Teachers as knowmads in the era of AI

Teachers as knowmads in the era of AI

In recent talks in Argentina, Spain, and Colombia, I delved into the competencies essential for "knowmads" in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). This transformative era requires a shift in how educators approach teaching and learning, and it’s critical to understand what this means for teachers today.

Let’s start with a fundamental question: If technology is the solution, what was the problem? I've long argued our educational systems are lagging, stuck in "School 1.0" while society moves swiftly towards "Society 4.0." This disconnection means our traditional approaches are increasingly irrelevant. It’s imperative that we align our policies and practices with the technological realities shaping our world.

Scenarios for education in a disruptive world

Consider four scenarios for how schools might adapt to these changes (based on Moravec & Martínez-Bravo, 2023):

  1. Missing the boat: Schools that don’t adapt risk obsolescence. They will struggle to connect with students and communities that have already embraced new technologies.
  2. Late arrival: These schools observe the changes but react too slowly, lacking the proactive policies necessary for effective transformation.
  3. Just on time: Proactive schools set policies that engage with technological innovators, ensuring graduates are prepared for a technologically advanced society.
  4. Arriving early: The most forward-thinking schools intentionally drive digital transformation, integrating new technologies within a broader socioeconomic context.

The professional profile of a knowmad

In this rapidly changing environment, teachers must cultivate the qualities of knowmads. Knowmads are creative, imaginative, and innovative. They are lifelong learners, adept at contextualizing their knowledge to solve new problems. Importantly, they thrive in flat networks, collaborate effectively, and aren’t afraid of failure. As educators, we must embody these qualities, using technology purposefully to enhance our teaching.

As educators, embracing the knowmadic profile means shifting away from traditional, hierarchical approaches to teaching. Teachers must become facilitators of learning, guiding students through personalized educational experiences. This requires continuous professional development and a willingness to experiment with new technologies and methodologies.

Teachers need to adopt a mindset of constant learning and unlearning, staying updated with the latest technological advancements and integrating them into their teaching practices. Collaboration with peers, both locally and globally, is crucial for sharing best practices and developing innovative solutions to common challenges.

Moreover, teachers should focus on developing students' agency and self-efficacy. This involves creating an environment where students feel empowered to take charge of their learning, make decisions, and explore their interests. By modeling these qualities, teachers can inspire their students to become lifelong learners and problem solvers.

For students, the knowmadic approach translates to an education that is flexible, personalized, and relevant to the real world. Students must learn to be adaptable, creative thinkers who can navigate and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. This means fostering skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and digital literacy.

In a knowmadic educational framework, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. They are given the tools and opportunities to explore their interests and apply their knowledge in practical, real-world contexts. This approach helps them develop the skills necessary to solve new and complex problems, making them valuable contributors to society.

The role of AI in schools

AI presents significant opportunities for enhancing education. It can process vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and provide recommendations, aiding in personalized learning, curriculum development, and administrative tasks. AI is adaptable and evolving, improving as it encounters new data. It’s designed to complement our efforts, handling routine tasks so we can focus on teaching.

However, AI is not a replacement for human interaction. It isn’t infallible and requires our oversight to function effectively. Its value lies in how we guide and implement it, ensuring ethical and effective use in our classrooms.

AI integration comes with challenges. There’s an inequality of access; those who need these technologies the most often have the least access. AI also centralizes control, potentially increasing costs and presenting ethical and regulatory dilemmas. There’s also the issue of academic integrity—are students cheating, or are we asking the wrong questions?

Despite these challenges, AI offers tremendous opportunities. It can fill gaps where teachers cannot be present, assist in measuring hard-to-assess skills, democratize content development, and inform strategic investments in education.

New opportunities for educators with AI

Automate routine tasks

One of the most immediate benefits of AI in education is its ability to automate routine tasks, freeing up valuable time for teachers. Administrative duties such as grading, attendance tracking, and scheduling can be efficiently managed by AI systems. This automation allows teachers to focus more on instructional activities and student engagement, enhancing the overall learning experience.

