The role of AI in education is coming into sharper focus in recent times, as a growing number of schools and other academic institutions are beginning to understand its many potential benefits. While AI has a clear role in assisting students with their learning, it can also be extremely advantageous for teachers too. In fact, AI technology can be used to adapt lessons to students’ needs, continually providing an ideal learning environment, enhancing communication, and optimizing the lesson creation process.
Read on to learn more about the role of AI in education and the ways it can assist teachers or take a look at Sens to find out about the next generation of collaborative AI-assisted teaching.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important technologies of recent times, but the potential uses for AI in education have often been overlooked. This is perhaps understandable, as the concept of teaching is based around knowledge sharing and communication, which are two competencies that do not necessarily require assistance from artificial intelligence. Many articles have started to emerge, highlighting some of the uses for AI in the classroom, but most have placed a strong focus on students and have barely touched upon the ways this technology can aid teachers.
Despite this, the benefits of AI in academic settings should be taken seriously. It is fair to say that AI is already present in most classrooms, as it is used within many of the most common software solutions. Yet, its uses can go much further, with AI having the potential to automate repetitive tasks and facilitate more personalized learning. Meanwhile, instant feedback for teachers and the ability to cater to multiple different learning styles are commonly cited as being among the most important benefits of using technology in the classroom, and both are possible with AI.
In this article, we will explore five of the main ways in which modern artificial intelligence technology can be of assistance to teachers, improving efficiency, planning, the quality of lessons, and the learning environment itself.
AI in Education: What is Artificial Intelligence?
First, it is worth taking time to explain artificial intelligence and its capabilities. Microsoft defines artificial intelligence technology, or AI, as “the capability of a computer system to mimic human-like cognitive functions such as learning and problem-solving.” Essentially, AI capabilities allow systems to identify patterns in data, learn from new data, and correct mistakes, resulting in a system that is capable of tasks that have, historically, relied on human intelligence.
The concept of self-aware and intelligent robots has been a staple within science fiction films and literature for many years, but there are some similarities between this fictional depiction and the reality of artificial intelligence. Of course, within classroom situations, teachers are not going to be dealing with futuristic robots but instead with machines or computer systems that are equipped with the capacity to learn and adapt and perform actions on their own.
Crucially, AI provides some unique opportunities for marginal gains within the classroom. These various marginal gains, when combined and when looked at over a period of time, could result in significant improvement to outcomes, including higher student engagement levels and better grades. At the same time, AI can be used to assist teachers, making processes more efficient, providing crucial insights in real-time, and ultimately making their role much easier.
Artificial Intelligence: How Does it Work in Practice?
Some teachers and school administrators may instinctively find the prospect of working with artificial intelligence technology to be intimidating, but it is important to understand that advanced IT skills are not a requirement in order to capitalize on what the technology has to offer. In fact, most teachers will already be familiar with AI technology and will be using it regularly without necessarily realizing they are using it.
After all, artificial intelligence already powers many of the most popular software solutions on the market, and it is present in other examples of everyday technology. Often, it is used to speed up processes, improve accuracy, extract meaning from data, or learn from data to provide users with a more tailored or personalized experience.
Examples of AI in Everyday Technology
A great example of AI technology in everyday technology can be seen with modern cars that are equipped with parking sensors. These sensors utilize AI to detect objects and obstacles, and to alert the driver if they come close to making contact with them. The most advanced sensors can even take this a step further by identifying empty parking spaces in real-time, which can make the entire process of parking a car easier and safer.
Users of online retail websites like Amazon are likely to be recommended products that are relevant to items they have previously purchased. These recommendation systems use AI to detect patterns in data. So, for example, if the AI learns that a disproportionate percentage of users who purchased a PlayStation 5 also purchased another product, the AI can then recommend that product to anyone who purchases a PlayStation 5 console.
