’s not all being overblown, but then other mornings I wake up and say no. Of course that this is the the the the, you know, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe we can start off by talking about where you you find yourself in with this topic after so many decades of being on the on the cutting edge of of innovations when it. 

00:00:55 Speaker 2 

Comes to this stuff. 

00:00:57 Speaker 1 

That’s a great question. I I would say I think the impact of AI and education is probably being under blown overblown and I don’t want to sound like I. 

00:01:08 Speaker 1 

You know, I I’ve lived in the world of technology for decades, so I’ve seen many hype cycles of things that were hyped up that turned out much smaller than the than they turned out to be. But I’ve also seen things that turned out to be much bigger than anybody imagined, you know. And if you think about. 

00:01:27 Speaker 1 

The invention of the personal computer, the World Wide Web, the smartphone AI is of that scale and larger. The other thing I would say with AI is you know. 

00:01:40 Speaker 1 

AI isn’t 1 technology, it’s like an entire body of work that is progressing quite rapidly, and it’s not one thing. It’s not like it’s a it’s not like this. There’s this weaker, intelligent thing that was becoming smarter. It’s like a whole bunch of people creating all sorts of different software that are going to be able to do things that. 

00:02:00 Speaker 1 

Software was never able to do and the pace at which they’re progressing is accelerating and so how big of an impact it has on education depends on how far out you look. So the today’s chatbot interface is going to look prehistoric compared to. 

00:02:16 Speaker 1 

The the conversational Avatar version that we’ll have by the end of the decade. And if you think about, for example, the smartphone, when the first iPhone came out, that iPhone looks prehistoric compared the version we got 10 years later. It didn’t have. It couldn’t take video. People don’t remember that the first iPhone. 

00:02:36 Speaker 1 

Couldn’t take video, it didn’t have an App Store. Literally. The App Store came after the iPhone. Either #2 or #3, so we are still in the early days. 

00:02:49 Speaker 2 


00:02:49 Speaker 1 

What I’m saying is less about the hype of the current AI we have, but where things are going. 

00:02:54 Speaker 2 

Yeah. How about when it comes to kind of the the popular perceptions and I think this happens with a lot of new technologies that there’s a certain level of fear that that creeps in at the beginning with with when there’s not a lot of knowledge. So you know the, the the boogeyman of. 

00:03:10 Speaker 2 

A students being able to cheat better than they could ever cheat before and nobody will actually study anymore and B the idea that AI will somehow take over the role of a human teacher. Can you tackle both of those in terms of what you see as a a threat or promise? 

00:03:29 Speaker 1 

Sure, there’s a third which is less about education, which is AI will take all our jobs. 

00:03:36 Speaker 1 

And and I’ll start with that one first before talking about whether it’s cheating or whether it’s going to replace teachers. You know, in the short term, it’s not AI that’s going to take people’s jobs. It’s somebody who knows how to use AI better, will take your job. And so teaching students and teaching. 

00:03:56 Speaker 1 

Everybody how to create with AI how to do the work you’re currently doing, but doing it better, more productively, more efficiently, more creatively, just doing a better job with AI is going to be one of the most valuable types of education. 

00:04:10 Speaker 1 

And and if you think about that, then working back to the students and is it cheating and we need to redefine the the definition of what cheating means or redefine the goal posts of what our school system should be teaching students. Because where one person might see a student that’s cheating. I see a student that’s learning how to use AI. 

00:04:31 Speaker 1 

And the the. 

00:04:34 Speaker 1 

That student is going to be much more employable than the student who didn’t do any cheating, but also didn’t learn at all how to use AI. And so we change what we think teaching is trying to what the goal is, and I’m not trying to suggest that students should learn nothing and just let AI do everything for them, because obviously as we know. 

00:04:54 Speaker 1 

Today’s AI has lots of shortcomings, but learning those shortcomings, learning how to work around them, and how to combine the knowledge the students brings to the table, plus how they can harness this technology to its best use. That’s going to be what we need to be teaching. And when it comes to teachers. 

00:05:14 Speaker 1 

First of all, we have a teacher shortage globally, so if anything can offset the work done by teachers by reducing their workload, that’s not replacing their jobs. That’s just softening the extreme. The difficulty of the global teacher shortage. We’re far from a world of having wow, there’s so much. 

00:05:34 Speaker 1 

Teaching being done by AI that that we don’t need teachers, that’s that’s, that’s not the we’re worried about. I do think the role of a teacher is going to shift from being the content expert to being the human connection, the facilitator, the coach, the mentor at. 

00:05:52 Speaker 1 

And honestly, if you ask lots of teachers, they find that their day-to-day time is being spent, not one-on-one with students, not in a way where they’re connecting with the students. But it’s like grading homeworks, preparing lesson plans, doing paperwork, and then doing this one to many lecture where they don’t have enough time for that to really teach that individual. 

00:06:13 Speaker 1 

Kid, because there’s so many of their kids and so we should, with AI, get to a point where the student is getting more personalized education and more personal personal time with their teacher. 

00:06:26 Speaker 2 


00:06:28 Speaker 2 

So you think about the, uh, the audience, that you’re going to have there at at cozen next week and you know our, our readers and listeners who are. 

