Education Innovator: Don't Use AI for Basic Tutoring, Use it to Give Teachers Superpowers

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Olivia Hebert
June 28, 2024
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Over the summer MagicSchool intern Olivia Hebert had the privilege of interviewing Ted Dintersmith, an education visionary and supporter of MagicSchool.

Ted Dintersmith is a change agent focused on the impact of education and innovation on the future of civil society. His professional background spans technology, entrepreneurship, and public policy. He was ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing U.S. venture capitalist for 1995-1999. In 2012, President Obama appointed him to represent our country at the United Nations General Assembly. More recently, he executive produced the acclaimed documentary Most Likely to Succeed and co-authored with Tony Wagner a book with the same title. In 2018, he received NEA's prestigious "Friend of Education" Award. Ted earned a PhD in Engineering from Stanford and an undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary, with High Honors in Physics and English. When he's not visiting schools, he lives in central Virginia.

With a passionate drive to revamp education and a deep understanding of the connection between technology and learning, Dintersmith provides valuable insights into how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can revolutionize classrooms and redefine student engagement.

Dintersmith on the Future of AI in Education

OLIVIA: So my first question is, how has your educational experience influenced your thoughts regarding the current state of education in our country and your vision for education?

TED: The back story... I'm 71 and I went to school. I spent a lot of years in school and I spent most of my life assuming ... that everything about school made sense.

And if you had asked me, what should our priorities be? I would have said up until maybe 10 -15 years ago higher test scores, more kids graduated from high school, more kids off to four year colleges. If we just do that, everything is alright.

And well, I went through a period, a transition period when my own kids got to middle school. And having brought a vantage point of a career in technology innovation, that I looked at what they were being pushed to do, how they were tested and how they were rewarded.

And I realized there was a massive disconnect between the priorities of school and the priorities of life and to be specific: they would excel if they could do increasingly irrelevant, low level skills, things like memorizing content, replicating low level procedures and following instructions. And I knew from my technology background, that's exactly what machine intelligence does well and gets better and better and better at every month.

And at the same time, I looked at what was going on and I felt they were being discouraged from being curious or creative or audacious. And it was grounds for, you know, an F on a test or even expulsion if you leveraged available resources to be more productive. I just said, like we've got this 100% backwards, you know – that going forward as everything routine is done by a machine – adults are gonna need to be creative and curious and audacious. Just know how to leverage technology resources at their fingertips and machines will do other low level level stuff.

And so that's when my life changed. I started visiting lots of schools and meeting lots of people and funded and produced films and have written books and, you know, been all over the country, all around the world, visiting schools. And, and I advocate for completely rethinking the priorities because if in fact millions and millions and millions of young adults go through a school process that ill serves them for thriving in a world where innovation is ubiquitous, you know, then we've let them down. And the more people in society we let down, the more we sow the seeds for the collapse of democracy.

And that seemed to me like a very important thing to focus on. So that's been my life for, you know, a dozen years. I've got a nonprofit I fund that does work with school districts and even states. And I just call for giving kids more voice in their learning, connecting that learning to real world challenges and through the process, equipping them with the skills and mindsets they'll need. And I punctuate that by saying, guess what that doesn't happen in normal school?

OLIVIA: Wonderful. And then kind of along those lines, what excites you about the power of using AI in schools to do things like that, to personalize learning and free up time for human connection.

TED: So I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities presented by AI. I know we live in a world where many people like to dwell on the risk and the threats – of which there are some. I'm not discounting that. But fundamentally, what we're seeing now is stunning in terms of how it can help us be dramatically more productive in pursuing our goals and dreams.

What I worry about, especially with schools, is that many in the school system – particularly policy leaders – kind of hope it'll go away. They want to ignore it. Some might even think, "Oh, we can use AI to figure out when kids are cheating" or use AI for meaningless, pointless assignments. You see major organizations, thinking that the right thing to do is to use AI to tutor kids on low-level tasks that AI does perfectly. And that's just so wrong.

We should be doing what MagicSchool is doing: unleashing the power of AI to make our educators, and in turn, our students, dramatically more productive. I believe that those on the right side of artificial intelligence – those who can leverage its productivity advantages as adults – are going to be off to the races. However, those who are on the sidelines will face significant challenges.

It's an incredible opportunity. Let's not blow it.

OLIVIA: Yeah, I definitely agree. And then I feel like you touched on this, but my final question is what sparked your interest in MagicSchool and made you want to support it.

TED: When I had a chance to catch up with Adeel and he gave me a demo, I, I looked at it and I said, wow, I mean, this is so amazingly impressive. And in particular, if you focus on the themes, I think went to which are challenging kids with more authentic task to complete or goals to pursue. Personalizing what you offer to kids to appeal to their interests and like where they are in their learning process, I think what MagicSchool does for an educator or a parent.

But, but anyone who's responsible for the development of a young child's skills and mindsets, you're able to personalize that in a matter of seconds instead of hours and, and that's powerful, right? I mean, if you can tailor the challenges you provide to a young adult who who has retained their curiosity and retained their creativity and now is taking up things that play to their strengths and interests tied to thoughtful assessments to determine whether they're really mastering what they're spending time on, that unleashes the real power of education.

And I think we lived in a world where we've all said we would like to do that. But then schedules, you know, come into play and there are only so many hours a week and so we evolve into same old, same old standardized boring curriculum, multiple choice tests and we lose personalization in the true sense.

We lose personalization in education and personalization. Not every kid can go out there saying they do meaningless content they don't care about, don't retain them whatever use as an adult. That's false personalization. Real personalization is appealing to the kids' intrinsic interest and helping them develop their distinctive unique set of talents, giving potential to enter adulthood off and running.


Ted Dintersmith's insights shine a light on the exciting future of education. As an investor in MagicSchool, he's not just talking the talk; he's actively championing the transformation of our educational paradigms. The fusion of technology and education holds the promise of a future where students don't just learn – they thrive. By aligning our educational strategies with the ever-changing demands of the world, we're not just preparing our students for the future; we're creating a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow for everyone.

Learn more about his mission at and watch his TedxFargo Talk Prepare Our Students for Life, Not Standardized Tests”.