What The AI Personal Learning Device Looks Like With Andrew Pass

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Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for this episode is Andrew Pass, Founder and chief “Visionary” of A Pass Education. Andy has led the company since its founding in 2009 and was named a top EdTech influencer in 2023.

In this ‘futuristic’ talk, Andy and I talk about

  • What might a personalized AI device look like for a learner? (PS. It’s not a tablet or phone)
  • What would an AI device know about a learner? 
  • How would the material and instructions from such a device be verified and certified? And how would such a device be trained to be a truly “great” teacher or mentor?
  • We continue down this rabbit hole to discuss how such a device might have very different instructions and outcomes depending upon where the learner lives, local politics and community desires
  • We end our conversation with Andy’s views on how this device might actually come into being.


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a company leveraging open -source software to deliver effective, customized, and engaging learning experiences for schools, universities, companies, and governments around the world since 2005.
Learn more at Open LMS .net. Hi there, my name’s Ladek, and my guest for this episode is Andrew Pass. The founder and visionary of A Pass Education. Andy has led the company since its founding in 2009 and was named a top edTech influencer in 2023.
In this futuristic talk, Andy and I talk about what might a personalized AI device look like for a learner. And PS, in Andy’s opinion, it’s not a tablet or a phone.
We also talk about what would an AI device know about a learner and how would it bring that to bear on the content it creates and the direction it takes that learner. We then move our conversation into talk about how would the material and instructions from such a device be verified and certified?
And how would such a device be trained to be a truly great teacher or mentor? And then we continue down this rabbit hole to discuss how such a device might have very different instructions and outcomes depending upon where a learner lives,
the local politics and community desires. We then end our conversation with Andy’s views on how this device might actually come into being. Now remember,
we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you, our listeners, in real time. So if you’d like to join the phone every week on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on YouTube, just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe.
Now, I give you Andy Pass. Hello everyone, welcome to the Elearn podcast. As you just heard, my name is Ladek. and I am here with a gentleman who probably needs no introduction.
I mean, I think that you’ve been around the block for quite a while. His name is Andy Pass. Mr. Pass, how are you doing today? – Good Mr. Ladik, good to meet you. Good to, well, I meet you, I’m knowing you,
but it’s good to be with you. – Yeah, absolutely, 100%. You know, and as before in the green room, before we pushed play, before we pushed go here, you said, I wanted to make sure that people saw my awesome bike behind me.
So tell me about that bike behind you. – Oh, so that bike behind me is a truck. On April 4th, 2020, I was in a bad bicycle accident.
Maybe some of the viewers could see this, but I don’t know. I broke my arm in four places and tore a set of nerves. And three surgeries later,
I said to my significant other Debbie, it’s time to start riding again. And I think she essentially laughed at me. (laughing) And she said,
not on a bicycle. And I said, well, how about if we compromise on a truck, or a recumbent truck? And that is a picture.
Well, wait, first she said, okay, but I’m gonna give you a note to carry with you at all times because the last time you felt and got into an accident,
you called me. And the note is gonna say, if I fall, who to call. – Nice. (laughing) – But what you see there is actually the back tire of my triad dipping into the Atlantic Ocean before I left on a cross -country trip to the Pacific.
– Wow. And I put it up there because it’s like beginnings are more important than endings just begin I’m gonna I’m gonna I’m gonna leave that profundity just I’m gonna let that lead I’m gonna let that hang out there because we’re gonna talk about beginnings.
We’re gonna talk about You know, we’re kind of on the the the beginning cusp of this transformation But but before we go down that path, I want you to explain to anybody who hasn’t heard of you before Anybody who hasn’t heard of a past education You know give us the 90 seconds on who you are where you come from what you focus on those kinds of things So we really believe that all students Deserve the right to
become self -fulfilling individuals who can make positive contributions to society in short that’s all students deserve to be a poet and We believe that the best way to do that is by developing creatively engaging content and so we have hundreds of Contractors who work with us who are writers editors subject matter experts Instructional designers artists producers world language experts and we develop courses Lesson plans
assessment items learning objects textbooks for different organizations No, right bad that I mean you do it all there you go So what and so now I I was looking to the fact that we’re on the cusp right now or we’re in that one of those beginnings and That is something I think I am not the first person or the only one saying this the age of artificial intelligence,
right? We’ve gone from having it operating in the background for the last 20 some odd years Maybe 30 years to being generative products that every consumer is using and the thing that you wanted to talk about was was what does a personalized AI device look like for a student?