Similar technology also exists within music streaming services, like Spotify and Apple Music. Over time, this AI technology will learn about the artists and the genres of music a user likes, using existing data to make intelligent recommendations. This is how these services are able to provide tailored recommendations that many users agree are incredibly accurate. AI technology is also used to provide Netflix or Amazon Prime Video users with recommended television shows or films based on their viewing history. In all cases, the AI makes sense of data, continually learns from it, and then deploys it in ways that are intended to improve the user experience or make life easier for the end user.
So how can this technology be used within classrooms, and what are the benefits for teachers?
5 Ways AI in Education Can Assist Teachers
In recent times, a greater level of acceptance has emerged regarding the role of artificial intelligence within academic environments. However, many articles that have explored this topic have primarily focused on the ways in which this technology can help students, such as by enhancing productivity or identifying areas of weakness. In the sections below, we will take an in-depth look at the various ways that AI capabilities can assist teachers in making their lives easier, improving teaching performance, and allowing them to respond to different situations that may arise.
1. Adjust Lessons to Meet Students’ Needs in Real-Time
One of the single biggest reasons why academic institutions and teachers should explore the use of AI in the classroom is its ability to provide teachers with real-time feedback. In many cases, this can be used by teachers to receive important information about the emotional state of students at any given time. This then makes it possible for lessons to be adjusted in the moment so that teachers can meet students’ needs and maximize the overall quality of lessons.
For instance, using a ViewSonic’s myViewBoard Sens makes it possible for teachers to receive real-time feedback about the behavior of students, such as participation and engagement levels. The AI-powered technology can also detect facial expressions — by safely creating an image that shows no features — or the posture and body language of students, and then interpret the mood within the classroom. As a result, at any given time, teachers can know the percentage of students in the classroom that appear to be happy, the percentage of students in the classroom that appear to be confused, and the percentage of students in the classroom who seem bored, or otherwise disinterested in the material that is being taught at that time.
“With myViewBoard Sens and AI in general, we can help teachers understand more about what is going on in the classroom,” explains Peter Claxton, ViewSonic’s Senior Director of EdTech Solutions, in a feature for the EdTech 4 Beginners website. “It also provides information about levels of wellness and engagement in the classroom.”
Ultimately, this allows teachers to make adjustments to lessons as they progress, so that engagement is optimum. This could mean, for example, moving from conventional teacher-to-student instruction to an active learning session, or taking the time to explain concepts in more detail to a confused classroom.
2. Ensure the Classroom Offers Great Learning Conditions
While it is important for teachers to be able to understand the emotions, behavior, and engagement levels of students and respond accordingly, it is also essential for the classroom itself to serve as a great learning environment. In other words, the conditions need to be right for students who are receiving and, hopefully, retaining information.
One of the most exciting ways in which AI in education can be deployed involves using the technology to actively monitor classroom conditions and then alert teachers to any problems or areas where improvement is possible.
When teachers think about classroom conditions, they may immediately think about issues like the temperature in the room or the amount of light. After all, if a room is too warm or too cold, it can lead to discomfort, and this will then result in a classroom full of students who are distracted or less engaged. Similarly, light can be important for visibility, but research from the University of Mississippi also shows that light quality can fundamentally alter student performance.
Both of these issues can potentially be resolved by AI, with systems learning the ideal room conditions and automatically making adjustments to heating, air conditioning, lights, and electronic blinds. However, software such as Insights can go a step further than this by continually analyzing other classroom conditions. This can include the occupancy rate of the room and the amount of personal space students have. These issues became especially important to monitor during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to minimize the virus’ transmission potential.
3. Provide Vital Technological Support to Teachers
All teachers require support, but this can be especially true for new teachers or those who are teaching an unfamiliar group of students. AI-powered devices have the potential to provide some of this much-needed support, and this can be invaluable in situations where help from senior colleagues may be unavailable.
It is important to stress that EdTech which includes AI capabilities is not intended to replace teachers or minimize their value. Instead, AI serves as a tool, assisting teachers, automating certain processes, and alerting them to situations that may lead to changes in lessons or approaches. The technical information that can be provided by AI devices in a classroom can also free up more time to be spent on core teaching activities, thus fostering classroom dynamics.
