Artificial Intelligence in Education

by Tomas Krajcovic
Network Systems Coordinator at International School of Curitiba

AI or artificial intelligence was, until recently, something only seen in Sci-Fi movies or videogames. It usually involves a computer system gaining consciousness and going rogue. Even though sometimes our computers seem to have a mind of their own, as of yet, there is no computer out there that`s capable of self awareness. The fastest supercomputer in the world is still far less powerful than a human brain.

“If the human brain were a computer, it could perform 38 thousand trillion operations per second. The world’s most powerful supercomputer, BlueGene, can manage only .002% of that.”

If the human brain were a computer, it could perform 38 thousand trillion operations per second. The world’s most powerful supercomputer, BlueGene, can manage only .002% of that. Still, we cannot perform like a supercomputer. There is no easy comparison between a machine code instruction and a  neuron firing. Computers are excellent at a large number of extremely precise operations and data comparisons. Human brains “compute” in more abstract ways; they are good at pattern recognition, creativity, and critical thinking. Both can be viewed as computers in a simple sense, but they are very different types of computers.

You might have heard of projects like Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by IBM, which beat Garry Kasparov in 1997, or the most recent triumph of Google AI called AlphaGo, which beat the best player at this ancient Chinese game. These experimental attempts might be merely seen as non-commercial projects conducted by scientists with no practical use. The truth is, we have already been using forms of artificial intelligence for some time.

“The holy grail of computer science is a machine that can teach itself.”

Services like Google Now, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana are advertised as intelligent digital personal assistants that use natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services. The more you use them, the more they can proactively deliver information to users based on predicted search habits.

Another great example is Google Translate. This web service has vastly improved over the years, and it is quite impressive how accurate the language translation can be, given the fact it is done by a computer.

The question is: are artificial intelligences going to replace teachers in the near future? According to the article, ” Can AI Replace Teachers In The Classroom,” the answer is no. I`m sure that most would agree with that. No matter how intelligent the computer might be, to replace such a thing as human presence, touch, or empathy is not only impossible but downright wrong. Children need to be with a real person and learn social skills based on interactions –  not just with their peers, but also their teachers. It is the teacher’s job to inspire and challenge the students, to ignite their love for knowledge, and give out more than just information to be memorized or analyzed.

“No matter how intelligent the computer might be, to replace such a thing as human presence, touch, or empathy is not only impossible but  downright wrong.”

So is there any practical application for AI in education at all? Is it just a gimmick to promote more sales of never ending new devices and services? That depends on how we use it for our benefit without sacrificing what is so important in the development of a child. Just like any other technology, it should be here to help us out and not to take over, especially when it comes to tedious and rather boring data collection. So how could these tools help to educate students?

They could…

  • Presenting students with multidimensional performance data and personalized content.
  • Provide 24/7 support and additional classes from AI tutors.
  • Coach students based on a range of factors from performance to specific learning as seen in such great programs as Khan Academy!
  • Maintain up-to-date information filtered and managed by AI.
  • Help build school or student specific curriculum

Here is an example of how an intelligent computer system could monitor and analyze student academic and behavioral patterns . Let`s imagine a device that would listen to everything that is happening in the classroom. This device would be able to recognize individual student voices and analyze their academic progress and behaviour based on how often and how well they speak during classes, how frequently their answers are correct, how well they formulate their answers, and how frequently the teacher has to call their attention and why. Maybe a camera could be added that reads their body language, facial expressions, and whether and how they interact with their classmates. Now add teacher observations and their grades, and you can have a very accurate student profile that could help to tailor a custom program to improve student learning and well-being. However, at the end of the day, it will the teacher who should have the final word.

Our children are growing up surrounded by electronic devices, and artificial intelligence is just another tool they will learn to use. According to this eSchool News article, artificial intelligence is predicted to grow by 47.5% in the U.S. education sector through 2021. That is a huge leap in a relatively short amount of time. Whether we like it or not, artificial intelligence and its applications are being integrated into our everyday life, and we better be ready for it.

Sources

Written by

Tomas Krajcovic
Network Systems Coordinator at International School of Curitiba

Edited by

Beth (Elizabeth) Kubicki
Elementary/Secondary ELL Teacher at International School of Curitiba

Edited by

Lynn Bibbysmith
Science teacher and tech enthusiast at International School of Curitiba\

Illustrations by

Author

 

Author: Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, a Third Culture Kid , an independent educational consultant and AASSA’s Social Media Coordinator.

Silvia is known in the international bloggersphere under the name of “Langwitches”. To learn about her work, subscribe to the Langwitches Blog and follow her on Twitter- @langwitches.

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