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Artificial Intelligence and Classrooms: Will It Help or Hurt?

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Is artificial intelligence the next big wave in ed-tech offerings?

NPR reports that Pearson, the world's largest education company, says artificial intelligence is already showing up in classrooms and could offer plenty in the way of assessment. An example of artificial intelligence at work in classrooms could entail software to provide instant feedback regarding students' knowledge, progress and method of learning. This could potentially lead to the elimination of the need for standardized testing (it's important to note here that Pearson controls up to 60 percent of the U.S. testing market, by some estimates). With more intuitive systems, however, students could feasibly be evaluated as they go -- which leads to the next big question: Will this technology help or hurt students?

Current computer systems are able to provide the benefits of one-on-one tutoring and learning modules. This has allowed for customized learning options that were not even an option a decade ago. Additionally, these systems are also able to moderate and facilitate group discussions. These options allow flexibility and also give teachers more of an opportunity to guide advanced and remedial students at their own pace. In most cases, educators have embraced this type of technology because while it does automate some tasks, it benefits all parties. 

Will artificial intelligence learning have the same reception though? At Pearson, the suggestion of a "life long learning companion" is in the works. These companions would escort students throughout their life assessing, encouraging, offering resources and suggestions to difficulties. Your companion would learn what you know and follow you throughout college and beyond. Can a "teacher" that lacks a human element really guide students in the best way, and understand the nuances of each individual learner?

The question of artificial intelligence in education is not really one of "if" but of "when." It is projected by The World Economic Forum that by 2020, at least 5 million jobs worldwide will be automated. With computers taking over more jobs, it is imperative that we become advanced at building and interacting with software tools. To this end, President Obama has made a conscious effort to incorporate computer science courses for all U.S. students. If humans are no longer doing the jobs, perhaps they can invent the technology that does. This tech literacy is vital to the future economy but the implications are a bit overwhelming if you really stop to think. 

While most of the education AI software is still in the development stages, advancing technology could drastically alter the landscape of how students learn. Will it end up improving classrooms and teaching methods? Or lower the standard of what is taught to our K-12 students?

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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