AI in Education: a growing need
The current climate of AI in schools is one of “hopeful hesitation.” While technology is rapidly advancing, educators are taking a careful, step-by-step approach to ensure the solutions they adopt to deliver specific outcomes and to address existing needs.
Since its conception at the 1956 Dartmouth Conference, the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has continued garnering the attention of several people and industries, with the education industry being hailed as one of the major game changers.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Now how do we define Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Explained in simplistic terms, it’s a branch of computer science that creates “intelligent” machines to work and react in different situations. Some basic examples of AI are computer programs (e.g., online platforms) and computerized machines (e.g., robots). Owing to knowledge engineering and machine learning, these machines have the capacity to process data, patterns, and models in order to perceive, reason, plan, solve problems, make predictions, and manipulate objects akin to a human neurological framework.
AI is based on algorithms or a set of computerised instructions that instruct a software on what is to be done with the given data. Data is the fodder for any AI-powered system. The umbrella organisation that caters to both data handling and algorithms and ensures their smooth coexistence is called Machine Learning. In machine learning, algorithms are tested and tuned so that they can treat data automatically to generate certain desired results, such as predictions and decisions.
Artificial Intelligence in education…
We already live in a world full of AI systems including Siri, Alexa, GPS navigators, self-driving cars and so on. In the field of education, many companies are currently working on or already marketing AI systems that help automate admin tasks, create adaptive testing methods or develop digital platforms that use AI for teaching-learning,testing, and feedback. Our focus should now be on how AI will impact pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment in schools, that is, how it will impact end users, i.e. teachers and students.
If teachers are trained in AI use, it will prevent dropouts, make distance learning easier, and allow for flexibility in course design among many other reasons. In fact, for AI to make a real contribution to students’ academic success, the teacher’s role remains as central as ever, perhaps now more than ever before.
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in education…
There is conclusive international evidence that we are at a critical moment for setting clearer directions for AIEd (Artificial Intelligence in Education). Some of the clear benefits of this integration include personalized learning, automatic correction of certain kinds of schoolwork, ongoing student assessment so as to track their learning acquisition over time, intelligent platforms for distance learning, greater interaction between learners and the learning content, extended opportunities for learners to collaborate, immersive learning environments and better teaching methods through facilitation rather than content transmission.
AI in everyday classroom teaching
The educators of today have not only started using AI in their everyday classroom teaching but are also heavily relying on it without realising it. AI has permeated into the sphere of education in the form of adaptive learning systems, smart web browsers, personalised apps, and virtual reality based educative games, to name a few.There are new ways to search for and to disseminate information for example, Google adjusts our search results according to our geographic location or previous searches, generally without our knowledge. Amazon does the same when it suggests purchases in light of what we bought in the past and Netflix recommends what you should watch next. Siri, Apple’s voice recognition assistant, adapts to individual voices, needs, and requests.
Teachers: Are they ready for AI?
The rise of AI need not be equated with the role of the teacher becoming redundant.
“Don’t expect an army of AI-powered robots to be filling teacher job applications at a district office near you,” Andreas Oranje, a general manager in the ETS Research Division, said during a session at the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference this year. He expects AI will ultimately help educators perform rote tasks, not replace them.“My hope for AI is we actually will expand teaching,” Oranje said.
Now the question that we need to ask is that if there a need to prepare teachers to work with AI. And the answer is a clear yes. If teachers are trained in AI use, it will help in dropout prevention, make distance learning easier, and allow for flexibility in course design among many other reasons. In fact, for AI to make a real contribution to students’ academic success, the teacher’s role remains as central as ever, perhaps now more than ever.
Initiatives have already been taken in this regard as CBSE has announced its plan for integrating an AI Curriculum in Schools along with digital reskilling for teachers with an aim to integrate cloud-powered technology in K12 teaching, in collaboration with technology giants such as IBM and Microsoft.
Manish Prakash, general manager, Microsoft India said, “Through this initiative, we are empowering institutions, educators and students of India to acquire early education/skills in new technologies like AI and cloud to lead that growth in that rapidly changing world.” In the next phase, the program will be extended to cover skilling workshops for 400 CBSE School on the Microsoft K-12 Education Transformation Framework.
Biswajit Saha, CBSE’s training and skill education director told schools how this amalgamation would take place in a staged manner to demystify AI and teachers would also get to learn about digital storytelling, “Participants will develop artificial intelligence (AI) knowledge skills and values through engaging with multimedia online resources as well as hands-on activities and sequencing of learning experiences.”
“What we really need are teachers with a level of humility who are willing to learn alongside the students at this point,” said Nick Polyak from Leyden High School District 212 outside Chicago, “The traditional method of learning a topic deeply in college and then going on to teach isn’t relevant anymore because the knowledge is changing too quickly.”But he sees figuring out the challenge as an imperative.“I don’t want our students to be the people who just buy autonomous cars,” he said. “I want them to be the people who are designing and improving them. It’s imperative on us to provide an education that makes them ready to step into the evolving job market.”
To conclude simply, the current climate of AI in schools one of “hopeful hesitation.” While technology is rapidly advancing, educators are taking a careful and a step-by-step approach to ensure the solutions they adopt deliver specific outcomes to address existing needs.
Sanjhee Gianchandani holds a Masters’ degree in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She is a CELTA certified ESL trainer and works as a content developer and editor for Academic English textbooks.