So set the stage for us. Tell us your vision. Tell us what’s there. What is that in your… What are you putting on the table there? So the vision is that every student brings so many different characteristics with them into the learning process.
Be it the way that they think about content, the way that they ingest content through their senses, the different experiences that they’ve had.
Even on a given day, the challenges that they’re struggling with that have nothing to do with learning. I envision a day when every student is going to have a personal learning device.
And with that personal learning device, it’s going to understand the student deeply, about as deeply as you can get. Okay. And therefore,
it is going to be able to provide access to the content, a .k .a. teach the content in just the right way that the student needs the content taught.
Now, there’s all kinds of questions. So I’m going to stop there and let you… Sure. Yeah. So the first thing in your mind right now, I mean, we’re here, it’s August 2023.
What does that look like to you? Does that look like a tablet? Is it a smart device? Like, if I were to just… What’s the physical manifestation of this thing?
I envision it actually being sort of like a wristwatch that has a beam that comes up.
And there’s like an avatar that interacts with the student. So it’s a straight -up R2D2 kind of thing. Oh, yeah. Okay. Sort of like Princess Lam.
Help me Obi -Wan. Does anything like that… I mean, is this truly a vision for something that is…
Who knows? Maybe a year from now. I don’t know. But is this something that doesn’t exist at all? Or have you already seen either pieces of this or are you working on something like that or what?
So I’ve seen that we’re getting closer and closer to it. Perhaps not with the watch, but with the differentiated instruction that asks learners questions and then provides them with different tutorials to teach them the information that they need.
And we are not currently working on something like this because we don’t develop our own content or our own products. I prefer to think of us as the McKinsey of the content development world for K20.
But this is obviously an idea that we could theoretically bring to some companies somewhere and help them develop. And I do think that in time we’re going to get to a point where that’s a real possibility.
In fact, just not a possibility. There’s something that is going to be there. And then parents are going to have a difficult time making a decision. Do they let the AI access every single thing about their child?
Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now, but if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged, if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re going to be able to get something out of this to put into your your practice, do me a quick favor.
Pause right now and just hit subscribe on your podcast player right now. It doesn’t matter which one, just hit subscribe, because that way it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now, back to the show.
– I was just, you’ve already, yeah, you’re stealing my next question because I know that already we have huge debates. Let’s forget about kids for a second. We already have huge debates around access of your data,
around my personally, just using like a smart device or a smart phone right now, right? I mean, there’s the amount of data that is being ingested by these, by tech giants and whatnot, and then used for good,
bad, ugly, and everything in between purposes is something. But then you put kids in the mix and then it becomes a real thing. So what would, in your mind, what would an AI device like this know about a student?
Like what kind of parental controls would you have around it, et cetera? – Well, in my science fiction mind, if you will,
it would know everything, even fantasies, things that nobody else knows about the child, and perhaps the child doesn’t even know about him or herself.
So that it can use those things to produce the very highest quality learning experience.
But perhaps, and obviously we’re talking science fiction, so it can be further constrained, the parents could set with the school parameters as to what the tool can know about the child and what it can’t.
– Mm -hmm, and where would guidance come in in terms of a learning pathway,
in terms of subject matter material, in terms of direction in general, in terms of ensuring, I guess, let’s just leave it there.
What kind of guidance would you see there? Because if I’m giving someone or a student in sixth grade, grade, you know, this watch that sort of is a self -guided tour to it, to whatever they want to learn,
does that create a million different paths for a million different kids or a billion different kids or whatever? And how do we, how do we guide that? You know, where’s the role for the teacher? – So I’m not saying that the student can pick anything that they want to learn.
I’m saying that this AI will present it in just the right way that’s best for the student to learn it.
So I still think that there are gonna be standards set at the state level that the AI will have to know.
I actually wrote an article talking about the fact that Lee Shulman in 1986, who was professor at Stanford’s currently emeritus and the president of the Carnegie Foundation for Education constructed this model called the pedagogical content knowledge.
– Okay. – And according to, can I go? – Oh yeah, no, please take me down that path. I’m, yeah. – So pedagogical content knowledge or PCK is what a good teacher needs to know about any subject area in order to teach it.
So for example, you can describe pedagogical knowledge as anything that all teachers need to know that it’s held in common. For example,
an open -ended question can be extremely powerful or don’t stand behind your desk, move amongst the students, dot, dot, dot.
