Getting Real: A Look at AI Implementation in International Classrooms

Getting Real: A Look at AI Implementation in International Classrooms

Getting Real: A Look at AI Implementation in International Classrooms

Maia Aron, journalist

[maxbutton id=”1″ ]

While much of “Shaping the Future 5” conference was devoted to what AI can do, one panel focused on what it is doing – or not doing – in international classrooms today.

The three panelists, all experienced in largescale educational implementation, are chiefly concerned with students who are being educated during the very earliest stages of AI. Nevertheless, they will graduate into a world that will almost certainly be dominated by it.

What is the best way to prepare them, particularly when many are learning in disadvantaged environments that lack basic EdTech infrastructure?

Joyse John, Director of Education at UK-based Nesta, a foundation that has focused on introducing innovation for the past 20 years, said Nesta is just beginning to look at emerging trends in AI education and to invest in related companies.

“We’ve looked at everything from flipped learning, to digital education, to artificial intelligence, and we recently just started doing some exploration, just to understand all the AI tools out there,” she said.

In addition, the foundation recently completed a wide-ranging research project with a group of partners that investigates the impact AI will have on specific jobs.

The research forecasts that by the year 2035 – a point when many of today’s students will be entering the workforce –  10% of current jobs will see an increase in demand, 20% will see a decrease in demand, and 70% will have an uncertain future – they may or may not exist. Thus, her focus is to identify and teach the skills that will match future needs and the personal qualities that will prepare students to adapt. The goal is to give them the best chance of having higher quality jobs in the future.

Regarding investment, she noted that Nesta is supporting companies that include Codebook, with expertise in personalization and adaptive learning, and Third Space Learning, with expertise in online math tutoring with real-time feedback that helps teachers improve their practice.

In addition, she noted Nesta’s work in system-wide innovation, for example, using AI to predict which schools are at risk of failing and support them before they do.

She urged the audience to use an approach that begins in the classroom:

 “Rather than starting with the technology and then looking for a problem, let’s look for the problems that learners, teachers and the system face and try to solve that, because we definitely can do that,” she said.

Carolina Jeux Conde, CEO of Digital Education Telefonica, concentrates on education and training in South American and European communities that lack the funds, infrastructure and training to introduce AI – but whose students will enter an AI-dominated world, nevertheless. Her company works with governments, companies and K-12 end-users. It has a platform that trains some 700,000 teachers in new methodologies and a MOOC platform for the Latin American world.

“To be realistic, we’re very far from being able to include AI solutions into the educational systems in the sectors of the countries where we are,” she said. “We are still talking about adaptive learning, blockchain, lots of technology is appearing, but the truth is that many governments don’t have their content digitized yet and the teachers have a whole lot of needs and training just to launch a project-based learning service in their classrooms.”

The solution?

“We are trying to teach the skills that AI can’t do,” she said, as well as trying to identify and implement the skills that are the most likely to be necessary.

“We’re trying to give them confidence that it doesn’t matter if they have to keep reinventing themselves,” she said.

To that point, she noted that AT&T recently determined that more than 50% of their 250,000 employees are working in jobs that will be obsolete in five years. In response, the company launched a major re-skilling program in order to retain as many current employees as possible going forward.

Daisuke Asano, director of the Educational Servicing Industry at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is further along, despite the need to overcome a very traditional school environment.

In most Japanese schools, he explained, teachers write textbook-based information on a blackboard and students are tested by reciting the information.  Teachers tend to be highly resistant to change and, because system-wide EdTech has not been introduced, most students don’t have personal computers at school. In addition, schools are not connected to the Internet.

Nevertheless, his group initiated The Learning Innovation Project this year to change the role of the teacher and the system of learning in the classroom. Most notably, the Project’s 30 EdTech pilot programs include a highly promising AI math application at a Tokyo junior high school.

The AI project requires students to learn math independently on laptops while teachers monitor, intervene and support their learning in real time.

“The teacher, looking at the real time data, understands which point, which chapter, the student is doing, how deeply the student understands, and what is the setback point for the student,” he explained.

“This application will change the way of teaching and learning and communication in the classroom.”

Moderator Prof. Karine Nahon, president of the Israel Internet Association, summed up with the major ethical questions posed by the introduction of AI to the educational environment, i.e. what should be regulated and who should do the regulating?

This is particularly significant since AI will be used to determine value and resource allocation. How can humans track mistakes, and who would take responsibility for correcting mistakes?

Daisuke Asano was alone among the speakers in reasoning that regulation does not need to be addressed at the current time.  He argued that AI education is at a very early stage and is limited in what it can do. Therefore, he said, the government’s main role should be to support and implement EdTech and AI, plus promote equality and accessibility of its content.

“It’s too early for the government to regulate,” he said. “The government should support it, not regulate it.”

[maxbutton id=”1″ ]