Today I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think about how we could use AI to support learning, but also some of the real challenges in making this happen.
China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns. – MIT Technology Review
An interesting read on how China is using it’s technological might (and economies of scale) to utilise AI to respond to demand for tutoring to catch up and for the college entrance exam, the gaokao.
The article says that three factors have driven AI education, firstly supported by tax breaks, a $1bn investment. Second intense demand for tutoring and people (read parents) willing to pay for it. Thirdly masses of data to refine algorithms and a population not as concerned about data privacy as we are in the West.
This AI teaching model is gaining traction in China, could the UK do something similar? Well we certainly couldn’t match the investment, people don’t like paying for stuff and we have big ethical concerns about data and privacy.
Could we learn from China?
Well one aspect of the tutoring system is how it adapts to the needs of the learner and as a result personalises the learning that is made available to the learner. Could we use a similar system to support learners in their learning journey? Not necessarily fulfilling the entire learning journey, but aspects and parts of the journey.
Well the system doesn’t necessarily remove the human function within learning and teaching, in the same way that books didn’t and in reality neither did the VLE. What it does do is free up time for teachers to focus on those aspects of learning which technology and AI can’t do well or not at all.
I don’t see AI systems replacing teachers, in the same way that text books, workbooks, don’t replace teachers. What I can see is how such systems could enhance the learning journey. Rather than a blanket list of resources and links, more focused and personalised approach to meeting the learner needs.
I can see a system also working intelligently to understand the context the learner is learning in. Are they travelling or on campus, or at home? What is their connectivity like? Are they on their own, with peers from their cohort? What assessments do they have coming up? Have they been working for a while, do they need a break?
Before we get to that, there is a lot of work to be done on how we measure these aspects of learner context. Importantly we also need to consider the ethical aspects of any such system.
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