By Diane Cooke
Despite advances in artificial intelligence, humans will always have the edge over machines when it comes to teaching, writes Aldwyn Cooper for timeshighereducation.com.
The writer makes the point that everyone learns in different ways. No one way suits all and the danger of believing that robots will one day dominate our education system places too much reliance on AI, without allowing for proper monitoring and support.
He says: "It is quite possible to build an expert AI teaching system featuring algorithms that monitor student progress and differences, sell it for an astronomical price and then, as learners sit isolated in their rooms, watch the student dropout rate rapidly multiply."
However, in Singapore which is globally admired for its education system, authorities are trialling the use of robotic aides to teachers in kindergartens.
Two humanoid robots, Pepper and Nao, assisted teachers in a seven-month trial at two Singapore preschools in 2016, while technology-enabled toys were deployed at 160 nurseries.
The city-state’s policy makers regard the androids as an addition to teaching, while the goal of the tech toys is to encourage children to be more creative with technology.
Foo Hui Hui, an official with a Singapore government agency given the task of exploring the possibilities of digital technology, said: “We imagine a future not too far off, where interactive robots with the ability to perform multiple human tasks and provide visualisation of complex ideas can help children to learn and collaborate better.”
AI in education was a hot topic at last year's World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar. Charley Rogers, writing for Education Technology, explains that the most prominent benefit of AI in education is the ability to create personalised learning models, allowing each individual student to access material in a way that suits them, and at their own pace.
"In a traditional classroom, with one teacher in front of between 30 and 300 students, this level of individualised attention is impossible; not only does the teacher not have time to address each student, but relying on one explanation of the material means that a one-size-fits-all approach is inevitable."
Jingfang Hao, a science-fiction writer and founder of WePlan, a non-profit education platform for pre-school children, spoke at the WISE summit about how she envisages AI transforming education.
She said that personalised learning was the most important thing to come out of the technology, and that implementing AI algorithms into teaching will give teachers more time to help students develop soft skills; something that AI is so far incapable of doing.
“We are introducing these tools to help the teacher,” she said, “not to replace them.”