Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is all around us and we might not even realize it! As a technology that imitates human decision making, it is present in a lot of what we use every day. AI can be found in Amazon.com because the site suggests products that you could like. Facebook tells you whom you could know and want to be friends with. Cars can automatically park for you. Siri completes your tasks. Google lists search results based on your location. Netflix recommends content that it thinks you will be interested in watching. We take these programs for granted, but they are all active applications of AI.
Artificial intelligence is still developing and improving, but more advanced applications are working their way into our daily lives. The education market in particular offers a lot of possibilities for AI. The technology has already been introduced, but more advanced programs and applications will become widely implemented over the next decade.
I believe that AI will have an important role in both the k-12 and higher education markets over the next decade because schools are continuing to become more technologically advanced and connected beyond the network. My college accounting course at UMass Lowell used an online textbook to complete online homework assignments through study/practice software. The software was a form of AI that asked multiple choice questions from the reading. If you answered a question wrong, the program would continue with additional rephrased questions about that concept until you answered correctly. The program was designed to reinforce and personalize the learning to each student and provide supplemental information when they struggled. It was a great study tool and I’m hoping more classes will implement similar programs in the near future.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is a major proponent of using AI in education. He has donated over $240 million to fund research in the field. Gates believes that AI will improve education in many ways, but that providing more personalized learning for students will be the greatest benefit.
Three benefits of AI that I think are vitally important include:
- Enabling More Personalized Learning
Personalized learning can significantly enhance a student’s learning experience. One-on-one learning has shown that students are more focused and engaged when they are receiving an individualized learning experience. Forms of AI have the capability to tutor students individually by recognizing what areas they need more help in and finding ways to better explain concepts to them.
If the technology knows that you are interested in race car driving, it would use analogies and examples based on racing to help you to comprehend the subject matter. AI will be able to understand an individual’s habits and know exactly which subject areas they need more help in. Students receiving this personalized learning are able to stay up to speed with the rest of their class and study more effectively.
- Identifying the Concepts Students are Not Comprehending
When AI is used in homework, quiz, and test software, the system identifies what concepts students are not grasping collectively and individually. Teachers will therefore be able to make adjustments to the lesson plan and find new ways to assist students’ learning.
Blackboard, a popular educational tool used by many universities and k-12 schools, provides an online platform for professors to release notes, homework, quizzes, and tests, and allows students to submit questions and assignments for grading. When students take an online blackboard exam there are multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and essay questions. My experiences with Blackboard in the classroom have always gone well. If my professor noticed that three quarters of the class got the wrong answer they looked to see which answer the students were clicking to figure out if the confusion came from a poorly phrased question or if a majority of the class wasn’t comprehending the question. Blackboard then gives professors several options: count the problem as originally intended, make the question extra credit, or toss the problem out.
Blackboard’s form of AI is still in the early stages because it’s only used for grading/analysis purposes, but they are partnering with other companies including Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft to improve the software and technology. New improved forms of artificial intelligence will provide teachers and students with an analysis of how well they are teaching, which ideas students are not grasping, and which students may need extra help to understand the curriculum. As a result, teachers will be able to better assist in their students’ learning.
- Grading Assignments
Another benefit of AI programs comes in grading both multiple choice and short answer questions. Soon AI will be able to grade essay questions as well. Homework, assignments, and assessments need to be technology-based, of course, for AI to grade the work autonomously. Since teachers won’t have to spend hours grading assignments anymore, they can concentrate more on teaching, one-on-one interaction, and curriculum planning. Students benefit from instantly knowing their results; they won’t have to wait an extended period of time to find their grades. Students will also reap the benefit of teachers having additional time to devote directly with them.
The possibilities and benefits of AI don’t stop here. Additional benefits have already been developed and with continuous improvements more will be created. Student’s educational outcomes can be enhanced with the proper implementation of AI. I would suggest implementing AI technology early in elementary schools to encourage the development of more efficient studying habits for students as they mature to higher grade levels. Students will feel more comfortable and accepting of AI if exposed to the technology at a younger age. AI will be able to mentor students individually and offer more one-on-one learning experiences. When used properly on a regular basis, AI will be able to monitor students’ progress to address the areas they are lagging in and identify which ones they are excelling at. AI can save valuable time when used to grade assignments, thus freeing teachers to concentrate on personalized teaching and getting the results back to students more promptly.
In summary, education has the opportunity to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence to use for the benefit of teachers and students.