With the advent of smart technology infiltrating almost all areas of society and being widely embraced by commercial sectors, guest blogger, Leon Brown, believes the time has now come to consider how this technology can be used in education.
We’ve already seen how the introduction of smart devices such as interactive whiteboards and tablets have influenced how subjects such as maths can be taught in a more engaging manner, but there is still something missing that offers the chance to enhance teaching and learning opportunities even further.
It’s a component that would make the smart in ‘smart technology’ smarter in a way that benefits teachers, learners and policy makers who are willing to embrace technology as a driving force in education, rather than a mere toy to be considered as an afterthought in the teaching strategy. This component is artificial intelligence, or AI as it is commonly referred to.
So what exactly is artificial intelligence?
Before identifying what artificial intelligence can do for schools, colleges and training organisations, it is first important to explain what it is.
AI is the way in which computers and other IT systems provide intelligent insight by identifying patterns and trends and suggesting actions based upon this information. The three capabilities required for artificial intelligence to become useful include capturing, interpreting and applying information.
The common theme of these capabilities revolve around information, meaning that the more quality information an artificial intelligence system can access, the better it can understand the situation it is addressing, and therefore apply a higher quality solution.
Teachers who are able to embrace technology as a foundation for their teaching strategy can reap the benefits of automatic data capture created from their students’ engagement. The big advantage of digital information systems is their ability to store and rapidly process huge amounts of information in a short space of time.
Combined with specialised algorithms, these systems are able to identify and make sense of student engagement and behavioural patterns that emerge in a teacher’s class and report these findings to the teacher. Their ability to store vast amounts of information also allows teachers and policy makers to request future analysis of currently ?unknown? questions.
The ability for educators to be assisted by technology in the management of their classes means that they can spend less time pencil-pushing and more time gaining useful insights from their classroom AI tools to deliver higher standards of teaching.
The AI process
An example scenario of a teacher’s interaction with their classroom AI tools could be as follows:
Teacher: Show me the students who have difficulty understanding fractions.
AI: I have found 14 students who show three categories of difficulty in understanding fractions. [shows list of students]
Teacher: Why does Adam not understand fractions?
AI: My analysis shows that Adam missed the first lesson where fractions were explained. His interactions suggests that he doesn’t understand the concept of fractions.
Teacher: What actions are recommended for Adam’s difficulty in fractions?
AI: You should ask your teaching assistant to provide Adam with the information from the first lesson at the earliest opportunity, followed by the provision of homework item A12 ? click this to review.
Teacher: Which other students can these actions be applied to?
AI: James and Sarah were also absent from the first fractions lesson, but they are showing better capabilities in understanding the subject.
Teacher: Is tomorrow’s lesson plan suitable for these students?
AI: No, because none of the identified students are showing a full understanding of fractions at present.
The ability for information systems to provide this level of insight not only saves time, but can provide the level of detail that may not be obvious or possible for teachers to recognise at face value. Classroom AI tools have capabilities in analysing multiple sources of data and comparing them to known patterns. This can identify the root causes for problems, and also drive towards more consistent outcomes across different classes, regardless of the experience of teaching staff.
About the Author: Leon Brown is a web applications and software developer and owner of education software company Nextpoint. Awarded “Northwest Coolest Techie” by Daisy Group and Computer Aid International, he specialises in writing specialist content features for technology publications and websites. You can follow him on LinkedIn