What is AI?

“Can machines think?” (Alan Turing,1950)

Artificial intelligence is described by the father of AI, John McCarthy, as a capable program or machine independently carrying out a task that requires human intelligence under normal circumstances. The aspects of human intelligence which are simulated by the machine include, but not limited to: problem solving, rational thought, social creativity, reasoning, perception, learning, and planning. Artificial intelligence falls under the two different categories of Narrow AI and General AI. Narrow AI operates under “narrow”, or limited, contexts and simulations of the human mind. Usually focused on completing a single task with extreme precision, it has many more constraints than normal human intelligence in order to focus on that one task. Some examples of Narrow AI include self-driving car technologies, image recognition software, and Google search. General AI is the AI technology scientists envision as to make rational decisions and solve problems utilizing general human intelligence. A technology growing at an amazing pace, the AI software market is expected to expand approximately 54% in 2020 and beyond on a year-to-year basis. As our country and world undergo a gradual technological shift, AI has helped to support the education industry while enhancing its features, innovating the modern classroom to become more technology based. How will artificial intelligence increase accessibility and bring about improvements to the educational sphere?

What Technologies Does AI Provide to Education?

AI has the ability to implement educational data mining, a method of tracking statistics of users over time. By evaluating trends in student usage, such as attendance, date of assignment submissions, and results, AI is able to predict future problems in academic performance as well as student behaviors. By responding to these predictions, AI provides feedback to the teacher and students to better prepare. The analytics of AI may also improve student retention rates, as predicting a student’s decreasing performance and attendance can indicate the potential for dropping out of school. By predicting these trends ahead of time, the AI can immediately notify teachers to take action and offer help. Another feature of AI implements facial recognition, which is able to analyze student facial expressions and emotions. Through these details, AI provides data of student engagement and ultimately allows instructors to figure out whether students are correctly learning or not and improve their lesson plans.

Impacts

AI would only support a rapidly digitizing education system; it would provide the key to improving accessibility all around the world. When paired with the online education platform, AI is able to remove barriers such as language gaps, location differences, and physical impairments. Foreign students who speak different languages are able to understand lessons through subtitles and automatic translation by an AI program being utilized by the school. Online classes would be accessible to those unable to attend school due to living in distant countries and physical impairments or illnesses, yet they would receive the same quality education as those attending in-person.

The personalization that AI brings to the table is something unable to be offered by traditional, in-person classrooms. The national average public school student to teacher ratio is 16:1, which makes it difficult for teachers to provide individual attention to students, even though every student learns at their own pace with various strengths in different areas. I have noticed it myself at my own high school as I attend class; those who do well in the traditional classroom managed to continue to do well at the most part, while those who struggled were unable to receive the personalized attention from their teachers and continued to struggle. AI compensates for this weakness by analyzing a student’s performance and customizing lessons accordingly. AI-powered platforms return specific feedback to the learner whenever they answer a question wrong, tailoring the advice to explain a concept in depth. AI can recommend alternatives to provide the student with extra helpful materials and resources. Paired with classroom teachers, AI personalization can keep students more engaged with the assignments they are working through.

Final Thoughts

A traditional teacher and classroom lack the capabilities to tend to the personal needs of a student. An AI-powered platform lacks the human interaction and touch of teachers who genuinely care for the wellbeing of their students. By effectively combining the two aspects of education, a stronger online and in-person classroom can be created. AI in the classroom will only enrich teachers and prepare a more engaging, personal learning experience for students to set them up for success.!