6 Ways Schools Can Prepare for Artificial Intelligence

What if every learner had a personal learning assistant? As any good educator would do, we can add another acronym to our arsenal, PLA. What if this personal learning assistant was embedded into a learner’s computer, watch, phone, and wearable glasses? The PLA would analyze the pulse of a student understanding when a stressful situation arises. The computer camera would use technology such as Affectiva to analyze the facial expression of the learner and through Deep Mind or IBM’s Watson, would understand from past data collection and analyzing millions of images from the web, the social-emotional state of the learner. As the learner encounters a new concept, the PLA would be listening to the content or question at hand and prepare the background knowledge required to ensure the learner quick access if he/she so needed it. The PLA would understand how the student learns based on speech recognition, analyzing the intonations and cadence of his/her voice using technology such as that created by Soul Hackers Labs and using Watson’s Tone Analyzer analyzing the teacher’s written feedback. All data would be stored for future retrieval where the PLA can help remediate when necessary or can sense boredom and recommend an interesting project, article, video, etc. The one thing the PLA cannot do is touch the heart of the child like a teacher.

The PLA hasn’t been invented yet, at least that I’ve found. It is a figment of my imagination and a compilation of newer technologies that may emerge into something similar very soon. The Internet of Things and artificial intelligence have already changed our world, but the change has only just begun. The self-driving car, Siri, Alexa, responsive thermostats, smart refrigerators, and robots all exist today. Soon, these technologies, likely viewed as rudimentary, will be replaced by sophisticated assistants intended to make our lives easier responding to our personal preferences. To help prevent a “Terminator-style” world, MIT and Berkman Klein Center partnered in the creation of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative.

The urgency of rethinking the educational system is here. How can education respond to this acceleration of innovation? As Bernhard Schinldhozer mentions in his TEDx speech, what if you could learn from the best lecturers in the world on a topic? Makes sense. Choosing from the “best” will remain up to the learner as each individual has personal preferences. If a learner finds lectures boring, they could engage in a simulation, read articles, or listen; essentially choosing how to access the information. Each of us offers something unique to our world and should contribute this knowledge for others to consume, and this includes our student learners. Educational institutions around the globe are trying to figure out how our model needs to change. The two common themes, regardless of country, state, province, or city, are personalization and real-world problem-solving.

6 ways to prepare for an AI-enhanced future:

  1. Be the champion. Nurture and encourage the love of learning for students. Celebrate their success! Remember Rita Pierson’s +2 versus a -18 (20 point test) and the impact it has on a child. Always go for the +2.
  2. Solve real-world problems (ISTE – Innovative Designer). What artificial intelligence cannot do is take multiple human brains and create a collaborative experience maximizing a team’s individual strengths, not an algorithm. Every day, new problems crop up in which learners can help solve. As Sir Ken Robinson asserts, the industrial model of education reduces the creativity of children. Even the youngest child can see new solutions that a seasoned professional may miss.
  3. Allow for voice and choice – personalize (ISTE – Empowered Learner)! In a personalized world, learners need to understand how to make choices for themselves, driven by ethics, passion, and need. The choices offered to a student grows exponentially by the minute. Helping learners understand how to navigate the choices and understand he/she is in charge of their learning remains essential. Couple voice and choice along with solving real-world problems to engage in a new way of learning.
  4. Help learners become responsible digital citizens (ISTE – Digital Citizen). The learners in today’s classrooms will be interacting and refining the artificial intelligence world and need a firm grasp safety, ethics, digital privacy, and security.
  5. Contribute knowledge (ISTE – Creative Communicator). Publish what you know and encourage all learners to contribute. Contributing to the world’s knowledge pool makes others’ better. Benefiting from the knowledge of our collective existence creates a more informed, aware society. Many third world countries are still without internet or computers. When everyone in the world comes online, their thirst for learning and consumption of resources will likely be unparalleled. Google remains committed to solving this problem with Project Link.
  6. Keep and encourage an Innovator’s Mindset. The uncertainty of our future can be disconcerting but agility, resiliency, empathy, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and risk-taking (innovator’s mindset) will help prepare learners for their future.

Embrace our new world and make it better; there are more ways than ever to contribute to the betterment of our society. Do it today!