Gateshead EdTech author says North East businesses & educators should ‘seize the AI opportunity or risk letting students down.’

22 June 2023

Acclaimed author of The AI Classroom and Founder of The AI Educator, Dan Fitzpatrick has urged regional businesses and educators to seize the potential presented by a recent explosion in open access AI to develop solutions that improve education and opportunities for students.  

Dan, who hails from Gateshead, was speaking to around 50 businesses at an event organised by the Innovation SuperNetwork on Tuesday 20 June 2023 at Newcastle University Business School, where he, said: “AI cannot be ignored, it will affect all walks of life, and in education, the current system we have simply cannot deliver what students need for the future.” 

He noted that educators should embrace AI to add value and prepare young people for the future, commenting: “having worked with many independent schools across the UK and overseas, the flexibility and freedom they have to use AI far exceeds that of state-run schools.  

“Parents are already using AI to support their children’s education. If schools do not introduce programmes and apps to the curriculum, then the gap between households that have more disposable income to spend on devices for their children and less financially secure households will widen. Our biggest challenge is to make this technology accessible to all, and to enable and empower teachers to use it at all levels of education.”  

Dan was joined by a panel of experts in the field who were discussing the challenges and opportunities open to businesses and education providers as AI becomes more widely available.  

The panel also included Angela Lynch, Innovation Manager at Innovation SuperNetwork (Chair); Sarah Wyer, PhD Researcher in Bias in AI at Durham University; Dean Blewitt, Innovation Project Manager from NCFE; Ahmed Kharrufa, Senior lecturer in Educational Technology and Human-Computer Interaction at Newcastle University; and Nihad Ćehić, Founder of AI EdTech start-up, Vibbl. 

Vibbl is just one of the businesses currently being supported via the Innovation SuperNetwork-led Digital Cluster Development Project, funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority. Based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the start-up is building AI to optimise the functionality of their verbal feedback app for teachers. The app is designed to reduce teacher workload from marking by enabling teachers to simply snap their students work and record verbal feedback to help push student learning forward.  

Nihad said, “Starting a business like this in the North East is an exciting opportunity. The support on offer to help us connect with peers, potential collaborators, investors and other funding sources is outstanding. There is a powerful opportunity to grow the EdTech sector in the region and we’re thrilled to be part of that story.” 

Angela Lynch, EdTech Cluster Manager at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “Dan’s keynote was enlightening for our audience and profoundly thought-provoking, giving everyone so much more to consider when it comes to the transformative power of AI across our education system. Our panel tackled the issues that are forefront in the public’s mind including inclusion bias and ethics, as well as how AI technology can complement traditional methods, not replace them.  

“We have a collaborative EdTech community here in the region, inspiring each other and I’m so proud to be working with many startup EdTech businesses in my role at Innovation SuperNetwork.” 

Innovation SuperNetwork is leading the way in supporting the development of the digital sector in the North East by providing specialist innovation support, access to finance, connections and new market opportunities to digital businesses in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Part of the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s (NTCA) Digital Ambition, the Digital Cluster Development programme is facilitating growth of digital sub-clusters including, EdTech, FinTech, AI & Data, Net Zero Tech and Cyber Security. It is delivered in partnership with Dynamo North East and the Academic Health Science Network.  

NTCA has invested £10 million to support the growth of the digital sector across the North of Tyne, pursuing an ambition of digital growth and innovation.  

Over the next five years the region’s digital economy will create 1,300 new tech businesses, increase tech company revenues by £425m, support 10,000 new tech employees enter the workforce, and be underpinned by connecting 99% of the region to gigabit fibre/5G infrastructure.   

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