The Year in Review: Taylor Swift, AI, Educators, Chess Federations, the World
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly again.”
From the Beatles’ song Blackbird (1968), based on Kahlil Gibran’s novella, The Broken Wings
Paul McCartney’s lyric from Blackbird sets the tone for this review of educational chess trends and events likely to influence Chess in Education (CIE), for better or worse, in 2024.
In naming cultural icon Taylor Swift Person of the Year, Time Magazine ends its feature article with a reference to a note from Paul McCartney with the Blackbird lyric that hangs on her bathroom wall.
Taylor’s deeply personal stories of pain and overcoming have resonated with a whole generation. Her perseverance isn’t limited to her art. Her ERAS tour includes 151 tours across five continents; the average length of a performance: 3 ½ hours.
The teachers I meet in our CIE professional development have their own stories to tell of broken wings. Often the stories are of students who have lost their way as the result of broken families, closed schools, and fractured social relationships. Sometimes the story is about their own struggles with the economic, policy, and political conditions in which they find themselves.
There are welcome signs of hope and resilience amidst the post-pandemic social turbulence of 2023. Whether it is the inspiration of the Swift phenomenon, the enthusiasm I see of teaches newly exposed to educational chess, or the mushrooming popularity of chess among youth, there are new reasons for optimism in the coming year with respect to chess in education.
Here are a few of them.
Educational Chess Trends: AI
Prior to 2023, AI seemed like a slow moving, backroom phenomenon that commanded little attention from educators. Amid a pandemic, AI hadn’t provided any silver bullets to mitigate learning loss as schools shut down. Student disengagement happened and data suggests that recovering from it will be difficult, though educational chess can help.
Our coverage of AI in the past year included these posts:
- Educational and government institutions recognized the dramatic implication of AI for students and educators.
- AI Content Generators are being used to generate lesson plans and rubrics. CIE Certification programs are adding segments on AI use.
- Teachers are dabbling with AI on their own, often with mixed feelings.
- AI Content Generators are getting better at controlling hallucinations (making stuff up), but teachers need to take steps to control hallucinations.
- AI is a collection of multiple, distinctly different technologies. In a recent post, we broke out the various technologies and discussed their relevance to chess, while giving a light-hearted review of generative AI’s Chess Prowess. However, we should note that numerous chess training tools are now touting their “AI” capabilities. These seem to range from incremental improvements to existing chess engine tools, to distinctly new technology involving neural nets and generative AI. For example, Maia Chess bills itself as a human-like neural network chess engine.
We will continue to follow AI’s impact in 2024.
Educational Chess Trends: Educators
For Chess in Education to be seen as relevant, its proponents must understand the issues foremost in the minds of educators. In reviewing recent education publications, the educational trends of importance to CIE in 2024 are likely to be:
- Mental health: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – a continuing source of concern that has become chronic.
- Teacher retention & burnout – dramatic increases in the number of teachers and principals quitting or retiring in the 2021 and 2022 school year.
- Declining attention spans; microlearning – It’s a fact, and its related to phone use. But what are teachers to do about it: fight the trend through activities like chess that increase focus? Accommodate the trend through teaching techniques like microlearning?
- Blended learning – The pandemic made clear the importance of the social contact and practical effectiveness of traditional classrooms. At the same time, teachers gained an appreciation for the flexibility and accessibility of online tools. Blended learning seeks to provide the advantages of both.
- Artificial Intelligence – Discussed previously.
- Student absenteeism is out of control – Many students who left school during the pandemic did not return.Source: https://www.the74million.org/article/14-charts-that-changed-the-way-we-looked-at-americas-schools-in-2023/
- Learning loss remains a huge problem.Source: https://www.the74million.org/article/14-charts-that-changed-the-way-we-looked-at-americas-schools-in-2023/
- Grade inflation got worse during the pandemic. Source: https://www.the74million.org/article/14-charts-that-changed-the-way-we-looked-at-americas-schools-in-2023/
For advocates of Chess in Education, these are the topics that will get educators attention. We will explore how CIE addresses each of these topics in the coming year.
