William Immelt

@immeltwilliam

AI the Next Step for Education: Tech Innovations Changing Our Classrooms

Imagine a human-like teacher with no human flaws.

The best educators in the world sometimes suffer from innate human errors, taking different forms in every one of us. They will eventually grow tired and nervous. Not even the best of them can provide personal attention to a class of 30.

So, robots then? Isn’t new technology an obvious solution for this?

Computers never sleep; the knowledge they impart is available 24/7 across continents, time zones, and devices. They can teach hundreds of students at the same time without ever making a single mistake. The algorithm rarely does — just ask Siri or Cortana about it.

According to the AI Market in the US Education Sector report, we can expect that artificial intelligence in US education will grow by 47,5% between 2017 and 2021. We’re almost there. It’s about time we rethink education in the age of AI and create a teacher with no flaw.

Right?

AI Is the Next Step. But Where From?

Artificial intelligence is the future of education. There’s no doubt about it.

Companies big and small are making a leap forward into AI-driven educational tech, with entire countries investing billions of dollars into further development. And, pardon my pun, they’re not making an uneducated guess — AI is already here, working like a charm.

Take a closer look at the current state of education, and you’ll see why.

Today’s generations are not only tech-savvy. They are what we call digital natives. Everywhere in the world, these kids and young adults have access to the internet, smartphones, and social media, but there’s only a handful of classrooms that have accepted new technology.

On the one side, we have limitless connectivity and almost aggressive digitalization, while on the other, we have decades-old textbooks and smartphone bans. The result feels absurd at times — students, empowered by digital assistants, knowing more than their teachers.

The change is due, with every aspect of the traditional classroom being up for reimagining.

Teachers and Tech Collaborating?

Of course, getting rid of flawed human teachers is not the answer.

Not only because we’re not ready for a futuristic scenario that excludes the human element from a very human field of study, but primarily because continual education doesn’t equate with short-time knowledge acquisition. Learning and googling a fact are not the same things.

Yes, we’re talking about the emotional component of education.

You can’t have good pedagogy without empathy, and that’s a fact. The need to help someone grow and succeed is just as deeply rooted in us humans as our mistakes are. The best teachers are a rare combination of this need, paired with expertise, experience, and methodology.

We can program AI to know all the answers, just like Google does, and we can feed its algorithm with the most effective teaching methods, but we cannot make it care. Not yet. And that’s why instead of talking about AI instead of teachers, we should talk about them collaborating.

And as expected, AI is brilliant at the administration level.

Making no mistakes and never growing tired, artificial intelligence is already helping teachers grade exams, assess homework, provide helpful answers to students, and much more. Their ability to streamline admin tasks drives efficiency and frees up teachers’ valuable time.

And that’s how teachers can provide personal attention to a class of 30.

Artificial Intelligence for Tutoring

In addition to doing admin tasks, AI can deepen its impact on education by picking up where teachers leave off — after class. Artificial intelligence for tutoring is possible because the capability called machine learning (ML) allows it to become smarter with every new interaction.

As homework and test preparation aid, AI can be of immense help.

Fearing that they might make an embarrassing mistake, students would often rather avoid reaching out to teachers for after-class consultation or test prep than gather up the courage to admit there’s something they don’t understand. Teachers can be judgy, but technology can’t.

Let’s take AI-driven chatbots as an example.

In this scenario, ML-based chatbots can provide students with answers far more complex than class schedule or exam reminders. Education chatbots can be very advanced, ranging from intelligent campus reps to actual after-clas tutors that solve student problems in real time.

In a myriad of different capacities, chatbots can help students figure out placement plans, reduce the time it takes students to find courses, provide course feedback, teaching-assistant style advice, and study notes, even deliver tests and results to remote and self-taught students.

According to Campus Technology, chatbots are the leading tech for 2019.

Personalized & Self-Paced Learning

With AI, every aspect of the traditional classroom is up for reimagining.

For example, will future students know what the four-wall classroom is at all?

The way education is looking right now, it seems like eLearning will not stay a mere trend for long. Together with AI and other emerging technologies, learning as a digital service is transforming the way we approach knowledge acquisition. It’s all about personalization nowadays.

There are many obvious advantages of eLearning over traditional education, starting with convenient new tech-supported techniques such as mLearning and microlearning. Then there are other popular methods like gamification and social learning, made to battle the engagement crisis.

And, students don’t have to wait for digital academies to modernize.

They are already at the forefront of modern-day education, from where they are addressing some of the greatest needs of digitally-native students. Personalized learning is among the main ones, and AI is well-equipped to provide customized learning paths to students as individuals.

This is another innovative use of machine learning, only this time it doesn’t help AI learn more about the subject matter but about students themselves. By tracking their learning behavior and tracking their progress, AI is becoming something of an expert in a single individual student.

The result is a highly personalized learning experience that cannot fail.

Building Self-Improving Classrooms

But that’s still not the key selling point of educational AI.

For the purposes of education, AI’s ability to provide real-time feedback is beyond comparison.

Education is based on feedback; that’s why we have teachers. To learn — and to learn correctly — students must have somebody to follow their progress, point out their mistakes, solve their dilemmas, and give motivational criticism in order to improve performance.

The problem is, they can’t promise that to every student.

Artificial intelligence can.

Real-time feedback has implications beyond teacher-student tutoring. AI can give valuable input on teachers and courses themselves, thus helping educators bridge knowledge gaps and improve the learning environment in a matter of seconds. Nothing is more important than this.

Fixing our mistakes is how we learn, after all.

What AI does is help us do that mind-blowingly fast.

Education Will Keep Getting Better

The possibilities of educational AI are tremendous.

In addition to its ability to automate basic activities, adapt curriculums to individual students, and provide additional support in the form of tutors, AI, chatbots, and other AI-based technology can do a lot more for the future of education. Like, write smart content, for instance.

Global accessibility is another major benefit of its implementation.

Through eLearning and blended learning, AI offers equal learning opportunities to every student in the world, including those who speak different languages or have visual or hearing impairment. All students who must be home-schooled can receive a world-class education.

No, modern-day students don’t need flawless teachers.

What they need is already here — technology that can optimize, personalize, accelerate, and augment our current educational efforts. Being tireless and extremely insightful, but also growing smarter with every new interaction, artificial intelligence makes the perfect candidate.

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