There’s all kinds of different principles. Content knowledge is what you need to know about the discipline that you’re actually teaching. so What are the what’s the substance of the discipline?
How is new knowledge created for the discipline? Good teachers know that But then there’s pedagogical content knowledge Which is what good teachers know about the subject that they’re teaching?
What are the misconceptions and preconceptions that students have about content? What are the best metaphors to use to explain the contents to students? So in my mind this AI is gonna have pedagogical knowledge content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge Wow,
okay, cool. And then so you’re saying you’re you’re you’re gonna connect that to a Standard system a you know, I guess that’s which again, it’s very interesting to me At what point do you and I’d love to hear your opinion on this?
Because you even just said yourself that a standard set at a state system, right? You’re sitting in the United States right now those those standards, you know very around the world Is there a convergence that we start to see in this age of AI especially with a device like this where?
though those content necessities or those Education necessities start to converge so that becomes similar across State country boundaries, you know those kinds of things.
Well, I think on the contrary we’re saying it diverges Okay, I mean if you compare California and Florida Well, okay,
sure. Yeah, go go down that rabbit hole. Yes, sir And what they’re mandating that their students learn We have a red curriculum and a blue curriculum Despite Barack Obama’s comment that went out of red States of America or blue States of America were United States of America I think we’re very much red and blue and now you bring into Cut into mind other countries and the standards that they need to learn I don’t think
that or had it anyone near a Convergence of standards Mm -hmm. Well, I guess then I guess that’s my question is theoretical.
Okay, then let me ask another question to you As someone who’s built content for hundreds of clients thousands of clients over, you know, the past couple decades here Are there ways to agree on,
you know, I guess where do we find common sources of the truth? You know, in what places do we find them, especially in the K through 12 universe where we’re talking fundamentals of math, you know fundamentals of science fundamentals of You know social history those kinds of things or do we so I think it’s easier to find fundamentals of agreement When it comes to the hard sciences Perhaps but even there.
I mean, do you believe in creationism or evolution? Mm -hmm and proponents of both describe it as truth with the capital T And then when you bring in social history,
I Don’t think that you ever are going to Have a single source of the truth. Yes. Have a single source of the truth. Yeah Which is scary.
It’s very interesting. The fact is is You can no longer turn on the TV and Expect what you see on whatever cable channel to reflect as neutral of a perspective as possible you know the Vietnam war ended when Walter Cronkite came back from Vietnam and Described it on TV as just a disaster hmm don’t have a Walter Cronkite who is trusted by the majority of Americans anymore.
Interesting. So let’s go back to our AI device. So this sounds like… This presents all kinds of interesting questions.
Like, if someone were to create a device, where would the data set come from in order to power it? Because obviously you can only draw on whatever data is available.
So do we have access to the internet where basically it’s a global knowledge database? How is that filtered? Do you have thoughts around that? So here’s my view on what’s going to happen with large limits for AI going forward.
I think we’re going to see more and more walled gardens. And what that means is different major publishers are going to have the LLMs particularly learn content that is owned by that publisher.
And therefore, and I would argue that the largest publishers will constrain what sources of information the AI learns so that it can be sold into states with different perspectives.
So even if it’s Savits, for example, which is a major K -12 publisher, Savits is going to have one set of information for California and one set of information for Florida.
There may be some overlap, but when it comes to things like history and social studies, I suspect that it’s going to be very different.
And even science, biology. And part of the reason for that is because publishers don’t play nicely together.
For years, the question has been, are we going to have a Spotify in education where you can go to a single site and pick and choose the content that you want?
We don’t have Steve Jobs in education, who obviously created Apple, forgot to call it Apple Music. Yeah, okay, the App Store, App Music, Apple Music,
iTunes or whatever happened. Yeah, but maybe if we do get a Steve Jobs, we will be able to make, he was forceful in making companies come together and put everything on the App Store and iTunes.
Who knows, maybe there will be somebody like that who comes, but we still don’t have him or her. So everything is, I think D -vergence is the word and the publishers are going to sell access to their own personal AIs.
Interesting. So I’m going to ask one more dangerous question. So it sounds to me like we, with that vision, we end up creating lots of silos,
lots of, you know, lots of bubbles, essentially, in not only the United States, but in different parts of the world. How do we break those boundaries? How do we move from one to another?
