Artificial intelligence that can teach -already happening



Artificial intelligence that can teach? It's already happening

Artificial intelligence could be heading to Australian classrooms — and in schools overseas, it's already there.

In Bahia, Brazil, 15-year-old students David and Roama from Colegio Perfil often start their school day at home, or on the bus.

They pick up their phones, log into the education app Geekie Lab, and begin their classes from wherever they are.

"You can access it everywhere, as long as you have your phone with you," David said.

"The worst bit is you can't really run away from homework because it says when you don't do it," Roama said.
Geekie Lab is one of several personalised education apps created by Sao Paolo start-up, Geekie.

It delivers the entire school syllabus to students in digital lessons that combine text, video and images.

"I live far away, and every time I have to carry heavy books," Roama said.

"Geekie is a more practical way, you can carry it everywhere.

"All your books and all your information you get, but in a more simple way."

The app lets each student push ahead with their lessons at their own pace.
But the software doesn't just deliver content — it quizzes students, assesses how they're performing, and passes this data on to their teacher.

Geekie's engineering manager Leonardo Carvalho said an artificial intelligence (AI) engine built into the software was constantly learning about each student's individual progress, based on these tests.

"We try to understand what are the best possible paths of learning for each student," he said.

"Collecting data is really about knowing people better."

So, for David and Roama, there are two "teachers" watching their progress: an AI program, and their English teacher Rafael.

"It's like being a facilitator," Rafael said.

"They are interacting all the time with the device, and they look for you all the time to check if you are uploading content."

'We need to change'
Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott, said this type of AI software could assist with education in his state's classrooms.

"We need to change the way that we teach, change the tools that we use, change the operating environment," Mr Scott said.

"Technology is a vital and exciting tool that great teachers are going to be able to use to revolutionise education in schools in the years ahead."

Many classrooms already use educational software to teach students content, or to quiz them using banks of questions.

But this newer AI-driven software could customise personalised content for each individual student.

Mr Scott said this type of software would be able to help students learn more effectively.

"One of the great mysteries for a teacher is what a child has learnt, and why a child has learnt it," he said.

"What I think you're likely to see is more low-stress assessments, where kids are regularly almost doing a check-in with the technology.

"That then allows the teacher, as a specialist, to fine-tune how the teaching and learning takes place from there.

"I see a partnership between teachers and technology.

"There are some great opportunities for us, but we're going to have to change some things.

"This year we will be creating a catalyst lab where we will be looking to target small-scale experiments, investing seed money, and actually doing these pilot programs."

A Department of Education spokesman has confirmed a "catalyst lab innovation program" will be launched in July to trial new teaching technology in classrooms.

"Ideas will focus on the theme of applied learning and are likely to range from new assessment tools and teaching resources to programs to connect schools and students," the spokesman said.

Is AI the path to personalised learning?
In recent years, Australian school students have been crashing down the world education rankings, especially in STEM subjects.

Earlier this year, the Public Education Foundation said Australia's declining performance in maths, reading and science would cost the nation $120 billion over the next 45 years.

In March, David Gonski released a new report, arguing the current mass education model was the problem.

He proposed a solution: personalised learning, which would let students work at their own pace.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thrown his weight behind the idea.

Some believe AI software will be the key to a new personalised teaching model, while others have even argued AI machines will replace teachers within the next 10 years.

Mr Scott said he wanted teachers and students to be ready for the changes new technology could bring to classrooms.

"We know the world outside is changing dramatically," he said.

"We are in discussions with major technology companies and with business partners who want to help us create an environment where we can experiment and where we can scale."

AI teachers aren't robots standing in front of a class - yet
Back in Brazil, Mr Carvalho from Geekie said the AI software did not replace teachers.

"Teachers have a really important role in what to do with this data," he said.

"It really changes the work."

He said there were about 5 million students already using this software across Brazil.

There's huge potential to provide teachers for the millions of children in the world who don't have a teacher at all, she said.

"To provide specialist tutoring in areas that a school cannot afford," Professor Luckin said.

"We could be giving every child in the world the best tutor in the world, in a very narrow and particular way."

Professor Luckin also said if students already had access to personal devices to access the software, it could be surprisingly cost effective.

"Technology doesn't have sick days," she said.

"You might have a high outlay to start off with, but actually the maintenance is relatively low."

But she cautioned against simply replacing teachers with AI software.

"If education policy-makers and decision-makers see those systems as an economical solution to a problem of expensive teachers, teacher shortages, that's quite dangerous," she said.

"They can only teach a certain sort of thing."

It frees up teachers to do the sorts of things that teachers are really good at, Professor Luckin said, such as assisting with social skills, creative problem solving, and working in a group.

For children, she said, educational AI software could be very supportive.

"It is one-to-one tutoring, it is adaptive, in a way that it's hard for teachers who are, throughout the world, increasingly coping with much larger numbers of students," she said.

Privacy, screen time, accessibility
Professor Luckin also has concerns about where a student's individual data would be stored, and when that data would be used.

"I think there are also some enormous risks around ethics and privacy," she said.

Two common concerns are who gets to use the technology, and how much we may let it make decisions in society.

Plus many parents are already anxious about screen time for children.

However, Mr Scott said schools were already trying to help students manage their engagement with technology in the classroom, and beyond.

"We need to be careful of screen time, and I certainly don't see a future where students are just locked in front of screens," he said.

Mr Scott said NSW could be the ideal place to trial new educational technology.

"2,200 schools, 800,000 students in the government school system — it's one of the largest education systems in the world," he said.

"So if you can have an impact here, in a system this size, then you're going to have an impact on a lot of students."

This could lay the groundwork for other education systems across the country, he said

But Mr Scott is clear that teacher training is an important part of the solution too.

"We know that finally the answer is about teaching and teaching quality, and what happens in the classroom."

The Science Show on RN will be looking into AI education technology on Saturday at 12pm. You can also listen online or via the ABC Listen App.





Building “God”

“And the Lord spoke all these words: I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

The magisterial words handed down to Moses take on ever greater import now that the age of artificial intelligence has arrived. What more graven thing is there, what more likeness of any thing in heaven can there be, than a superintelligent AI? We have little to no hope of even understanding a portion of such a thing, should it come into being.

Already, we have trouble understanding our narrow-domain AI. In 2017, Digital Journal reported: “An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. Researchers shut the system down when they realized the AI was no longer using English.” Google’s translation AI seems to have done something similar, and it wasn’t shut down. In 2016, New Scientist reported on the breakthrough advance: “Google’s researchers think their system achieves this breakthrough by finding a common ground whereby sentences with the same meaning are represented in similar ways regardless of language — which they say is an example of an ‘interlingua.’” “In a sense, that means it has created a new common language, albeit one that’s specific to the task of translation and not readable or usable for humans.”

The fact that humans are already being locked out of understanding how AI is working was underscored in 2016 by Guruduth Banavar, IBM chief science officer for cognitive computing. “It’s not clear even from a technical perspective that every aspect of AI algorithms can be understood by humans,” he told Fast Company magazine.

If we are already having difficulty understanding the limited AI of the present, how can we hope to understand, much less control, the increasingly intelligent AI of the near future? And should we create machine intelligence that exceeds our own, as ours exceeds that of the cockroach?

Perhaps most importantly, is it already too late?


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