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Artificial Intelligence in Schools: Getting up to Speed on the Latest in Smart Education

There is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a provocative subject, and one that is guaranteed to start a conversation. Most people have some kind of view about what AI is, at it should – and should not – be able to do, and whether it is a danger to humans. Some of this is intelligently thought out while some is misguided and based on fear. However, most people agree that AI is a subject for concern if it is levelled at the education of children, and takes an active part in their learning.

But AI is a powerful tool and it has the potential to focus young minds and accelerate learning in many different fields. So, the question becomes one of how can AI help children’s learning, rather than is it likely to damage it. This powerful tool undoubtedly has a place in education for children and adults alike, but should there be controls in place? Interestingly, the UK Government has very specific views about AI in education. Let’s have a look at that.

AI in Education: The Government’s View.

The Government’s Education Hub recently put out a discussion paper regarding their notion of how AI should impact education, and it has some far-reaching views. Working together with educators and teaching policy-makers, the Education Hub has designed an approach to the question of AI, and it makes interesting reading. For a start, the team have set out a series of steps that will help not only integrate AI in education, but also instil some order to its advance. These steps include:

  • Looking at the Evidence on AI.
    As we have already mentioned, AI is subject to a fair amount of hearsay by uninformed commentators, and that can be damaging. The Team decided that facts were important and sought to establish what impact AI is already having and what its potentials are. This meant gaining evidence from current users and establishing the extent to which AI is currently used. The Team found that AI systems were being used quite extensively to carry out administrative tasks rather than promoting actual learning, and this was leaving educators more time to actually teach.
  • Fund specific instances.
    The Government invested nearly £2 million at the Oak National Academy to help develop a range of AI tools to help teachers make the most of their lessons. Using this funding, Oak National Academy started to develop a full suite of
    tools for smoothing the learning process. Using AI, teachers are now starting to develop specific lesson-planning software as well as smart tools for the creation of learning tools such as quiz generators.
  • Investigate how AI can release teachers.
    The Government recently chaired a two-day “hackathon” designed to investigate how AI could increasingly take over on a range of administrative tasks, freeing teachers up to actually teach. Getting AI to take the burden of admin from teachers is seen as being key to increasing contact time with students, and positively impacting the quality of teaching.

While the results of much of this investigation and work won’t be collated for some time, the initial results appear promising, and this is encouraging the Government to increase the use of AI in educational environments.

Are Robo-Teachers on the Way?

Probably not. The Government is very cautious about allowing non-human teaching in a classroom environment and it seems unlikely that humans will be replaced at the front of the class for decades – if at all. The Education Hub is very keen to point out that while AI is good and has a great number of advantages, it would not be an acceptable substitute for a human teacher. There is much discussion around how intelligent systems such as this could be used to dissuade cheating amongst pupils, and would be able to spot plagiarism in an instant, but for the foreseeable future, it is going to be humans at the front of the class.

On a more international level, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has stated that they are committed to helping member states boost their educational abilities by using AI. Once again, the organisation disagrees with the use of AI in the forefront of the class, and sees it as a powerful administrative tool rather than an educator.

We at Unity Developers are watching these proceedings closely. We are convinced that AI is a power for good and the fear that some people plainly feel should be allayed by evidence and positive use. Make no mistake; AI is here to stay, so we should make the very best that we can of this powerful tool.