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Ridicule Me Not: The Hope and Promise of Conversational AI Teachers

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February 26, 2024 | Steve Grubbs (with assistance from ChatGPT)


  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is presented as a solution to overcome the fear of judgment and ridicule that often stifles student participation and learning in educational settings.
  • AI-driven interfaces, like those in VXRLabs, provide a judgment-free environment where students can freely ask questions and engage in sensitive conversations without fear of ridicule or peer judgment.
  • AI’s role in teaching soft skills, such as communication and problem-solving, is highlighted as a promising area of technology. It offers real-time feedback and support, allowing learners to experiment and refine their skills in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Stanford University’s insights underscore the transformative potential of AI in education, envisioning a future where learning is personalized, inclusive, and fosters confidence and resilience in learners. Through AI, education becomes a journey of discovery, free from the constraints of judgment and ridicule.

Even the most confident learner has a moment when they fear asking a question due to that small voice in our head asking us if it’s a stupid question. It’s been said – in jest – that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. And no matter how many times we are encouraged to speak up, it’s this nagging little voice that keeps us quiet.

In an educational landscape where the fear of judgment and ridicule often stifles student participation and learning, artificial intelligence (AI) emerges as a solution, offering a path to learning that overcomes these barriers.

Now imagine a single student in an asynchronous (solo) environment, with a conversational AI tutor or teacher. Questions can be asked without fear and conversations that might otherwise go unspoken, can be engaged without a concern for ridicule or judgment.

Ran Liu, the chief AI scientist at Amira Learning, emphasizes the transformative potential of AI in bolstering learner self-confidence. Despite teachers’ best efforts to create an inclusive classroom atmosphere by assuring students that there are no stupid questions, the fear of peer judgment frequently prevents students from fully engaging in learning activities. This is especially true for students who perceive themselves as lagging behind their peers, making them the least likely to participate. AI, with its ability to provide feedback without the emotional weight of a human response, presents a solution to this problem. AI-driven interfaces encourage learners to engage more freely, take risks, and be open to vulnerability, knowing that the feedback they receive is constructive and devoid of personal judgment.

In VXRLabs, the immersive learning world created by VictoryXR, students can visit the Old Monroe County Courthouse and have a free-flowing conversation with Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Sensitive questions about race and justice can be had between students and Harper Lee in the privacy of the immersive classroom.

The application of AI in teaching soft skills showcases one of the most promising areas of this technology. Emma Brunskill, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University, points out the challenges of teaching soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. These skills are crucial for personal and professional success but are notoriously difficult to teach through traditional methods. AI can fill this gap by serving as a real-time agent that provides support and feedback, allowing learners to experiment with different approaches in a safe and supportive environment. This real-time feedback loop enables learners to refine their skills through practice and experimentation, without the fear of embarrassment or ridicule.

AI’s role in education extends beyond providing feedback; it represents a shift towards a more personalized and inclusive learning experience. By tailoring learning experiences to individual needs and providing a judgment-free zone for experimentation and growth, AI has the potential to transform the educational landscape. It not only addresses the immediate challenges of engaging students who are afraid of making mistakes but also prepares them for a future where soft skills play an increasingly important role.

Stanford University’s insights into the potential of AI in education highlight a future where learning is not just about absorbing information but about growing, experimenting, and improving without fear. This vision of education, powered by AI, promises to foster a generation of learners who are more confident, resilient, and prepared to face the challenges of the future. Through AI, the educational community has the opportunity to create environments where learning is a journey of discovery, free from the constraints of judgment and ridicule.

Steve Grubbs is the CEO of VictoryXR, the global leader in immersive, spatial education. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s colleges of business and law and served in the Iowa Legislature as Chair of the House Education Committee in the early ‘90’s.