What might AI in Education look like?

What might AI in Education look like?

Artificial Intelligence has been an idea in the public consciousness for decades, but never before has it felt so tangible and significant. AI is set to transform the world of work, our daily lives, the way we interact, and yes, even education.

But what can Artificial Intelligence offer education? There’s so much AI can and indeed already is doing, but I think there are 3 very exciting, and as yet unrealized opportunities that can help education do what it sets out to do – support every child so that they have access to whatever opportunities they want…


An ethically sound, positive role-model for students

If every child had an ‘AI buddy’ who checked in with them and kept them on ‘the right track’ this would be an exciting leveler. If the buddy not just reminded them to do their homework, but pointed them in the direction of the resources they needed to support them to do so (and what I mean here is that if a child is struggling to understand a topic, the ‘buddy’ could produce some material that would allow them to reach that level of understanding, not complete the task for them!) then every child would be given the same chance to succeed. If the AI buddy could respond accordingly to a child’s mood – offering support, or at least offering them a route to appropriate support, whether that is mentoring, coaching or counselling, this would be an exciting thing.

Of course all of this is entirely dependent upon the ethical standards we set up for AI in the future.  All of the above would be of great benefit to a student – having an entity that knew them, could support them and stay with them through their educational career seems like a powerful thing, but only if the data it collects is safe and that we can guarantee that the AI supports, but does not manipulate the character of, the child. A huge challenge, but one that if realized, could be remarkable.


Teaching Assistants everywhere

Perhaps before the AI buddy comes the slightly more feasible AI-TA. This is something that is already being experimented with in a number of places, this being my favourite example. However, the ultimate goal here seems to be an entity that can liaise between teacher and student in a way that lessens the burden for the teacher, and means that students get more one-to-one attention. This attention will sometimes come from an AI-TA, and sometimes from a human teacher, but irrespective of this, more personal attention is possible. An AI-TA should be able to support learners by helping them consolidate skills and knowledge, and point them towards resources or materials appropriate to their level of skill and the trajectory they are required to take.


A personal secretary for every teacher

Despite all of the difficulties the profession faces, it seems highly unlikely that AI, or any other kind of automation will ever really replace teachers, as the role is so much more than the passing on of knowledge. A school is a hub of social interaction where a child will often become known to itself and to others in ways that he/she had not before their experience of school. Teachers play a massive role in this socialization, in being a role-model, in offering care in many different guises, but also in imparting what they know in a way that may just be too complex and nuanced to be done in quite the same way by any other vehicle.

All that said, if AI can offer its services to free up teachers to do what they entered the profession to do, then it will be onto a winner! The AI-PA for every teacher could assist in marking (and yes, eventually it will be good enough to mark essays and not just fact-based questions – we’re getting there with this already, but it requires quite a leap of faith from all of the stake-holders if this is going to take off), it will ensure that the tasks set are nuanced to the specific pupil needs and it will present data back to the teacher about his/her pupils so that the teacher is empowered to offer support not ‘just in time’ but all the time and in the right way.


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