Personalize learning experiences

AI enables the creation of personalized learning experiences tailored to the needs of each student. By analyzing data on student performance, learning styles, and progress, AI systems can provide customized recommendations and resources. This personalized approach helps address individual learning gaps and fosters a more inclusive educational environment where all students can thrive.

Develop and curate content

Teachers can leverage AI to develop and curate educational content more effectively. AI can assist in creating interactive and adaptive learning materials that respond to the needs of students in real-time. Additionally, AI can help in curating existing content, ensuring that the resources provided are relevant, up-to-date, and aligned with curriculum standards.

Enhance feedback and assessment

AI can transform the way feedback and assessment are conducted in education. Automated grading systems can provide instant feedback on assignments and exams, allowing students to learn from their mistakes and improve continuously. AI-driven assessment tools can also evaluate complex skills and competencies that are difficult to measure through traditional methods, offering a more comprehensive understanding of student abilities.

Facilitate collaborative learning

AI can facilitate collaborative learning by connecting students and teachers across different locations. Virtual classrooms, powered by AI, can bring together diverse groups of learners, enabling them to collaborate on projects and share knowledge. AI can also support group work by matching students with complementary skills and monitoring group dynamics to ensure effective collaboration.

Support teacher professional development

AI can play a significant role in teacher professional development. AI-driven platforms can provide personalized learning paths for teachers, recommending courses, resources, and professional development opportunities based on their interests and career goals. Additionally, AI can help in tracking progress and offering feedback, ensuring that teachers continually enhance their skills and stay updated with the latest educational trends.

Create global classrooms

With AI, teachers can leverage AI tools to create global classrooms that bridge geographical and cultural gaps. AI-powered translation tools can facilitate communication between students and teachers who speak different languages, fostering a more inclusive and diverse learning environment. This global approach can enrich the educational experience by exposing students to a variety of perspectives and cultures.

Foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills—especially in areas that are hard to measure

AI can assist in developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. Through AI-driven simulations and problem-based learning activities, students can engage with real-world scenarios and practice applying their knowledge in practical contexts. This hands-on approach helps students develop the skills necessary to navigate complex challenges and innovate solutions.

Encourage creativity and innovation

AI provides new avenues for encouraging creativity and innovation in the classroom. Teachers can use AI tools to support creative projects, such as digital storytelling, coding, and multimedia production. By integrating AI into these activities, students can explore new ways of expressing their ideas and develop a deeper understanding of technological tools and their applications.

Enable continuous learning and improvement

AI supports a culture of continuous learning and improvement for both teachers and students. By providing ongoing insights and recommendations, AI helps identify areas for growth and development. This continuous feedback loop fosters a mindset of lifelong learning, where both educators and learners are committed to evolving and adapting in an ever-changing educational landscape.

In lieu of conclusion...

As educators, we must redefine our roles in the AI era. Embrace AI to automate mundane tasks and amplify our reach. Create and curate intentionally, using AI to enhance learning experiences. Challenge the status quo, reflect, and reinvent our roles. We must become knowmads ourselves—nerds, punks, hackers, geeks—innovators in the educational space.

Release yourself from traditional constraints, take risks, and build global classrooms. Use technology to bridge languages and cultures, connecting students and ideas. Co-create curricula with AI, involving students, parents, and communities in meaningful ways.

In this new era, it’s about agency and self-efficacy. We must empower ourselves and our students to take command of these technologies and use them purposefully. Remember, a hammer is just a tool—it’s how we wield it that makes all the difference. Use these tools to build something beautiful for the world.


Moravec, J.W. and Martínez-Bravo, M.C. (2023), Global trends in disruptive technological change: social and policy implications for education, On the Horizon, 31(3/4), 147-173. https://doi.org/10.1108/OTH-02-2023-0007