Hey Siri – why is AI important for education?

Image: Gertrūda Valasevičiūtė / Unsplash.com

Professor Rose Luckin of UCL, London, is constantly thinking about the ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) will impact on teaching and learning and how we can best prepare to leverage its potential. She suggests three perspectives that need to be explored.

First, AI can be used to tackle some of the educational challenges we face globally, such as teacher shortages and inequality. AI is excellent at individualising the way that people of all ages learn about the world across many subject areas, especially STEM subjects and language learning. AI can provide feedback that is tuned to each learner’s needs and it can select the most suitable activities and tasks for each learner. It can also process data about how people behave as they are learning, and this analysis can show teachers and trainers the way that their students are learning, as well as what they are learning.

Secondly, AI is something that needs to be taught. Everyone needs to know enough about AI to be able to use it safely and for their benefit, including educators and educational institutions. This does not mean that everyone needs to be able to write AI code; it just means they need to understand the principles of what AI is, what it can do, what it cannot do, and why data is important for machine-learning AI.

Thirdly, and this is the hardest of the three, we need to consider how best to change the way that we educate and train people, because we now have intelligent machines that can process masses of data very accurately. AI is not intelligent in the way that humans are intelligent: we have a much richer repertoire of intelligent behaviours. But in the areas where AI is intelligent, it excels beyond our capabilities: finding a particular sentence amongst thousands of documents, retrieving factual information in answer to a query, or completing complex calculations. We therefore need to make sure that our education systems don’t focus on what AI is good at to the detriment of what AI is not good at.

Rose Luckin (@Knowldgillusion) is Professor of Learner Centred Design at University College London (UCL) with a background in artificial intelligence (AI). She also directs the world’s only research accelerator for Educational Technology (EdTech) companies – EDUCATE at UCL in London – and co-founded the Institute for Ethical AI and Education.