How do we learn about things outside the bubble that we’re presented with? – You know, I’m Jewish, Lenick. And in Judaism, there’s a concept that when someone asks you a question,
you ask them a question right back. (laughing) – Okay, I didn’t realize that was, that was exclusive to Judaism, okay? (laughing) – So I’m asking you,
as the information becomes more and more divergent, how do we ever come back together? – You know, I’m a huge proponent in, you know,
working towards solutions that look for human flourishing for everyone, right? So I mean, I think we’re all on this planet together. We all have much, much more in common than we do it apart. And so I don’t know that,
for me, this would be the role that a national government would play. This would be a role that a strong set of a majority of parents would play, especially, you know,
in a society like the United States or something like that. I wonder as well, though, what societal function or what societal moment would be required in order for us to kind of step back from some of the difficult conversations that we have right now and say,
“Hey, wait, you know what? “We’re kind of all in this together.” And I wonder what event or events set of events may be the catalyst for that, myself. So I don’t have a good answer,
but I’m very interested and I patiently watch to see what will be that catalyst that will do it. ‘Cause I feel like it’s inevitable, personally. – That’s interesting,
I think. So I read an interesting book not too long ago, but I can’t remember what the author’s name was, but it’s a New York Times editorialist and writes a bunch in which he said that Democrats and Republicans Republicans are further apart now than ever before.
But here’s the reason. In the past, people used to identify with issues. So for example,
if they were in favor of lower taxes, the title Democrat or Republican wasn’t so important. They wanted lower taxes or if they were pro -life,
the title Democrat or Republican wasn’t so important. They wanted pro -life. Nowadays, people are much more closely identifying with either Democrats or Republican.
And consequently, they’re saying to themselves, so how do the Republicans perceive this issue? Or how do the Democrats perceive this issue?
And you’re not getting the cross -party collaboration that you used to get when a person might have perceived one thing on one issue and something else on a different issue.
Now they’re just trying to identify with the parties. And personally, I think that the Democratic system of the United States is at risk.
And education can break down barriers. But at the same time,
it can also raise barriers. So there was a meme on Facebook, I think, a while ago of two little boys,
one black and one white. And they were asked, what’s the difference between the two of you? And they didn’t identify race Sure,
they identified haircut or height But race was just insignificant But by the time You learn in school Race becomes more important Unfortunately Just as young children enter school Asking all kinds of questions Why why why?
But then as they go through school they become more and more inhibited from asking questions and So education can be a real good But it can also set up huge impediments for success So take us back to our AI device How will our AI device?
help to fulfill the mission of a past education in terms of empowering a learner in terms of You know creating that confidence to ask that why why why in terms of Breaking down those barriers.
What what how could we how could we create something that would allow for learners to? You know create their own, you know a learning journey that is specific to themselves,
but one that also engenders That positive future that positive outcome That’s a really great question I’m sitting here thinking about as you asked and Forgive me for thinking it through out loud sure of course But I mean we’re literally on the beginning of this of this conversation for everyone.
I mean, I don’t think anyone has an answer, right? probably not and So a pass as I said Tries to think of itself. It does think of itself as the McKinsey of the content development world for K20 which means that we help organizations ideate as to what they want to build.
And we help organizations think of the best products and how they might bring products together and have cohesive visions.
And at the same time, if they wanna separate products, do that as well. But ultimately, I would argue that in the K20 space,
every education company needs to be reactive or it is not going to succeed. And it needs to be reactive to the state standards because that dictates what is taught in schools.
– Okay. – And what is tested, and the tests are developed by State Department of Education, is taught.
So sadly, I don’t know if on our own we’ll be able to break down those barriers.
What we will be able to do, however, is to provide creatively engaging content and creatively engaging content in my mind.
I’m not talking about cartoons. I’m talking about meaningful products. Teach kids how to think and how to be critical analyzers.
And once you know how to think, the kids themselves can break down those barriers. barriers and become a more cohesive society.
I’m not sure what I’m not sure what question to ask you next about because we’ve gone into a place in this conversation I did not expect, which is totally fantastic.
Because it’s a fundamental piece that I think I see a lot of people talking about now more and more. So recently, I met and had a conversation with a gentleman named John Fila.
He’s a educator in Minnesota, who, you know, talks a lot about the discussions that are happening in school boards and, you know, in community meetings around these school boards and whatnot about AI producing content that is biased and,
you know, especially liberal in nature and those kinds of things. And so I’m very interested to know, or I’m interested to see, how do we come to an agreement on what we would use these tools for and who would have access to them?
