When Your Substitute Teacher is a Robot...

March 26, 2021

The use of AI in education has become a highly discussed - and somewhat controversial - topic. According to Stanford University’s 2021 AI Index, more than $40 billion was invested into AI startups in 2020, and both experts in AI and in education expect these technologies to be increasingly integrated into classrooms.

What can these systems do?

In short: a lot. These systems can range from AI-powered teaching assistants that automatically grade assignments and provide real-time feedback to students to robots that help teachers in organizing socialization in their classrooms.

Joanna Smith, the founder of ed-tech company AllHere, recently launched new product features that include an AI chatbot that checks in with students who are missing class regularly, an issue that has been exacerbated in many schools by the COVID-19 pandemic. This system can even provide families with health care referrals or with support in solving computer-related issues.

What's the controversy?

Some experts advise caution when integrating AI with education. One issue is that research goals are relatively future-oriented and may not address the practical, daily issues that education professionals regularly experience. In addition, concerns surrounding biased datasets and increased surveillance exist in this space.

When developing any AI system that will impact the education sphere, it is crucial that a human-centered approach is used to design, build, and improve these systems.

Jeremy Roschelle, a principal investigator at the Center for Integrative Research in Computing and Learning, puts it best by stating we need to “start from what is good for teaching and learning...and not from what AI can do for me.”