We all have seen artificial intelligence in just about every aspect of our life. From our phones, to our computers, to our cars and especially in movies and TV shows, there is no escaping just how far AI has come in the last several years. However, artificial intelligence is still far off from the talking, “thinking” bots that we see scattered about in blockbuster hits. While it has continued to develop in ways that, so far, have proven to make our lives a bit easier (looking at you automatic parking features or self-checkout kiosks) there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out when it comes to AI. One area that often keeps being brought up is education. Can artificially intelligent machines potentially make huge waves in the education of our students?
The short answer, yes. But, don’t expect robots to be taking over teaching positions anytime soon. What you can expect and probably have already seen or heard of are the advances AI has made in helping teachers and their students when it comes to their educational experience.
Most believe that one-on-one time is the best technique when it comes to breaking down a problem and solving it with a student. But what if that student doesn’t have access to a teacher? eLearning creates a space where students can “learn at their own pace and explore new material turned up by simple searches.” When you combine eLearning with AI you create a more advanced space for these students. This kind of learning allows for that same student to explore on their own and get tested in “in complex scenarios rather than simple right-or-wrong answers.” (source)
Artificial intelligence in eLearning is still very new. PR2, for example, which is a Cornell University robot was recently taught how to perform small tasks, like moving an egg container. PR2 was then tasked with “teaching” another robot from Brown University, Baxter, to do those same tasks. This may be a small step in the learning and teaching capabilities of AI but it’s easy to consider that one-day artificially intelligent machines could provide a more well-rounded and less error prone instructor for students.
There are some tutoring programs by AI that already exist, including Intelligent Tutor Systems. This software was made to “track the ‘mental steps’ of the learner during problem-solving tasks to diagnose misconceptions and estimate the learner’s understanding of the domain.” (source) Programs like this also provide the ability to provide feedback to the student, explanations, and guidance when learning subjects like math and writing. However, they still don’t provide advanced thinking and creativity techniques that can be vital when solving a problem or explaining their point of view in a writing assignment. But it is a great possibility that someday they will be able to.
Let’s take Duolingo, for example. This is a language-learning software that enables you to work with tutors that get smarter the longer you use them. Duolingo contains three chatbots that you can talk with and ask questions to in order to learn how to say something in French, Spanish, or German. The bots use AI technology that according to the makers, “react differently to thousands of possible answers”
Teaching and tutoring aren’t the only areas where AI and education can combine. Another avenue being explored with artificial intelligence in education pertains to the textbooks, materials, and how to use the information coming from them to educate students. If Google’s artificially intelligent computer system can beat a human at the strategy game, Go, then just about anything is possible when it comes to educating students in and outside of the classroom.
Imagine if AI learned the best books and topics to discuss with students and then came up with ways to use those materials to teach students. Teachers would then be able to reach far more students in the classroom than every before. For now, though, it’s just a waiting game.
Education is another area where AI can contribute to the social good, what other areas do you see a positive impact may be made with Artificial Intelligence?