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AI leaders focus on impact on education at Derry conference
By Anna Maguire

Leading figures from the world of artificial intelligence (AI) have met in Londonderry to discuss the impact of the technology on education at a conference.

Delegates at Ulster University's Magee Campus heard from Microsoft and the National Centre for AI, among others.

On Monday, GenAIEdu hosted workshops examining how AI platforms generate teaching material.

The role of AI in the higher education sector was also discussed.

The event, which will take place over three days will see a variety of speakers explore the potential benefits of AI for people working in coding and digital design, as well as industry more widely.

Speakers at the event on Monday included Sue Attewell, who is a co-leader of the National Centre for AI in tertiary education and Dr Cris Bloomfield, a senior industry architect with Microsoft.

Attendees at the event on Monday also heard from Manjinder Kainth a co-founder and chief executive officer of Graide, an AI enhanced assessment and feedback platform.

'AI will bring some significant changes'
Professor Colin Turner from Ulster University's Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, said the future of AI will present both challenges and also opportunities.

"I think like a lot of technological changes, for example the worldwide web, it [AI] will bring some significant changes and some of those will provide some challenges, but there will be a lot of opportunities as well," Prof Turner told BBC Radio Foyle's North West Today programme.

"Really the purpose of this summit is to make sure that we are off quickly into that proper, full blown, honest conversation about those challenges, about the ethical considerations, and making sure that we get the benefit for our students, but also for the industry in the north west and beyond."

In May, in a letter to the Times, educators from the UK's state and private sector described developments in AI as "bewildering".

AI is the "greatest threat but also potentially the greatest benefit to our students, staff and schools", the group of teachers, led by Sir Anthony Seldon, headteacher of Epsom College in England, said in the letter.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said regulation had to evolve at the same time as rapid changes made in AI.

Prof Turner said that striking a balance in the approach to AI was crucial.

"Our responsibility as a university is to ensure that our research and our curriculum at the Derry/Londonderry campus helps to prepare industry...so that it's not a seismic shock and we are with the front of the wave rather than pushed along at force," he said.

"The important thing for us is to be quick and responsive to these changes rather than dragged along by them."

Last week, a group representing the software industry in Northern Ireland said the region can be a testing centre for artificial intelligence in the UK.

It followed an announcement by Belfast-based IT firm Kainos that it was investing £10m to develop the use of generative AI in its business.