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Artificial Intelligence + Education = ?

In Jinhua Xiaoshun Primary School in eastern China, elementary students are starting their school day. “Open your books to page……” are not the first words out of the teacher’s mouth to start the class. Instead, students are asked to put on a head-band. This is not a normal headband, but a high-end piece of technology. Artificial Intelligence continues to enter our classrooms.

Students are then asked to focus on a topic, performing a form of meditation. The device and its software measures a student’s level of concentration. This high tech gadget measures neurological impulses of each student, assigning scores to their level of attention or focus. Higher scores are awarded to those with greater concentration or attentiveness to the lesson. Teachers can view these scores at any moment throughout their lessons, adjusting their lesson delivery to the results.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in used other ways in Chinese classrooms. Digital cameras in classrooms are constantly scanning students and reporting back to the teacher when: students are raising their hands, talking behind the teachers back, and even takes attendance through facial recognition. All these are reported back to the teacher to help them manage their classroom setting. In this pilot, parents also receive a report on how well their young students are concentrating in class.

As AI technology enters the classroom, privacy concerns begin to arise. This constant surveillance of individuals is already raising concerns that civil liberties may be violated. In addition, who should have access to all the data being collected?

Advances in AI and machine learning algorithms are leading to advances in many other areas of society. These programs will be able to: use data in order to instantly and accurately diagnose medical conditions, perform manual tasks humans perform more quickly and efficiently such as mechanizing production lines, and even write articles like mine for publication!

Recent technology advances in education are focusing in on personalized learning. Software programs help students learn at their own pace. These programs teach students the material, test their proficiency, then either progress them to new topics or review the material again to develop their understanding of the topic. AI will even adjust how the lessons are taught to each student as it learns each student’s best learning style.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning uses computer programming created by humans to imitate human actions, thought, and learning. These algorithms solve problems by learning from their mistakes and improving their outcomes. But what is the most effective way to use it to improve the education of our students?

In the past, when teachers struggle getting student(s) to grasp concepts they have looked for help to spend more time with these struggling students. This has often come in the form of tutoring before or after school, or in many cases hiring instruction aids to increase the quality contact time with these students. What if these human tutors were replaced by robots, the next step from the current on-line software that helps students move at their own pace of learning?

In the near future, technology will be developed to assist our educators. A headband to help teachers develop the ability to focus on topics, facial recognition to help take attendance, and maybe the next development will be to identify when students are confused by their facial expressions. AI will play a role in increasing the effectiveness of education, we will need to decide that role. 

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