And again, it really comes back to, I mean, an algorithm is an algorithm. It’s the data that you connect it to. And so if my school district only has access to, you know,
data sets A through B, you know, A through C, but your school system has access to data sets A through Z, what does that mean for the conversations that I’m able to have,
the content that I have access to the answers that I’m able to receive? And just sort of the, you know, the choices that I’m presented with as a possibility,
especially if I’m on such a super impressionable K through six or any kind of thing. Thoughts on that? I would say that we need to make a commitment as a society to increase communication,
even when there’s disagreement. But we have to be focused on ideas, not the people. Sure. And when we can focus on the ideas and teach people to be critical thinkers,
they’ll know how to ask the right questions and listen for the answers and not think about where can they inject the next idea. That even if one school is teaching A through C and the next school is teaching A through Z,
students will develop the collaborative discussion skills that will enable moving forward.
But the kids aren’t going to do this on their own. The students aren’t going to do this on their own. Society has to make a real commitment to do just that.
And guys like you and I can call for that. But I think that there’s going to need to be more guys and gals calling for it before anything happens.
And I’ll go further and say if 2024 is a rematch between President Biden and former President Trump,
I don’t think we’re going to have anyone near that unless potentially a third party candidate Sneaks up and historically this country does something.
It’s never done before and elect that third party candidate But then again that third party candidate may not be effective in any way because they’re gonna have to work with a two -party Congress ah We have we have Definitely moved into a into a conversation that is is unexpected and probably We probably stepped over the line in terms of what our audience wants to hear So take me back to this But what the thing that
as you were as you were kind of describing you know As you were talking through some of those pieces there that the thing that was going through my mind was We know that if anybody wants to break the rules,
it’s gonna be kids, right? And so I’m just wondering I’m going back to our personal AI device that I’m you know Let’s just say I’m giving one of these and even though it’s a let’s call the smartphone Let’s call the tablet whatever you want to call it There’s gonna be hackers Right,
and there’s gonna be you know, hey, I’m not quite satisfied either with that answer or I think there’s more or there’s something different Or you know, I hey, I’ve got a cousin who actually is over in you know A different part of the world and they told me about x y and z and I can’t see that so I want to go see it You know,
there’s there’s a reason to hack I got faith in the hackers personally What about you? What about you? I think they play a real important role in the technological systems Hmm.
Yeah for a hundred percent cool So what would you so here’s how I want to kind of tie this conversation in a bow right now? We’re we’re in the age of a A thousand new,
you know companies a day and a thousand new apps a day around these generative a diet products I’m sure you know in your in your business. You’re seeing, you know, you’re just overloaded with them as well What do you see happening over the next,
you know, 12? 24 months in terms of real tangible outcomes and and shake out around these generative products like What do you see? You know, what do you see like up?
You know school districts showing up with or anything like that? I’m not sure about the districts themselves themselves. It depends on their tech leaders as to how advanced they’re going to be in using the AI tools that are developed.
I think that the students are going to be at the forefront as they have been for decades in knowing how to use AI and when to use AI,
excuse me, and it’s really a question of teaching students how to use it effectively. But I think that the companies are going to be continuously making apps that use AI to fulfill their functions.
And we’re just going to see a proliferation of apps of every kind, whether it’s to help students triangulate content in social studies or help students gather data and science observations or so many other things.
But I really think that those apps are where the next two to three years of content development and tool development are and bringing it back to the personal learning device.
I think that ultimately the personal learning device will have access to these different apps or whatever is paid for however that’s done so that students can be presented with content in a myriad of different ways.
Fantastic. Andy Pass, I’m going to put a pin in it there. This has been an unexpectedly deep and profound conversation. I really appreciate it. it. I appreciate you putting it on the table there like that.
And the fact that we kind of jumped there from talking about what could a personalized, personal AI device look like, I’m always fascinated where these conversations go. If I or someone who’s listening to us right now wanna talk to you further about what a pass education does or the future of AI in general,
how do they get a hold of you? – They can email me at andrew .pass @apasseducation .com. – Fantastic.
We’ll leave it there, but thank you very much for taking time out of your day. I wish you all the best and good luck on your next bike trip. – Thank you very much, it was great to be here. – Thank you again for listening to the E -Learn podcast here from Open LMS.
I just wanted to ask one more time. If you enjoyed this show, if you learned something, if you were inspired, if you were challenged, if you feel like this is something you can take into your practice, please do me a favor.
And right now on your podcast player, hit subscribe. That way you’re never going to miss a future episode. Also, come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe there as well, because we have tons of great information about how to create killer online learning outcomes.

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