As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to propel us into the long-imagined “future” of flying cars and virtual reality, its multi-industry uses become more apparent and even more ground-breaking. It can easily be reasoned that it won’t be long until AI is quite literally everywhere, including in our classrooms. On a recent trip to Japan, we met a rather friendly robot who got us thinking about the future of AI and its educational possibilities.

It takes only a little research to find that in some places AI is being used semi-regularly to advance learning. In the U.S, its usage is predicted to increase by almost 50% in the next four years* – but does that mean our teachers are going to be replaced by robots? Whilst the technology in robots is astounding, it’s hard to imagine them completely supplanting educators as classroom leaders. Could you imagine a ‘Shelbot’ schooling our children; some unique (and altogether strange) blend of human and machine?

There are certainly countless uses of AI in schools that can benefit pupils. By analysing historical data to understand student strengths and weaknesses across topics and activity types, learners can be grouped based on the task at hand to ensure the optimum outcome for all. Knowing student habits also allows AI to create effective schedules, reducing the time spent by staff on administrative duties. As well as this, language gaps can be bridged with translation services, promoting greater diversification within schools.

The advantages of utilising artificial intelligence become even more apparent when looking at teacher possibilities. Through discovering patterns of student issues, AI can inform a teacher of tension points that show a change in method is required. Further to this, it can be used to detect misunderstanding and alert teachers to students who need more help than others. This is essential to quality schooling – children have varying needs and these are often not addressed in ways that benefit each individual. Admin tasks like grading essays may also be undertaken, to free up vital teacher time.

However, it must be noted that none of these uses take on the task of actually educating. For this, emotion has as much of a part to play as process. It cannot be forgotten that as human beings our emotional needs are fundamental, and especially important during formative years. Could these be met by AI? To address the far-off (and justifiably feared) concept of learning led entirely by robots, the importance of human interaction for our mental health and happiness cannot be underestimated. Undoubtedly, learning is a social contract between student and teacher.

Artificial intelligence could therefore be utilised in the modern classroom for lower order activities such as grading, grouping, and scheduling so that teachers can spend more time actually teaching. What we know for certain is that the role of the teacher is more important than ever; technology won’t replace them, no matter what the advances in AI are, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those who do.



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