I, Teacher: AI and school transformation

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A new decade is a great time to think about the potential ways in which technology will transform future teaching and training. Past decades saw Smart boards, learning management systems and the iPad, but none of these technologies have been transformational.

The dawn of this decade brings with it the possibility of a quantum leap forward, however – through Artificial Intelligence (AI). Will this be the decade when the education revolution really happens?

At a time when six out of ten children globally are not reaching minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, according to Barclays equity research, and employers increasingly complain that new staff are not work-ready, what can AI offer? AI can be used to individualise the way that people of all ages learn about the world, from maths to Spanish.

Feedback can be tailored to match ability and AI can select the activities and tasks that appropriately extend their ability to solve problems and understand new concepts. Interfaces to learning that enable voice-activated and physical interactions can bring greater access to technology, and intelligent virtual and augmented reality can be created that offers the opportunity for people to try out their skills, from driving to mountain rescue or A&E triage, supported by their AI mentor.

AI can also be used to process data about what people say, how they move, how they are feeling and what they are looking at or touching. This means that teachers and trainers can understand the way that their students are learning and the way they are feeling, as well as what they are learning and how they are performing.

AI cannot do everything that a human teacher or trainer can do, and we will always need an expert human to orchestrate, empathise and mentor, but AI can augment our human educators and support learners in ways that are extremely useful and efficient.

The potential of AI is recognised across the world: Singapore has set aside US$150m for a five-year national program called “AI Singapore”. Interest in AI in the East is also driven by the expanding middle class in China, with their high demand for education and skills. This is evident in the rate of government investments in EdTech (US$5.2bn in China in 2018, compared to US$1.6bn in the US and US$0.5bn in Europe) and AI in particular.

In Estonia, there is a mission to increase awareness and use of AI and to transform that country’s education system with learning environments that are built to combine school, vocational, cultural and adult education and workplaces, including their vibrant start-up culture.

AI is transforming our lives. It promises great changes in education and training. The heart of the action is with start-ups.

Rose Luckin is the founding director of EDUCATE: the world’s only EdTech Research Accelerator