Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, spoke on inclusivity in tech in her FETC 2023 keynote session.

Jan 27 2023
Digital Workspace

FETC 2023: As Technology Impacts Trillions of People, It Must Be Inclusive

Author, CEO and arithmetician Anne-Marie Imafidon highlighted the importance of embracing curiosity, transparency and arts in the classroom.

Educators are frequently thinking about the future. They’re preparing young learners for a world that doesn’t yet exist, but will in five or 10 or 15 years.

But how can anyone prepare for what’s coming in 40 years? How can that future be imagined?

These are the questions Anne-Marie Imafidon posed to the Future of Education Technology Conference audience Wednesday during her keynote presentation, “The Tech Landscape and Cultivating Leaders of the Future.

Sharing a story on taking apart her parents’ VCR at age 4, Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes and host of the podcast Women Tech Charge, said she was a curious child who grew up to become a curious adult. She said it’s imperative to think about the future, even the distant future, because “technologies like mobile internet, the cloud and the Internet of Things have impacts in the trillions.”

She noted these technologies were created by curious people who likely were inventing them to see if they could, not for profit.

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Artificial Intelligence Grows, with Glaring Omissions

Today’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are impressive, and can help do many jobs.

Imafidon cited examples of machine learning that discovered an antibiotic, an artificial intelligence program that sorts through legal documents and a website that helps people in the UK deal with parking tickets. She also played part of an orchestral score composed by artificial intelligence, adding that many of today’s games and movies use algorithmically composed scores.

Unfortunately, like many technologies, AI and ML aren’t always built with inclusivity in mind. Imafidon showed an artificial intelligence program designed to sort images into categories based on their subject matter. The program correctly identified bikes, skyscrapers and graduation ceremonies, but it identified Black people as gorillas.

DISCOVER: Can school administrators ensure the ethical use of artificial intelligence in education?

Imafidon said that, while voice recognition technology has improved, it still sometimes has trouble interpreting commands when people have strong accents. She showed a popular video of two Scottish men in an elevator as an example.

Emphasize Inclusivity in Teaching and Learning

It’s imperative for everyone, especially educators, to remember that people are the ones creating technology. “How many problems do we create by not being inclusive when we build technology?” Imafidon said.

“How many times are we going to make this same mistake as we consider our technology, as we roll out our technology and as we build our technology, of forgetting there are different types of human beings?”

She also said that forgetfulness isn’t the only concern. Using the example of a period-tracking app automatically set to track ten-day cycles, she wondered aloud whether any menstruating people at all were present for any phase of development, or whether their voices were heard.

READ THE INTERVIEW: A former district CTO pushes for equity in learning.

To prepare students for jobs of the future means considering the ways they will interact with and create future technologies. It also means ensuring that they understand how we arrived at where we are today.

“As we cultivate the leaders of the future, we must make sure we’re doing this in an environment where they fully understand the leaders of the past,” Imafidon said.

Too often, students are taught about the accomplishments of dead white men. But these aren’t the only leaders of the past, she said. She encouraged conferencegoers to reflect on the accomplishments of women, people of color and inventors from this century.

Additionally, she reminded listeners to encourage students’ curiosity in all subject areas. For a project on data curation and analysis, members of Imafidon’s Stemettes program chose topics such as Build-a-Bear, One Direction and the Chelsea Football Club.

“You’re much more likely to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences if you’ve engaged with the arts as part of your upbringing,” Imafidon said.

To ensure you don’t miss a moment of FETC event coverage, keep this page bookmarked and follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for behind-the-scenes looks.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia

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