Artificial Intelligence in education? No, it’s not science fiction, it’s real and it’s here. Love it or loathe it, the benefits of artificial intelligence in education are hard to deny. Here’s a rundown on exactly what those benefits are, and what the potential drawbacks might be too.
IBM’s Watson platform is a great example of artificial intelligence in education. Essentially, it’s a chatbot, but one with far more oomph behind it than you tend to find in the ones online! It was originally developed, of all things, to win the quiz show Jeopardy over in the U.S. It did just that back in 2011, beating two former winners and winning a million dollars- although what it did with the prize, we aren’t sure. Probably put it aside for its Orbital Destruction Laser project.
One of the many uses that Watson has been put to over the years since is as a teacher’s assistant. Watson started work at American university Georgia Tech last year, answering questions posed in a students’ forum. The professor who ‘hired’ Watson, Ashok Goel, initially didn’t tell any of the students that their questions were being answered by artificial intelligence… And nobody noticed.
Using the pseudonym ‘Jill’, Watson answered questions where it had a 97% (or greater) certainty of the correct answer. Over the course of a normal semester, Goel and his teaching staff alone receive over 10,000 questions, and Watson managed to free up an enormous amount of time for them all. It sounds like the stuff of dreams- what is this ‘free time’?
The Bad… and the Ugly
As it stands, our AI is very impressive. It’s light years ahead of where we were just a decade or two ago. But that’s the nature of progress: there’s always more to discover, more to understand and more ‘Eureka!’ moments. We still have a long way to go before we realise the potential of AI, both generally and in the classroom.
Ashok Goel’s Watson experiment was an amazing success, freeing up time for teachers and assistants; but it also proved the one major shortcoming of artificial intelligence in education right now. Online tools are one thing, but when are we going to be ready to make that leap into the real world?
The truth is that the biggest problem, and perhaps the last thing that we’ll be able to address, is the fact that AI lacks a human touch. We wouldn’t currently be able to achieve the benefits of artificial intelligence in education within a classroom setting: it’s just too obvious that we aren’t dealing with humans. And as we’ve reported on before, a classroom lacking this human touch just doesn’t work.
The best solution is the virtual learning environment: the best combination of human and AI. With a VLE, you can enjoy the ease of organisation that AI brings- especially if, in the future, programs like IBM’s Watson can be incorporated into them- along with the human touch without which learning in the classroom just can’t happen at all.