by Tina Manzer
Robots can’t inspire students like teachers can.
An important aspect of learning is observing and imitating, and humans learn best by emulating and practicing with other humans, explains the Education World article. “When a human teacher is able to show the benefits of learning content – and indirectly prove not only that it can be done, but that it is something to aspire to – learners are more likely to be inspired to work harder and make progress.”
“When teachers connect with students through heartfelt listening, or even through nonverbal classroom demeanor, they can inspire them to learn, create and excel,” says the article. A robot, even one with state-of-the-art face rendering technology, can’t.
Inspiration is a product of empathy, and a robot can’t “read” students’ body language, appearance and any number of other pieces of data to infer their emotional state. They simply can’t do empathy.
And the article warns again underestimating the importance of empathy when it comes to learning. “A humanoid robotic AI educator at the front of the room will be able to access absurd amounts of information in the blink of an eye, but it won’t be able to combine a thousand human variables to create meaning.”
Artificial intelligence is all around us, from Siri, Alexa, Watson and Viv to the new automatic parking features in cars. While many industries are using AI in a wide range of applications, it’s not yet a standard in schools. But, “AI in education has been ‘a thing’ since the technology’s uptick in the 1980s,” notes artificial intelligence market research firm TechEmergence. “In many ways, the two seem made for each other.”
By 2055, roughly half of today’s work activities could be automated, according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute. Does that include teaching? Probably not, “but teachers’ jobs are going to change, and AI is going to be part of that ignition,” says an article on educationworld.com.
There are many projects in the works already that use AI to help teachers and students with specific tasks in specialized areas. Here are descriptions of just a few, presented by TeachThought, a brand that “grows teachers” through content and professional development.
AI might not be able to replace human grading, but it’s getting close with automated grading for nearly all kinds of multiple choice and fill-in-the blank testing. Essay grading software is in the works. TeachThought believes it will keep improving; allowing teachers to focus more on in-class activities and student interaction, and spend less time grading.
The number of adaptive learning programs, games and software available today continues to grow. They respond to the needs of the students by putting greater emphasis on certain topics, by repeating things that students have not yet mastered, and helping students work at their own pace, whatever that might be.
Artificial intelligence can help solve the problem of gaps in lectures and educational materials that leave students confused about concepts. For instance, Coursera, a massive open online course provider, alerts the teacher when a large number of students have submitted the wrong answer to a homework assignment. “It helps to ensure that all students are building the same conceptual foundation,” says TeachThought.
Tutoring programs based on artificial intelligence already exist to help students through basic mathematics, writing and other subjects, but they aren’t ideal for teaching higher-order thinking and creativity. In the future, however, AI tutors may be able to do so.
Some schools now, especially those with online offerings, use AI systems to monitor student progress and to signal professors that there might be an issue with student performance.
Finding information and interacting with it
Right now, Google adapts results based on the user’s location, Amazon makes recommendations based on purchase history, and Siri adapts to needs and commands. “With newer, more integrated technology, students in the future may have vastly different experiences doing research and looking up facts,” points out TeachThought.
Making trial-and-error less scary
Artificial intelligence may be a way students can experiment and learn in a judgment-free environment, especially with AI tutors offering solutions for improvement.
Changing the role of teachers
“There will always be a role for human teachers in education, but what that role is, and what it entails, may change due to intelligent computing systems,” says TeachThought. “AI systems could be programmed to provide expertise, to serve as a place for students to ask questions and find information, or could even potentially take the place of teachers for very basic course materials.
“Teachers will supplement AI lessons, assist students who are struggling, and provide human interaction and hands-on experiences for students,” the article concludes. “In many ways, technology is already driving these changes in the classroom.”