00:06:36 Speaker 2 

Executives and school districts, you know, around the country around the world, how should they be thinking about this topic? I mean, how does this really affect their day-to-day administrative say of a of a school or a district? And how could they take these ideas and apply it to what they’re doing every day? 

00:06:59 Speaker 1 

The first thing I’d say, and most people already know this, but it’s really important to dwell on realizing that AI isn’t a thing that is now here and now you just and we’re done. And now we need to react to it. It’s a thing that’s coming. It’s like it’s come a little bit and there’s going to be more and more and more and more. 

00:07:19 Speaker 1 

You know, we just went through this. 

00:07:22 Speaker 1 

Quite terrible pandemic that arrived in March of 2020 and changed our lives. And then like now, we’re recovering from this thing that happened. AI is not a negative, it’s a positive. It’s going to make so many parts of education better, but it’s not arriving on one date, it’s. 

00:07:42 Speaker 1 

Imagine if somebody told you that over the next 10 years there’s going to be waves of improving and rapidly changing technology that are going to change education, making it more personalized for students, more engaging for students and helping teachers. 

00:07:58 Speaker 1 

You know, reduce their workload and giving them more of a chance to mentor students. And that’s there’s going to be changes every year, that mentality of being comfortable with change is the most important change that school administrators need to do, recognizing that it’s not just about chat LGBT, it’s about, you know, Co pilots being built into all of the office. 



00:08:19 Speaker 1 

And productivity tech that you use. 

00:08:22 Speaker 1 

AI being added to every bit of Edtech? Then what are we going to do to reinvent homework so that it’s not considered cheating to use AI with it would actually. It’s considered required to use AI when you do homework. How do we change assessments? We’re going to need to change the learning standards, the goal posts of what students need to learn, and we don’t need to do all those things. 

00:08:43 Speaker 1 

Because of the ChatGPT that came out a year ago, we’re going to need to be doing those things because of stuff that’s going to be coming out every year over the next 10 years and beyond. 

00:08:51 Speaker 2 

Now, how how much do you think we need to worry about the students themselves? I mean, you made the point about, you know, the first version of the iPhone not having those tech and tools. And I remember writing articles back then about, you know, the the. 

00:09:06 Speaker 2 

The dangers of. 

00:09:07 Speaker 2 

Phones in schools and the the. 

00:09:10 Speaker 2 

The use of these devices students are using these devices whether we like it or not. All the time now. Is it the same thing with AI? I mean is it will? Will this the kids themselves not see this as much of A novelty as just something that’s always been around and are comfortable with? 

00:09:28 Speaker 1 

First, I would say that student safety is something schools should take seriously. I mean, schools both in this country and internationally are suing the technology companies for having created technology that addicted their children and different people are making arguments about whether that’s having a negative impact on those kids. 

00:09:48 Speaker 1 

And you know. 

00:09:51 Speaker 1 

Ultimately, the schools are responsible for the kids, schools and parents bear that responsibility. Tech companies aren’t necessarily the ones you know. They’re their responsibility as a profit motive, ultimately. And so it’s really important to to think how to make sure this is embraced in a way that’s. 

00:10:11 Speaker 1 

Safe for kids, ethical as well. But safety is even more important. Yeah, ethics is hard to define and different people have different opinions about what is ethical. But we don’t want kids to get addicted. We don’t want kids to get badly misinformed to get indoctrinated, because who knows what AI might teach kids if it’s not? 

00:10:32 Speaker 1 

If it’s done without guardrails and you know indoctrination means different things to different people. But all of these types of things, AI bias in One Direction or the other are all negatives. 

00:10:46 Speaker 2 


00:10:47 Speaker 1 

But I do believe the greatest risk is doing nothing. So the greatest risk is pretending that you know one of the most important technological shifts in the history of humanity isn’t happening, and we’re just going to keep doing everything the way we always happen. That’s that’s not going to work. But. 

00:11:06 Speaker 1 

When it comes to figuring this stuff out, that there’s some very obvious things schools should be doing, providing teacher training on on just what is. 

00:11:14 Speaker 1 

The AI using AI to save teachers time. There’s no risk there. We have a teacher shortage. AI is a solution to save teachers time so that our existing teachers aren’t feeling as overworked and underpaid. Those are some really obvious things. Teaching students how AI works and what its shortcomings. 

00:11:35 Speaker 1 

That’s also a real no brainer. You know the idea that you’d graduate from school and not learn how AI works, but you’re still learning. 

00:11:43 Speaker 1 


00:11:44 Speaker 1 

The other subjects in science that teach you. 

00:11:46 Speaker 1 

How the world? 

00:11:47 Speaker 1 

Works seems seems outdated. These are the obvious things schools should do and then buckle up for more change. 

00:11:53 Speaker 2 

Yeah. Well, howdy. I want you to keep your powder dry for next week. There’s a lot of great ideas here, and I know you and Mike will put on a good show when it comes to helping the the, the audience and by extension, our readers and our listeners to kind of wrap their their hands around this. So again, I appreciate your time and look forward to. 

00:12:14 Speaker 2 

To seeing you next week. 

00:12:15 Speaker 1 

All right. Thank you so much. It will be great to see you. 

00:12:17 Speaker 2 


00:12:18 Speaker 1 

Bye bye. 

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