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The role of artificial intelligence in EdTech

Artificial intelligence is a term that is frequently used in the EdTech world. But what does it mean? In this article, we explore how AI is currently being used in EdTech and the many benefits it can bring to teachers.

What is artificial intelligence?

There are many different definitions of artificial intelligence. Here’s one I like: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

How is AI being used in EdTech?

In EdTech, the most significant uses of AI are in content recommendation, AI-powered teaching assistants such as chat-bots performing specific tasks and accessibility functions such as text to speech and voice recognition.

The benefits of AI in EdTech

When used effectively, these tools are empowering teachers. Continual, formative assessment data is used as input for adaptive algorithms that power an output that is a work programme. This data can also be shared with the teacher, saving them hours in manually collecting the data and giving them eyes on the strengths and weaknesses of students.

“[AI is] empowering teachers … data can be shared with the teacher, saving them hours in collecting the data and giving them eyes on the strengths and weaknesses of students”.

The gains that AI is bringing are being made principally in the knowledge-based curriculum. The national curriculum for mathematics has three principal aims: become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics (more knowledge-based), reason mathematically (more skills-based) and solve problems by applying their mathematical knowledge (also more skills-based).

AI, in all its forms, provides a fantastic way to help children in the first of these aims: to become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics (for example, their knowledge of times tables and fraction/decimal/percentage equivalents). But I think we are a long way from AI being able to meaningfully help children develop the skills to reason mathematically and apply mathematical knowledge to solve complex problems.

Looking to the future: will AI replace teaching?

The oft-mooted suggestion that AI may be used to replace teachers is simply not true.

What it will give us is the opportunity to teach in ways previously impossible, giving us superpowers to mass-instruct children on a personalised level, and consequently freeing up teacher time to do the things that AI will never master: motivating, encouraging, understanding children on an emotional level, and teaching a skills-based curriculum that is desired by employers.

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