In a podcast I was listening to recently, a speaker mentioned that artificial intelligence (AI) has become a part of our everyday world. Indeed, AI has become a way of life, making its presence felt in diverse new forms—be it Alexa, Netflix recommendations, shopping suggestions, and Spotify playlists. It has become integral to marketing and advertising strategies, e-commerce, entertainment, and so much more.
AI is also revolutionizing the teaching and learning process in education. With AI tools tracking a student's brainwaves, facial expressions, health and wellbeing, campus presence, and academic progress, today's classrooms are different from the ones you and I might have studied in.
Since the inception of education, teaching methods and the learner-teacher bonds have significantly evolved. Global teaching methods have become more structured, giving better and more streamlined results, all thanks to the continuous intervention of technology. The relationship between teachers and students is also evolving, where the former has become more approachable and understand their students' perspectives better. AI continues to significantly change old trends in the education space and transform the learning space. Let's see how.
Simplifying administrative tasks
By automating administrative work, AI frees up time for teachers and allows them to focus their energies toward engaging with their students better and helping them cope with their challenges. AI can also help school admission boards by automating the classification and processing of paperwork. AI also helps with grading papers. Where earlier AI-led test grading was limited to only objective-type answers, newer AI systems can assess subjective answers as well. One in every four schools in China uses AI to grade the students’ work. It helps reduce the amount of time teachers spend on grading essays and help them avoid inconsistencies caused by human errors such as lapses in attention or unconscious bias.
Making quality education accessible
Technology has also made quality education available to the larger population in the form of smart content. With AI's advanced applications, educators can design learning materials customized to the students in different regions to meet different learning needs. Learning material can be shared in virtual formats such as video conferences and lectures. AI systems can also digitize textbooks, which allows for more people to access the text. With an AI-powered learning system, educators can reach out to students anywhere. Brigham Young University uses a professional AI-based smart transcription and real-time captioning solution to transcribe online learning tools enabling visually disabled students access to study materials.
Personalizing the learning process
Every child learns at his or her own pace. While in big classrooms, a teacher may not be able to identify each student's strengths and weaknesses and give exclusive attention. But with the help of AI, teachers can track how students are performing in real-time and step in when needed. Beyond academics, it can also streamline students' career choices. Hawkedale Primary is one such institution that has used AI to identify if a child may be at risk of specific reading difficulties such as dyslexia, identifies if it’s phonics or another issue they are struggling with and helps teachers determine if they have developed the relevant reading skills for their age.
AI-led or AI-assisted?
While countries are progressing toward AI-centered education, there are a few questions that we need to keep in mind. China today leads the world in AI and is applying AI technology in classrooms. But while parents and teachers see them as tools to improve grades, the students see them as a painful burden that only increases the pressure and complicates things further.
Another problem with AI systems is that they can learn and amplify human biases. For example, an AI-powered EdTech system was trained on data annotated by humans. Human bias tainted the data, which affected the algorithms and the outcomes. As humans are the source of all the data, we need to be careful about transferring our bias.
However, most experts agree that the most promise lies in AI-assisted teachers – not AI-led classrooms. Many learning companies, such as Carnegie Learning, ALO7, and Sana Labs, show that AI can adapt every individual student's needs, free up the teacher's time by streamlining administrative tasks, and do much more. For example, where it would take a teacher many hours to create personalized learning plans for 20+ students, an AI-based learning system can do this in minutes.
As the name suggests, adaptive learning processes accommodate learning differences and help students from falling behind. In the long run, AI could help normalize differences between school districts and even traditional grade levels.
But I do not think that it is time for us to worry yet. While it may look like AI systems can do a better job than humans, humans will always play a leading role in the classroom. There are still aspects, such as sharing personal experiences, making relevant cognitive and social connections, and improvising, that humans do better than machines.
According to a study, the application of AI in education and learning will increase by 47.5 percent by 2021. Another report found that AI in the education market is expected to exceed USD 6 billion by 2024. The industry is geared for growth. But the future of AI in education is not a competition between humans and machines. Instead, it is about empowering humans to teach and learn more effectively.
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