AI Is Redefining Schools
Ask anybody about AI and the most likely answers you would get would be about robots fighting humans, ultra-intelligent machines exploring unknown space frontiers, or even smart devices reading human minds flawlessly and performing tasks with supersonic efficiency.
But what about a school?
Vijendra Prasad is a confident 8th-form student studying in Gangtok, India who is writing examinations set by a machine. "The questions I get are customized to my pace and I do well in these tests," he says. Earlier this year, his school introduced adaptive assessment software that uses AI for setting and assessing question papers.
Far away in China, Zhou Yi is an average student who is afraid of Maths. Then a company called Squirrel AI came to his middle school in Hangzhou, China, promising personalized tutoring. So, instead of a human teacher, an AI algorithm would curate his lessons.
By the end of the semester, his test scores had risen from 50% to 62.5%. Two years later, he scored an 85% on his final middle school exam. “I used to think math was terrifying,” he says. “But through tutoring, I realized it isn't that hard. It helped me take the first step down a different path.”
Coming back to India, there is an acute shortage of teachers in elementary, secondary, and even at the higher levels of schools. According to the statistics given by the Human Resource & Development (HRD) Ministry of India in 2016, there is a shortage of 1 million teachers across the country. In the case of universities and colleges, there is a chronic shortage of qualified people to fill this ever-increasing gap in the student-teacher ratio.
In such a scenario, how can populated countries like India cope with the challenge of providing quality education to all?
Can One Teacher Help 40 Plus Students?
For years, teachers have struggled to help every student with their individualized educational needs. This gets, even more, tougher in a class of twenty, thirty, or forty students in which every student has to pass through the same tests, irrespective of the student's personalized needs.
That said, the schoolrooms of today have not changed much in the past 50 years. Students sit in a room together and complete the same lessons—typically using the same textbooks—no matter their learning skills or expertise in a particular subject. Some students get left behind. Others are left unchallenged and bored by this one-size-for-all approach.
AI could do all this now. AI today is helping teachers in creating a series of smart content programs and intelligent tutoring systems that help students learn in a more customized approach. Students will be able to learn new things in a much better way with advanced tutor apps.
Such apps can become education mentors for students and provide engaging learning opportunities.AI can now track the performance of an individual student based on his previous grades, participation, and performances and help a student realize his maximum potential.
The rest of this article covers some ways in which AI is making education smarter, cheaper, and more accessible to all:
- AI as a tutor
- AI can automate grading
- AI can provide cognitive insights in classrooms
- AI can improve the education system
1. AI as a Tutor
With AI, students can have their tutors with them 100% of the time, which is not possible in regular classrooms. Learners can get extra teaching time and those who require more time to understand a topic can achieve it.
AI can now help students master and give personalized attention to subjects like Calculus to Chemistry. To get there, an AI program is first trained on hundreds or thousands of students’ work, gaining a knowledge base of pain areas.
Over time, as AI systems analyze and refine these pain areas, individualized lessons are created which provide opportunities for students to improve their weak areas and provide enhanced focus. These AI insights also give teachers a detailed view of a student's learning capabilities so that individual attention can be provided. There are several tutor apps available now.
- Brainly: A social media site where students collaborate while answering and asking classroom questions. It creates that classroom like a community for a personalized teaching experience.
- Thinkster Math: Thinkster Math represents a math tutoring app combining a perfectly real math curriculum and one-on-one teaching style. The app takes students through a step-by-step process of solving math problems. The app helps develop math skills by providing video help to aid students' learning while giving prompt responses.
- Netex Learning: Netex Learning offers help to the tutors to incorporate interactive audio, video, and self-assessments into their digital plan to help students learn well. With the technology, teachers with zero tech skills can design their curriculum across different digital platforms and devices within a personalized learning cloud platform.
While there are things that human tutors can offer that machines can't, at least not yet, the future could see more students being tutored by tutors that only exist in a non-human world.
2. AI Can Automate Grading
Grading homework and assignments can be a tedious task even for the best of teachers. Teachers often find that grading takes up a significant amount of time, time that could be used to interact with students more and prepare them for professional development.
The advancements in AI could allow teachers to hand off all assignments to an AI for grading so the teachers can spend more time with students individually and modify the curriculum to make it more personalized as per an individual student.
There are downsides to having AI, grade papers, though. It does require a good internet connection to work effectively, and the AI itself does not come cheap. And while AI may not ever be able to truly replace human grading, it's getting pretty close.
It's now possible for teachers to automate grading for nearly all kinds of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank testing and automated grading of student writing may come faster than expected.
Thus, by automating straightforward tasks such as grading, digital asset categorization, or timetable scheduling, teachers can increase the amount of time they spend actively engaging with students.
The future of AI in schools will leverage effective solutions capable of grading papers and evaluating exams using established metrics and benchmarks to both automate completion and eliminate human bias and favoritism.
As Joshua Adamson-Pickett of Business.org rightly says.
"The time saved in the classroom with an AI will ultimately pay for itself time and time again".
3. AI Can Provide Cognitive Insights in Classrooms
AI-powered cameras can not only do automatic attendance monitoring but they can also be used to gauge the facial expressions and behavioral aspects of the students attending the classes.
These systems can recognize and score how students respond to different topics and methods of teaching, when they tend to grasp various scenarios, how readily they collaborate, work alone, or get distracted, and so on. It also helps assess and give pointed feedback to teachers on their methods of teaching and how teachers can improve themselves.
Similarly, some AI start-ups in Europe (for example, Century Tech) use a combination of data analytics, neuroscience, and cognitive analysis to track progress, identify interest (or the lack thereof), detect knowledge gaps in classroom teaching, and give pinpointed recommendations to deal with the problem.
This has enabled teachers to better identify individual students' interests, strengths, and weaknesses, thus allowing for a more comfortable and effective learning pace aimed at maximizing learning.
Needless to say, with the benefits the debates also spark about the misuse of this data for nefarious purposes by educational institutions. The lack of regulations also adds to the general uneasiness in public about the expected merits of the system. These are early days and solutions to the limitations are yet to be figured out.
4. AI Can Improve the Education System
In countries like India where there is a dearth of teachers, AI can help increase the accessibility of education to all and also streamline the deficiencies in the current system.
That said, how much ever we try, a single teacher can never fulfill the needs of a 60-student class. In such situations, enabling students with AI systems in schools and classrooms or in their homes might be the solution to solve the problem of low quality and inaccessibility in remote areas.AI can also be used to rectify the deficiencies in the current system and take corrective measures.
For example, the Andhra Pradesh government in India has experimented with AI-based applications in 17 districts. One of them is Visakhapatnam. An AI-based application collected and analyzed the data of students related to various dynamics such as academic performance, the reason for school dropouts, quality, and skills of teachers, social demographics, gender, etc.
This application has found predictive patterns such as probable students who would drop out. The state government has acquired a list of thousands of students who might drop out of the schools in the academic year of 2018-2019. This proactive data collection has thus helped the government in making a real-time assessment of its schemes and implementing corrective actions as required.
Implementing AI at a large scale like this will help in addressing the problems, plugging the loopholes in the current system, and making better decisions.
As Oren Etzioni has rightly said.
"I think that there are so many problems that we have as a society that AI can help us address."
- 5 Examples of Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom
- Artificial intelligence in education
- AI in Education: The Future of Teaching
- 5 Main Roles Of Artificial Intelligence In Education
- How Schools In India Are Integrating AI Into Their Curriculum
- Artificial Intelligence in Schools: A Guide for Teachers, Administrators, and Technology Leaders by Varun Arora
- The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Education by Wayne Holmes (Editor), Kaska Porayska-Pomsta
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ravi Rajan