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Demystifying Artificial Intelligence In Learning

Young adult using a laptop computer

IBM and Pearson have a new global alliance to make the Watson technology’s cognitive capabilities available to millions of college students and professors. Independent learning scientist Rose Luckin says artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize education, “but never replace teachers.”

The Next Step and More

“Artificial intelligence is not just the next step in innovative learning,” says Rose Luckin, a self-described learning scientist at University College London. “It’s so much more.”

“This technology can identify emotional states of students as well as their meta-cognitive states,” she says, “and tailor learning accordingly.” Previous forms of technology fell far short of this kind of capability.

(“Meta-cognitive” generally means a self-awareness of what you may not yet know. Rose recently co-authored a paper titled “Intelligence Unleashed: An argument for AI in Education.”)

Rose says artificial intelligence in education, also called AIed, can also further facilitate deeper collaboration between learners—and help teachers differentiate their instruction in order to meet every learner’s needs.

“There’s even one-on-one tutoring through artificial intelligence,” she says, “which is one of the gold standards of learning.”

Quote: Rose says teachers are “the whole package.”  “Their job is so much more than, say, just teaching math,” she says. “The breadth of a teacher’s skill is still so much more important than the depth of any particular learning technology.”

“So many students get left behind because of classes that are too large or limited access to quality teachers,” Rose says. “Assistance from artificial intelligence education could make learning across the globe far more equal.”

One-on-One Tutoring for College Students

IBM and Pearson announced this week a new alliance to use the cognitive capabilities of Watson in online tutoring for students in higher education.

The digital tutor will be able to engage with students through questions, guide students with hints, and give feedback and explanations about key concepts.

It will also enable teachers to offer individual students precise, targeted assistance through challenges and knots in learning.

A pilot project is underway.

Never Replacing Teachers

“AIed can do things that were previously not possible in the classroom,” says Rose Luckin. “But it will not replace the teacher.”

Quote: “So many students get left behind because of classes that are too large or limited access to quality teachers,” Rose says. “Assistance from artificial intelligence education could make learning across the globe far more equal.”

She acknowledges that is the gorilla in the room: the fear that new AI technology will take over teaching from teachers, to save money and build scale.

Not true, she says.

“There are still areas, however, where human intelligence cannot be automated,” Rose says.

“A teacher, for example, can have a particular intuition about a student based on knowledge that teacher may have about home life or other experiences outside of school,” she says. “This teacher may simply decide a student needs a break—a computer can’t do that.”

Rose says teachers are “the whole package.”

“Their job is so much more than, say, just teaching math,” she says. “The breadth of a teacher’s skill is still so much more important than the depth of any particular learning technology.”

Laurie Forcier is another co-author of “Intelligence Unleashed.”

She says, even with the aid of artificial intelligence, learning and teaching remains “a deeply human experience.”

An Aristotle for All

When Pearson’s President of Global Product Tim Bozik announced the alliance with IBM this week, he started his remarks by talking about Alexander the Great.

Not only was he a famous student, his tutor was pretty famous, too: Aristotle.

The brilliant philosopher was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His teaching was tailored to Alexander’s needs.

Today, there are 200 million college students around the world—and not enough Aristotles to go around.

“For something like this to exist, it’s honestly so helpful,” says Luz Hiraldo, a liberal arts and social sciences student at Bronx Community College. “Just the fact that you can ask, ‘Hey, I don’t understand this, can you help me?”

“We are changing the way students learn,” says Harriet Green, general manager of IBM’s Internet of Things. “Our partnership will use the power of Watson to help students stay engaged and deepen their learning, complete their degree and be better equipped for their careers.”