For instance, in the aforementioned example, with AI devices detecting classroom conditions or the mood of students, it is possible for these devices to automatically make changes or to alert teachers at the precise time when a change can be made. This can help to minimize any issues and ensure that teachers shift gears as quickly as possible.
The support provided by this technology can allow teachers of all experience levels to feel better equipped to tackle the daily challenges associated with teaching students. Less time will be spent delivering content in sub-optimal ways or teaching in environments that are not conducive to learning, meaning more quality time can be spent communicating effectively, building good relationships with students, and catering to different learning styles in the room.
4. Save Time and Create Better Lesson Plans
The process of planning lessons can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if it needs to occur outside of normal working hours. Lessons will typically need to be carefully planned so that they cover all of the necessary content, are age-appropriate, and are in keeping with the wider curriculum.
This is another key area where artificial intelligence is starting to show real promise. In many cases, some of the more repetitive or predictable tasks associated with lesson planning can be automated, which can make the process of planning lessons easier and more efficient. On top of this, AI can play a role in optimizing the actual quality of lesson plans. For example, as an article for The Edvocate points out, AI is able to identify knowledge gaps among students, or information gaps within the course content, allowing these issues to be rectified quickly.
This all means that AI can help teachers to save time while simultaneously improving lesson planning.
Such optimization of lesson plans is one of the most significant benefits of AI. It is critical to remember that teaching is not only about providing necessary information but is also about developing crucial social and emotional skills, including those outlined in the CASEL 5, so that students are equipped for the challenges they will face in adult life.
5. Foster Teacher-Student Communication and Interaction
A huge part of teaching involves forming meaningful relationships with students and communicating effectively. This allows for the creation of an environment where students are able to work on their soft skills, as well as learning the main course content, and where they feel free to speak up, ask questions, share ideas, and voice concerns.
AI in education settings can help to foster teacher-student relationships by improving communication and everyday interactions. To provide examples, optimizing the learning environment can help to prevent distractions that might interrupt communication or cause a lack of knowledge retention. Similarly, if a teacher receives feedback that a large percentage of the class is confused, they will immediately know that they need to take steps to explain a topic more thoroughly or give students a chance to actively apply what is being taught. Over time, AI in the classroom can also detect patterns when confusion occurs, which can help teachers to tailor their teaching styles.
Sens, in particular, is a useful AI device in that it can help teachers to better understand the non-verbal component of student-to-teacher communication. In any given lesson, what is said to the teacher out loud is only going to account for a small amount of what is actually going on in students’ minds, and AI in education can help to bridge this gap so that teachers have a much better understanding of what students need or want.
Advanced Teaching Insights with ViewSonic Sens
A great way to implement high-quality artificial intelligence technology within a modern classroom is through the installation of Sens, ViewSonic’s AI-powered sensor, which is compatible with the myViewBoard platform and digital whiteboard. Essentially, this sensor connects to the whiteboard and captures both visual and environmental data.
The device can be placed on top of a ViewBoard and utilizes artificial intelligence technology in order to detect participation within a class, such as hand-raising, concentration, and body language. It is also able to interpret facial data in order to determine the emotions and attentiveness of a class, and this can allow teachers to understand which parts of their lessons are working and which are not. Data can be accessed in real-time, allowing for in-the-moment adaptation of lessons to fit the needs of students.
Going further, Sens can monitor the classroom environment in real-time, too, displaying data like the occupancy rate, the level of close contact that exists, the temperature of the classroom, and the humidity. This data can be used to provide the ideal conditions for learning and to more effectively manage student wellbeing.
Artificial intelligence technology analyses and learns from data without recording images, facial data, or other personal details, meaning respect for the privacy rights of both students and teachers is built into the product.
Adoption of AI in education has faced some resistance and even now, discussions will often center around how AI can be used by students. However, artificial intelligence has the capacity to greatly assist teachers as well. In particular, it can help teachers to adapt lessons in real-time to suit students’ needs, optimize the learning environment, improve communication, and enhance the efficiency and quality of lesson planning.