Educational Chess Trends: Federations
A rising level of interest in chess worldwide benefits both the competitive and educational chess communities.
The FIDE Chess in Education Commission met on December 9, 2023 to review the first year of progress. This was the first such review since the commission’s restructuring in late 2022. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with the Commission’s Chairman, Jerry Nash, for years as a colleague in our Chess in Education – US nonprofit. Still I was pleasantly surprised at the Commission’s accomplishments and the caliber of the members on the Commission. In one year, the Commission has moved from a strategy document of goals and objectives to substantial accomplishments on multiple fronts.
See our earlier post, FIDE Delivers on its 2023 Chess in Education Goals, for details of its 2023 accomplishments and plans for 2024. The Commission is following through on a new strategic plan with exciting undertakings in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In addition to information about a new CIE Curriculum and certification programs, FIDE has launched a major upgrade to the edu.fide.com website is now available with more content and capabilities to come in 2024. The organization is on track to exceed its goal of increasing the number of teachers trained in CIE by 20% per year.
US Chess – Chess in Education Committee
After a multi-year lapse, US Chess reconstituted its Chess in Education Committee in late 2022.
Activities in the Spring of 2023 included a series of five Sunday night webinars showcasing various after-school scholastic chess programs. Such programs arguably fall outside the generally accepted scope of “chess in education”. However, the final webinar in November featured an in-school program conducted in St. Louis County. The webinar displayed a curriculum developed for the St. Louis program and commentary about student and teacher reactions. Host Richard Pointer presented program effectiveness results by a team of research partners, Dr. Matthew Pepper and Dr. Brian Kasida. This team is involved in organizing a St. Louis Chess Conference on the educational and social impacts of chess. The conference is tentatively scheduled for October 24-26, 2024 in St. Louis. [Editor’s note: More on this in a future blog.]
The Committee created an education subdirectory on the US Chess website for its mission, activities, event announcements, and a resource page. The page includes links to the video recordings of its webinars and a small set of US-based resources. At the time, the Committee’s leadership rejected requests to add resource links to chessineducation.org, edu.fide.com, and other international CIE links.
A new Committee leadership team will be in place in 2024. Also the current Executive Director of US Chess is leaving in February 2024. Christina Mullinax and Mark Indermaur are the new Committee co-chairs.
US Chess CIE Committee Plans
We asked Christina about the Committee’s plans for 2024. Here is her response.
- The Chess in Education Committee is committed to building on the success of our previous presentations on successful scholastic chess programs. Our theme for this year is chess being taught in the school year. We have several in the works and they will be posted to this website as they are announced.
- We are excited about the Chess in Education Conference in St. Louis in 2024 and the opportunity for all kinds of participation. While our committee does not have direct involvement with organizing the conference, we will be assisting in the promotion of this event as our last webinar showed. [Editor’s Note: we too are excited about this! Look for more information and commentary from us in 2024.]
- As mentioned in our webinar, we are always accepting people to reach out to discuss the possibility of them hosting or collaborating with us in our webinars. This year, we are of course focused on chess being taught during the school day.
- … We look forward to collaborating with you on our shared Chess in Education interests.
Educational Chess Trends: The World
Friend, colleague, and FIDE EDU commissioner Jerry Nash met with CIE leaders around the world in 2023. He personally visited England, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Italy, India, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Guyana, and Hungary. Many other Zoom meetings brought together federation and government leaders to strategize on implementing country-wide CIE initiatives.
I asked him about the state of Chess in Education and what we can expect in the new year. Jerry’s response:
“The global interest in chess in education – from chess federations and government education leaders – has never been higher. In 2024, the EDU Commission plans to continue its work to advance the message of chess as an educational tool, to share new resources for educators, and to help countries to develop sustainable and scalable CIE initiatives.”
Best wishes in the new year to all our readers. May your CIE programs take flight and soar in ’24.
Neil Dietsch is a co-founder and Managing Director of Chess in Education – US. His professional background is in IT and management consulting. He has served as the Alabama Chess Federation president, a US Chess delegate, and a presenter at London Chess Conferences.