Is your learning establishment preparing for – or even aware of – the next revolution in human development: robots educating our young?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is here already
Artificial intelligence (AI), though rudimentary at the moment, is already having an impact on daily life. Your mobile phone is fast becoming a personal assistant, learning to anticipate your needs. Computer games contain virtual characters that learn to respond to their environment and smart cars are doing the same in the real world.
And the UK government is keen for the country to exploit AI, publishing a report on the impact of AI on the economy, estimating that it could add another £630bn to the UK economy by 2035.
Whether you like the idea or not, AI is coming.
AI in college today
We’re unlikely to see android robots in the classroom just yet, but AI is being introduced in Colleges on the US West Coast to carry out some classroom and administrative functions.
- Software used to provide real-time feedback on the mass of results data students generate, in order to tailor a personal study plan and cutting the need for costly remedial courses.
- Virtual learning environments which will soon have virtual guides to make the experience more interactive and responsive to students’ needs.
- Software to mark essays and exercises, freeing up teacher time from a time-consuming chore to be spent on planning and researching lessons.
AI for the future
There have been a few false dawns in the past for responsive learning software, which has tended to be programmed in a top-down fashion, the lecturer delivering information to obediently receptive students.
However, leading educationalist Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said in a recent newspaper article that within ten years, intelligent machines will be able to adapt to suit the learning speeds and styles of individuals in a bottom-up approach.
He believes facial expression recognition software will be able to tell when a student is excited or bored, comprehending or confused by the information being delivered. The virtual teacher will then be able to tailor the content, style and speed of teaching to best engage the student.
Sir Anthony, who was head teacher of Wellington College, believed that Maths and Sciences as the most likely front runners in computer-led learning, though more sophisticated algorithms would eventually be developed that could teach the humanities.
The impact of AI on your College
Machines could revolutionise the way academic teaching is done in the classroom, rendering the idea of classes and year groups redundant.
Instead, each student would receive personal, one-to-one tutoring for an educational journey that even the most expensive private school can’t provide today. And there’s no reason why this personal interaction can’t be a lifelong experience.
Ten years seems a long way off, but academic establishments must soon start asking some difficult questions about the changes this technology will bring to their infrastructure and staff.
- Can human staff adapt and integrate with their AI support or will teaching unions resist change. Your HR department will have to handle any transition delicately.
- What roles will humans retain? Teachers will still be needed to set up a class, offer pastoral care and maintain discipline (the idea of a robot doing that is likely to remain unsettling).
- Will physical skills such as music, crafts and sport require human Teachers?
- Will large lecture or classroom spaces still be needed for groups of students or will they learn in individual cubicles, smaller rooms or at home?
- How will you exploit AI in your administration, collating and analysing student results and creating more flexible and individual timetables that require managing?
It’ quite easy to miss the next big thing when it’s happening around you, but Schools and Colleges should start to prepare now for the next great technological revolution. This could be bigger than steam!!
What do you think will be the impact of AI on your College? Let us know in the comments section below.