Artificial Intelligence Changing the Educational Landscape

By Helen Crompton (PhD), Associate Professor of Instructional Technology, Director of the Virtual Reality Lab, Director of the Technology Enhanced Learning Lab (TELL,) Old Dominion University

Helen Crompton (PhD), Associate Professor of Instructional Technology, Director of the Virtual Reality Lab, Director of the Technology Enhanced Learning Lab (TELL,) Old Dominion University

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to enhance daily instruments and activities, such as Internet search, smartphones, and household appliances. Many of us use AI daily but do not realize as it. AI is integrated into Google search, automated phone systems, and many other common tools. We may have just noticed the tools performing better. AI is now used in K-12 education to support teaching and learning. The purpose of this publication is to present research findings on how AI is enhancing teacher capabilities as AI provides: teaching support, such as effective moderation, collaborative learning strategies, automation of effective grading techniques, robust data analysis techniques, and how AI can be used to provide individualized learning pathways for each individual learner.

Educators

Educators are using AI systems to automate tasks that allow them time to provide more defined support to individual students and tools that vastly improve their teaching effectiveness. Time consuming tasks that had the teacher away from students, spending hours behind a desk focused on activities, such as grading papers can now be given to AI systems leaving teachers to get back to being with students. Futurists believe that 40% of what teachers will do will be taken over by AI in the future. Teachers are often concerned about this statement until it is described to the teachers what activities AI will remove from their workload. Then the excitement sets in as they realize the dream of what they wanted to be as a teacher can become reality.

Monitoring students is also supported by AI in providing real-time student analytics to monitor the classroom. For example, Holstein et al used Lumilo as mixed-reality glasses that allowed the teacher to see the students in the class with additional information visible in an added digital layer over each student. Looking through the glasses, the teacher was provided with a level indicator to show when the student was last active or if the student needs prompting.

Educators are supported in organizing student groups, facilitating those groups and moderation. AI can use student data to form relevant groups based on academic level, interests, and mixed groups. Moderation is a time-consuming task and the amount of text in discussions can be difficult to read everything to the level of focus required to respond appropriately. AI moderation systems can use machine learning and shallow text processing to sort through the information while keeping the teacher informed about students getting off-topic and when content misconceptions arise.

"Educators are using AI systems to automate tasks that allow them time to provide more defined support to individual students and tools that vastly improve their teaching effectiveness. Students benefit from learning tailored to their individual needs"

One of the most popular AI tasks for teachers is in automated essay scoring. AI programs, such as SAS writing reviser, WriteToLearn, and Research Writing Tutor, are being used to unpack and analyze student writing and provide feedback to the teacher. For example, Cywrite is being used to score students quantifiers, subject-verb agreement, articles, and run-on sentences. Teachers can use this information to better guide their students future learning direction. Where AI has the greatest potential in K-12 schools is in the way AI can be used to manage data. AI is being used already in many schools to collect data, and track data. The use of big data could improve student results, help customize programs, and reduce dropouts.

Students

There are a variety of ways AI is supporting learners. There are various AI Tutors appearing in mainstream education, providing automated guidance to students. These are becoming more popular in recent years with the rise in online teaching. Micro-Personalized Learning for Students is an affordance provided by AI that provides learning that takes into account student’s past learning record, learn student’s strengths and weaknesses, preference, and interests.

IBM Watson is one of the most advanced AI systems that has been used by many via IBM providing this technology free. Wordinator was created using IBM Watson to support students with literacy skills. Students type in what they are thinking and Wordinator provides them with terms to match what they are thinking. This is a type of reverse dictionary search for when the student knows what they want to say but cannot find the word. MIFACE is using Watson to have the computer analyze facial expressions which can help the computer learn from a students’ facial cues to better understand the affective state of the learner, such as a student struggling and provide support accordingly.

This article just touches the surface of what AI can do in K-12. At the same time as all the benefits appear, this is a very powerful tool and we have to remember that powerful tools can be used for negative purposes. It is important to understand these negative aspects, and don’t run from them, but put measures in place to ensure student safety while allowing them to reap the benefits. 

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