Education - Artificial Intelligence for Education - B-AIM PICK SELECTS

August 26, 2020







A child somewhere in “poor” India is having trouble with introductory algebra. This is new content for the child and the bigger problem the child faces is that the teacher is hardly ever in school. There is some hope, however, as s/he has good access to the Internet and to the many online teaching tools on the subject. Despite this, the child cannot afford a personalised online tutor and continues to struggle to understand the basic concepts. That, I believe, might be a close description of the current education system in India and many parts of the world.’


Now visualise a system where the child is given access to an online global intelligent education platform. As part of this system, the child is paired with a personalised BOT right after s/he enters school. This BOT develops a keen understanding of the child’s attributes and learning preferences by evaluating data of the child’s ongoing learning experiences.’


The BOT has access to a finite set of possible interventions – arising from learner-centric data derived from the experiences of millions of children learning algebra worldwide – to help the child overcome learning problems.


The BOT can parse all the learner-centric data to identify specific interventions suited to the particular child who is its responsibility – functioning as a virtual, personalised tutor. Personalised learning, the holy grail of education, is a definite reality in this hypothetical scenario. As I perceive it, making this a reality for children today is a distinct possibility.


Is this just in the realms of fiction or a potential reality? The recent growing importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to point such a scenario as a reality within our reach. However, there has also been growing concern over the ethical and moral use of AI coupled with a fear of AI and making many jobs redundant. Although the use of AI in the education sector is at the nascent stage, these fears are reflected as well and in particular to the rising sentiment that AI will replace teachers. 


Doucher and Evers, in their seminal book, “Teaching in the Fourth Revolution: Standing at the Precipice”, argue that AI will no doubt have a major impact in the way learning and teaching will happen in the future. There is no looking back. 

But what that future will look like is for us here at the present to guide that journey. One thing is for sure: the traditional roles of learners and teachers will evolve and will need to be more symbiotic. 

But before we go into details of AI’s role in education, some understanding of its scope is necessary. AI experts categorise three main types of AI: Strong AI, Weak AI and Artificial General Intelligence. These are well explored and the myth behind AI is discussed in this issue of The Blue Dot. These systems have been elaborated upon in detail and the myths surrounding them have been dispelled by some of the world’s foremost AI experts.

The second part of the AI and education relationship explores how AI can be used to improve learning and make it relevant for 21st century challenges. Articles written on this topic will explore whether the new world that I had proposed in the beginning of my message is achievable and if yes, what needs to be done to achieve that holy grail of education.


This issue was based on one of the five main themes of our recently concluded TECH 2018 conference in Vizag, India, titled ‘AI and Education’, for which some of the world’s leading experts were invited to elaborate on the theme. Equally important to have is the discussion on the privacy and ownership of information that will be generated by learners and teachers. The use of information is a contentious issue that needs to be addressed early as we embark on the exciting and path-breaking journey that I have termed the The Internet of Education (TIE). I hope that this journey will culminate in education and knowledge becoming accessible to and beneficial for all of humanity. A High Level Policy Forum on development of guidelines was initiated at the TECH 2018, after which the Vizag Declaration was adopted at the closing ceremony of the conference, calling for development of Guidelines for Digital Learning. 


We here at UNESCO MGIEP have already begun this journey by partnering with like-minded organisations and have developed a prototype platform called CHI (Collective Human Intelligence). This platform allows educators and learners to develop curriculum, lesson plans and assessments in an interactive, immersive and experiential environment, which is supported by AI that is able to provide feedback to students and educators of progress and suggestions to improve learning.


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