The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) is nearly as old as the concept of formalized education. It is clear that current and future developments in AI will have a profound impact on the future of education and the ability of educators to deliver a quality experience for students. Tech companies, administrators, educators and students will have to work together to ensure AI delivers on its promise and enables educators and students to reach their full potential.
The Development of AI
Although the idea of intelligent machines first appeared in Greek mythology, the term AI did not occur until the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. Today, AI is discussed as the intelligence exhibited by machines or software, from phone calculators to self-driving cars.
While general AI still falls in the realm of science fiction and Hollywood, major advances are happening in AI where computers are trained and given the ability to master a specific task. For example, information retrieval and natural language AI processing like IBM’s Watson broke new ground when the latter became a champ on Jeopardy! as well as a cookbook author. Additionally, neural networks like Google’s AlphaGo project are displaying basic creativity and intuition in addition to the ability to learn and acquire a skill.
Tech giants and universities have realized that these developments hold promise for the modern classroom and have already begun looking for ways to apply AI to education. The Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR) in Spain has launched the iLime project, which is an adaptive learning system that accounts for students’ learning in informal and formal settings to generate personalized guidance recommendations to help them reach their goals. Similarly, Facebook and Summit’s K-12 Education Project is an adaptive learning platform that creates personalized learning plans for individual student achievement. And IBM Watson Analytics for Everyone has developed personalized career and degree advisors for students, support tools for students, educator training tools, and cognitive tutors. The key benefit with each of these programs is the personalization they provide for modern students.
The Future of AI in Education
The integration of AI into the classroom has the potential to support educators as well as students. By providing real-time ongoing analysis and feedback, educators would be able to eliminate the need to stop and administer standardized tests to assess student mastery. Instead, teachers could create assignments that adapt instruction based on current student performance to keep each student challenged appropriately. AI could also be used to introduce subjects to the class so that teachers can focus on helping students with the application of the subject during class time.
Additionally, AI could provide teachers a helping hand and begin to close gaps created by diverse classroom needs. For example, it can provide ESL and bilingual education instruction or serve as personal tutors that follow a curriculum set for each student. Training programs, like Techline, are growing to prepare educators for these kinds of new classroom situations.
In addition to supporting teachers, there are many benefits of AI for students. It can facilitate deeper learning experiences outside the classroom, while also generating analytics from homework assignments so educators can address individual student issues in the classroom. AI could also create adaptive textbooks that augment content based on student mastery. Finally, thinking ahead to a new wave of students, AI could become a lifelong learning companion that follows students throughout their educational career and beyond.
Educators, tech companies, students and parents need to work together to inform the design of new AI tools. It is important to realize that there are valuable “human skills” that AI can’t teach—these skills become even more important as AI advances. This means we must remember that human educators are the best for teaching human students how to manage human exchanges. Additionally, we must ensure that ALL students benefit from the combination of skilled human educators using the best AI tools available, not just the socio-economically advantaged students.
Takeaway: Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the ability to enhance education by enabling educators and students to reach their full potential, from educator training to academic advising to lifelong learning inside and outside the classroom. While AI holds much promise, it’s up to educators, tech companies, parents and students to work together to ensure new tools serve to benefit everyone.
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