In An Age of AI, a Humanist Manifesto for Edtech 

How might we leverage technology to enhance education while staying grounded in our humanity?

GUEST COLUMN | by Joe McBreen


We stand at a crossroads in history. In November 2022, OpenAI released its generative AI model GPT-3 for public use, freely and without cost. This constitutes a momentous inflection point akin to the public release of electricity or the internet before it. Our world will never be the same again. 

There is a certain irony that GPT, which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, contains the acronym for “General Purpose Technology.” As with pivotal innovations like electricity, steam power, and the semiconductor, GPT represents a General Purpose Technology that will transform industries and societies unpredictably. Its use cases span art, literature, customer service, software coding, and far more that we have yet to envision. Much like the proliferation of computers and the internet in the 1990s, generative AI will democratize capabilities once reserved for the few. The ramifications for education, business, and human progress are profound.

We Must Keep Sight of Our Humanity

The technological genie is out of the bottle; Amidst this progress, it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of each shiny new tool. But we must keep sight of our humanity. Behind the facade of technology, human ingenuity remains the lifeblood of innovation. Machines may enable progress, but people breathe meaning into it. 

Technology promises to engage young minds like never before – with immersive worlds, personalized platforms, and data-driven insights. But we must thoughtfully apply these tools, considering each student’s holistic growth. Effective education is not defined by efficiency alone. At its core, it nurtures human relationships, imparts timeless wisdom, and inspires creativity – enduring principles that speak to our souls.

No Technology Can Wholly Replace the Power of Human Interaction

We must remember that no technology can wholly replace the power of human interaction in a child’s development. However advanced, technology remains but a means to an end. True wisdom springs eternal from people. As educators, our mission is cultivating students’ humanity – their ethics, compassion, and conscience. Technology may aid this journey, but can never substitute for thoughtful pedagogy designed by human hearts and minds.

We Must Grapple with Complex Ethical Questions

As we integrate powerful new technologies like generative AI, we must grapple with complex ethical questions. How do we prevent misuse while encouraging innovation? How do we instill digital literacy to identify manipulated content? What are the implications for intellectual property and human agency? Open and thoughtful discourse is needed. As educators and engaged citizens, we must shape the responsible development of AI aligned with moral wisdom and human dignity. The future remains unwritten; our shared humanity must guide the pen.

Innovations like blockchain and web3 promise new efficiencies and capabilities. But we must stay focused on humanity- integrity, emotional intelligence, and visionary leadership. These human qualities remain the lifeblood of progress, earning trust and inspiring people over time in a way technology alone never can. 

It is Our Role to Walk This Line Wisely

Technology offers pathways to analyze and quantify the world. But efficiency alone cannot cultivate empathy within our students and colleagues. These life-giving virtues spring eternal from us as educators and leaders. It is our role to walk this line wisely. Data may provide insights, but the nuanced beauty of human understanding comes from meaningful interactions, stories, and experiences. Our shared progress stems from shared humanity.

Where machines engage through metrics, let us ignite passion and calm fears, always nurturing the human spirit, for it is here that the human touch remains irreplaceable. We must see technology as but a tool – animated by the wisdom and values instilled in students by their families, teachers, and communities. 

‘We must see technology as but a tool – animated by the wisdom and values instilled in students by their families, teachers, and communities.’

Thoughtful leadership, guided by our humanity and enabled by technology, unlocks unparalleled potential for progress – both professional and personal. Our purpose is not simply preparing students for a digital world but helping them thrive within it – with creativity, conscience, and compassion fully intact. 

Let Our Humanity Light The Way 

As we integrate new technologies, we must be wary of over-indexing on efficiency alone. Lasting innovation arises from the synergy between human values and visionary technology thoughtfully applied. As the future unfolds, let our humanity light the way.

Technology opens doors, but the human spirit walks through. Let us use technology not just to accelerate innovation but to uplift the human spirit. Progress is not defined by smarter machines alone but by more enlightened, compassionate people. Our shared humanity must guide this journey.

How might we best leverage technology to enhance inclusive human progress while staying grounded in our highest values? The dialogue continues, and we must participate thoughtfully, focused on the human spirit.

Joe McBreen serves as the Assistant Superintendent in St. Vrain Valley Schools. Previously, he worked as their Chief Technology Officer, earning the 2019 CALET Ed Tech Leader of the Year award and ISTE and CoSN national awards. In 2023, he was named to the EDTECH TOP 100 list from EdTech Digest. Joe holds multiple IT Certifications in Cisco, Amazon Web Service, and AI technologies. He is passionate about bringing out the best in himself and others, leveraging advanced technologies, and scaling innovation. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn. 


    Leave a Comment

    %d bloggers like this: