Technology has played an essential role in the evolution of education in recent decades. While much of the education system still relies on a central curriculum and at times limited teacher resources, technology is allowing a degree of flexibility and customization that was never before possible. And nowhere is that differentiation clearer than in the use of AI in education.
Teachers who adopt a collaborative relationship with AI technology designed for education are finding a robust, reactive platform that can respond to student needs based on not just performance, but emotional state, confidence, and much more. The ability to measure and react to data that a teacher would never have the bandwidth to do alone opens up a realm of new possibilities that can help students reach their full potential.
Current Uses of Artificial Intelligence in Education
While few would argue that teachers are not a vital, irreplaceable component of a successful education, artificial intelligence and machine learning are starting to have impact teachers can rely on to amplify their impact. AI use in the US education system is expected to grow by nearly 50% before 2021.
AI is already starting to have an impact on how children can learn and from where. Using translation tools powered by machine learning, students can participate in global classrooms for which AI actively translates materials in real time. This addresses many educational challenges around illness, location, or physical danger in some regions of the world that are associated with going to school.
AI is also helping teachers tackle the growing burden of administrative work. Teachers spend 3-5 hours per day grading papers and tests, preparing lesson plans and completing administrative work outside of the classroom, and an additional 3-4 weeks in the summer. With teacher pay in the US currently sitting at an average of $49,000/year, it becomes increasingly difficult to hire and retain top talent because of it. Machines are growing increasingly sophisticated at evaluating written answers in tests to determine if they accurately addressed the questions asked and are helping empower teachers to build more configurable lesson plans in less time.
These same tools can evaluate the results of those tests and lessons to find gaps in student performance. If students consistently miss a question by a more significant than average percentage of the class, the system can make recommendations for changes to the curriculum and how the lesson is taught.
AI Applications Outside of the Classroom
In addition to classroom benefits, AI is helping students with independent study through more customizable tutoring and studying support applications. Software is now able to go beyond merely reciting facts that need to be memorized for standardized tests and provide a catered experience that matches the level, comfort, and emotional state of the student. Different learning styles and mindsets can be taken into account in real-time, drastically improving results and helping students be successful.
In addition to more adaptive tutoring, a selection of more advanced learning opportunities become available. Powerful tools that can adjust to learning styles, locations, and tutor or parent input are being developed for personal electronic devices, to work both with and in addition to the formal materials.
Online courses are becoming more prevalent as well. While 26% of college students have taken at least one online course, that number is growing as MOOCs become a viable and accepted alternative for students with busy lives or who are in remote locations unable to attend classes in person. Compulsory education has been slower to adopt online components, but as AI becomes more prevalent in the lesson plans and curriculum materials become more customizable and adaptable to student performance levels, online classrooms will be more viable at all grade levels.
Collaboration Between Teachers and AI Systems
Teachers will likely never be replaced by AI systems. Even online courses are heavily dependent on quality and experience on the instructor teaching them. But AI is becoming a valuable tool for teachers in several ways. Teachers are leaning on machines to provide insights on when to make adjustments to lesson plans, which students need individualized attention, and to complete administrative tasks faster.
New tools from companies like Behavioral Signals can read emotions based on a child’s voice and alert the teacher if the student is happy or frustrated and struggling. This technology provides direct insight into the emotional state of a large classroom of children. That alone can help them to respond timelier and accurately when there is a concern.
The future of AI in the education field is bright with dozens of potential applications that will free up time for teachers, ensure students receive the intervention support they need, and allow students to learn independently in a way that is conducive to how they think. It very well may help us to rethink and restructure how we approach compulsory education in the 21st century in a way that is beneficial to all parties.