The emergence of AI-natives

Antonios Karampelas
4 min readAug 25, 2023
Conception of an AI-native person, created with AI.

The term “digital-native” has been used to identify a technological generation of people who were born within the internet era, making use of electronic devices such as personal computers and mobile phones with access to the internet from a young age. Consequently, this population developed a “digital intuition”. Even though the validity of the term “digital-native” is not undisputable, and educational systems and underlying societal structures, including access to the internet, are not homogeneous across the globe, it could be agreed that today’s youth is using technology more intuitevely and more productively than their parents and grandparents. This is why, for example, we discuss about the impact of extended screen time by students on their attention span in the classroom — something not relevant to the preceding technological generation of, say, “analog-natives”.

A significant portion of educational institutions and entire educational systems have been working on modernizing the learning designs in order to stay relevant to this technology-based change and provide quality education to their digital-native students. The integration of electronic devices in the classroom, the use of Google for research purposes by the students, and the inclusion of media like slide presentations and Youtube videos into the teachers’ instructional arsenal are a few among many such interventions.

But is that all? The tectonic change brought by the release of reasoning engines such as ChatGPT signals the emergence of a brand-new technological generation that will grow in an artificial intelligence-rich environment: The AI-natives. This generation will populate the primary education classrooms of the near future, requiring modes of learning that will align with their AI-intuition. They will immerse to and collaborate with AI efficiently to build and demonstrate their learning, especially from Middle/High-school and beyond, to later impact the workforce.

Technological Generations

The Table below lists major characteristics of each technological generation, from analogue to AI. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully it brings some clarity in terms of classification.

Characteristics of different technological generations.

People in different generations live and learn in their own unique ways that are enabled by the respective technological landscape, among others. This is why it is important for educators and administrators to take into account the specifics of each generation in order to maximize learning.

The categorization above is not fixed, though. A portion of analogue-natives have adapted to digital technology. Let’s call them Analogue-to-Digital! Then, a few of them have developed an AI intuition (Analogue-to-AI!). Similarly, a portion of digital-natives is adapting to reasoning engines, thus becoming Digital-to-AI. This consideration serves to showcase not only the overlaps between the different states of technology intuition (already not precisely defined), but also the natural evolution of humans according to their environment in terms of technology skills.

The diagram below visualizes the aforementioned concepts.

Technological generations.

It might not be too far from truth to say that the majority of today’s

  • Students are either digital-natives or digital-to-AI
  • Teachers, professors, educational leaders and administrators are analogue-natives and analogue-to-digital, at different extents.

Ideally, professional development would support and enable the transision to the “next” state, e.g., from analogue-to-digital to analogue-to-AI.

Glimpses of the Future of Education

How could an assignment look like in a high school class of AI-natives? Maybe it would be better to approach this scenario from different points of view. Imagine students researching on the different types of clouds (stratus, cumulus, cirrus, etc.).

  • An analogue-native student could be asked to visit a library and find meteorology-related books or encyclopedia sections, take notes of the characteristics of different cloud types, and hand-write an informative essay.
  • A digital-native student could be asked to use a search engine such as Google to identify and critically select relevant internet resources, and compile an informative slide presentation with important takeaways in text form accompanied by photographs, diagrams, and animations.
  • An AI-native student could be asked to join forces with a reasoning engine of the ChatGPT kind in a mixed-intelligence approach to construct a parametric model of cloud types that the rest of the class could interact with using natural language.

This is just one scenario of how a certain assignment could be transformed through the different technological generations, for illustration and thought-provoking purposes. Preparing a system that would maximize the learning of AI-natives would also involve, among others, the consideration of future professional development needs, emerging mid-21st century skills, effective use of screen time by students, etc. Nevertheless, most of the stakeholders in education might agree on the need to

modernize education for the digital-natives in the next few years, and transform education for the AI-natives by the end of the decade

On a similar note, Allie K. Miller has posted that we need to consider what AI can do today within the current structure, what AI may be able to do tomorrow in the current structure, and how AI might completely transform the structure.

We are only limited by our imagination!

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Antonios Karampelas

I am a Science, STEAM, and AI educator holding a PhD in Astrophysics. I write about the AI and Learning Analytics paradigm shifts in education.