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Artificial intelligence transforming how educators approach teaching

Posted on 05-13-2019 by Korinne Bressler


Our latest Expert Q&A features Dr. Amy Ogan, an Associate Professor in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research project uses AI to improve teaching and learning methods, and her work could benefit many millions of schoolchildren in less economically developed countries. She explains how AI is changing the way research is done.

Q: How has AI helped your research into learning?

“One of the major things that we see actually transforming how schools work today is the idea of personalization and this is something that AI can do very well. It can adopt changes to the pace or the ability to provide help at the right point in time for individual learners so that they get exactly what they need.”


Q: What potential does AI have to change education in the future?

“The scope is enormous. One of the things that we’re looking at further in the future is to use AI to look with cameras and microphones and other sensors at what is happening in the physical environment. It means we could be able to provide all sorts of great feedback about when kids need more support, how teachers can change their practice in order to improve their own classrooms and all sorts of things that might be coming in the future.”


Q: How is AI changing universities?

“One of the issues that we [as academics] have is in adopting our own technology, so this is something I am trying to transform. We are putting sensors in the classrooms in our own university throughout the teaching experience because it has been so hard for us to take the time out and to change the way that we actually work. We have a lot of knowledge about how AI can change education and now we’re trying to put it into practice in our own settings as well.”


Q: We’ve seen how AI has helped your research, is the same true for other academics?

“AI lets us look at larger and larger datasets and create something meaningful out of them in ways that were very difficult to do previously. So [in the field of research into learning] we can collect more data from more learners and understand scientific problems at a scale that was not previously possible.”


Q: How important is the data going into AI?

“We are only just now starting to think about data, where it’s coming from, what it means, how accurate is it and what are the results that we’re getting from it. Particularly in education, we cannot collect data only from upper class western learners who already have the benefits of technology and strong support systems, we need to make sure that the data we are collecting is representative of all learners in order to have equity in the technology that we are developing.”

Q: Are data scientists becoming more in demand?

“Big data, AI, data scientists, machine learning—these are all buzzwords that are now on millions of job applications and it’s really clear this is something that companies are looking for, sometimes even when they don’t know why they need it. However, when we’re training people to have these [digital] skills, they can go into those companies and use cutting-edge techniques to transform the way that industry is happening too.”


Q: How can AI benefit the world?

It turns out that AI is not just good for super-fancy high-tech situations, we use AI even on feature phones for kids to use at home in places where there is low electricity, and maybe where problems with illiteracy exist, we can use AI in those situations as well. We just need to have the right data collected and we need to think about the context and where we are using it in order to develop the right solutions.”

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