Are we ready for the AI-driven classroom?


Tuesday, 08 June, 2021


Are we ready for the AI-driven classroom?

Monash University and the Monash Data Futures Institute are hosting an online seminar to discuss the creeping use of artificial intelligence (AI) into classrooms and schools.

Monash Education Professor Neil Selwyn will be joined by experts from UNESCO and University College London in the seminar ‘AI and the future of education’.

Powerful AI systems are now being used by schools to do a variety of tasks — from instantly taking the roll, to grading students’ work, and even chatbots giving advice and support.

Professor Selwyn says while these systems offer educational advantages, it’s important that schools, teachers and parents are fully informed about how the systems work and the technology’s limitations.

“AI promises to do a lot of heavy lifting for teachers, and can save teachers a lot of time and effort. However, we know that AI systems run the risk of making wrong decisions and biased outcomes,” Professor Selwyn said.

“There’s a real need for any AI system in schools to be transparent and accountable. Schools need to have a good understanding of how systems are programmed and the logics that they are basing their decisions on.

“Currently a lot of these systems are completely ‘black-boxed’ — meaning that schools cannot really know why really important educational decisions are being made.”

The use of AI in schools hit the headlines in 2019, when Melbourne start-up Looplearn began trialling its facial recognition-based automated roll-call system — prompting Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino to call for a crackdown on such systems being used in government schools.

However, many other forms of AI-driven systems and software are now making their way into classrooms without similar levels of scrutiny.

Monash Data Futures Institute Director Professor Joanna Batstone, who is co-sponsor of the seminar, said the event “will go a long way to building our understanding of what artificial intelligence in education is, what it delivers and how it goes about doing that. It will also provide important perspectives on how the field of artificial intelligence can connect to the core of teaching and learning.”

This includes technology such as the Century AI personalised learning system and the BakPax automated grading software — both of which have seen worldwide sales boom as schools return to face-to-face teaching.

There is also a thriving local AI sector, with Australian software such as edQuire being used by schools to automatically monitor how students engage with their laptops.

These forms of AI promise a neat solution to many of the problems that schools face, but Professor Selwyn says we’re not considering the longer-term consequences of having this technology in the classroom.

“AI definitely has a role to play in the 21st-century classroom, but we can’t afford to get carried away. We don’t want to completely distance teachers from their students and lose the human touch,” Professor Selwyn said.

“Many classroom tasks that AI systems are being developed to automate are actually really important moments where teachers can interact with their students and support their learning.

“Rather than doing basic tasks that teachers can already do perfectly well, I’d like to see AI software that can do amazing things that no human teacher could do. That would be a genuinely exciting educational use of the technology.”

The online seminar is on Tuesday, 22 June, from 6–7.30 pm. Panellists include:

  • Associate Professor Erica Southgate, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Selena Nemorin, University College, London
  • Dr Valtencir Maldonado Mendes, UNESCO
     

To book, visit https://www.monash.edu/education/events/public/ai-and-the-future-of-education.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/phonlamaiphoto

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