Fostering Learning that Accommodates Technology Advancements

Dr. Lin Zhou, Senior VP & CIO, The New School

Dr. Lin Zhou, Senior VP & CIO, The New School

Technology continues to revolutionize the world and impact almost every aspect of our daily lives, including education. Today, we’re heavily dependent on gadgets, and nearly everything we touch falls within the spectrum of technological capabilities, from daily chores to high-end tasks. Technology's imprint is so significant that it has redefined education in the 21st century. Education is no longer confined to reading and writing but requires that we collaborate with and work harmoniously with technology.

As a liberal arts college in New York, The New School remains focused on preparing students for a complex technology-bound future. Ours is a place where scholars, artists, and designers challenge convention and create positive change. Moreover, as a progressive college, The New School aims to make substantial advancements in academic leadership and society. For this, we are preparing students to adopt and take advantage of new technologies.

Resistance to Adopt AI in the Education Sector

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made several progressions in the past 15 years, it has not been adopted to its full potential in the education space. A resistance to AI doesn’t usually stem from the core technology but often from a general bias or concern over transparency. Our concern is whether Artificial Intelligence can be explained or not and how it will complement human intelligence. The answer to this lies within the technology's very DNA in terms of how AI is designed and engineered.

Like many liberal art colleges, The New School does not have specialized engineering or technology programs, so, for us, it's critical to educate students about how to apply  technology to areas such as social research and design, without getting into complex technical jargon or requiring expertise in the technical matter. We have to find a way to educate our students to a level where they are competent enough about the technology to understand its potential and assess and solve societal issues.

Quantum Computing: The Next Technological Leap

Gordon Earle Moore, the co-founder of Intel, famously said that computer power doubles every 18 months. So every two years, the areal density of semiconductor devices becomes higher. And if we look back over the past 20 years, we have essentially followed that curve.

Here is an example to understand better: Back in 2000, semiconductor fabrication technology was on 0.13 um nodes, which is related to the minimal gate length in transistors. The smaller the number, the higher the transistor areal density hence more computation power. Today, the fabrication technology is on 7nm nodes, i.e. 0.007 um, which shrink to about 1/19 the size in 2000. That is how rapidly technology is changing over time. Day by day, we are continuously pushing technology to its limits.

In this regard, quantum computing is the next frontier for technological advancement. This new breed of technology houses capabilities that exceed far beyond classical computers and takes us into a different trajectory than we had not anticipated years ago. The New School is now investing in quantum computing to advance liberal arts, performing arts, visual arts, music, and social justice. All of the areas are important, but social justice, in particular, is precisely the area where quantum computing can act as a balancer to the bias created by AI today.

Our Quantum Computing Initiative

The New School's quantum computing initiative is grounded on three legs. First, it's placed directly into our core academic mission: teaching, learning, and knowledge creation. By partnering with a major quantum computing technology provider, we have developed a curriculum and successfully graduated students from the class. This year, the provider certified 96 quantum computing practitioners worldwide, and 12 of those individuals are from our university.

The second leg is focused on research the application of quantum computing, and the third involves creating intellectual properties (IP). Being new to this space, IP has a poor foundation, and there is limited knowledge. The New School is among the first to become the initial knowledge creators in the quantum computing IP space. In effect, this will empower our students toward building startups and generating alternate sources of income for the college, which can be reinvested for teaching and learning purposes. It's this kind of innovation led by creative thinking that earned The New School a 2021 FutureEdge 50 Award.

In Conclusion

Being honored with such awards serves as a motivator for us as a university to continue working toward creating a technology-driven future. No matter how many challenges we may face, we will continue making progress. The question for the next generation of CIOs is how we can develop a "True North" for our team, university, and the entire higher education industry. Our job as CIOs is to find your North Star and use it to drive initiatives. My concluding words for my colleagues would be never to feel complacent and always have your "star in the sky" that keeps you motivated throughout your journey.

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