The Independent

Coming soon to a classroom near your child: a computer that gives a perfect lesson


Artificial intelligen­ce should be used to provide children with one-to-one tutoring to improve their learning and monitor their well-being, academics have argued.

One-to-one tutoring has long been thought the mosteffect­ive approach to teaching but would be too expensive to provide for all students.

However, in a paper, academics from University College London’s Knowledge Lab argue that AI systems could simulate human one-to-one tutoring by delivering learning activities tailored to a student’s needs and providing targeted and timely feedback, all without an individual teacher present.

Instead of being examined in traditiona­l ways, children could be assessed in a more complete mannerbyco­llecting data about their performanc­e over a long period, providing employers and educationa­l institutio­ns with a richer picture of their abilities.

The report argues that AI could radically transform our education system for the better – but it is being held back by funding.

Proposals to use AI have been controvers­ial. Professor Stephen Hawking and other leading scientists have warned of the dangers of it becoming “too clever”, and there are concerns about data security and privacy. Some teachers also fear their role could be diminished by this technology, or that it could be used as a “classroom spy” to monitor their performanc­e. But the report’s authors believe there are huge potential benefits – and they argue it is essential the teaching profession is involved from the start.

The report says: “We are in no doubt that teachers need to be central agents in the next phase of Artificial Intelligen­ce in Education (AIEd). In one sense this is obvious – it is teachers who will be the orchestrat­ors of when, and how, to use these AIEd tools. In turn, theAIEd tools, and the data-driven insights that these tools provide, will empower teachers to decide how best to marshal the various resources at their disposal.”

It adds: “The increasing use of AIEd systems will enable the collection of mass data about which teaching and learning practices work best. This data will enable us to track learner progress against different teaching approaches and, in turn, will allow us to develop a dynamic catalogue of the best teaching practices suited to the developmen­t of different skills and capabiliti­es, in particular the 21st century skills, across a range of environmen­ts.”

AI should also be used to tackle the achievemen­t gap between the poorest children and their wealthier peers by helping low-income parents with parenting even before their offspring start school.

The report says: “Lowincome parents may also have had limited education opportunit­ies, meaning they may face serious challenges in providing at-home learning support to their children.

“AIEd systems can provide tailored support to parents in the same way that they can for teachers and students, improving education and outcomes for both parents and their children. Imagine, for example, providing parents with AIEd assistants that could advise them about strategies for talking to their child, sharing songs, and enjoying books. This could enable all parents to provide the right sort of support in those allimporta­nt early years.”

AI first appeared in a digital game in 1979, when Pac-Man used a technique known as state machine (transition­ing between states depending on conditions) to control whether or not a ghost ran towards or away from a player. The AI in most modern digital games builds on this approach.

AI can provide tailored support to parents, as well as teachers

REUTERS ?? Models in sequinned dresses on the catwalk for the Dolce & Gabbana autumn/ winter 2016 collection during Milan Fashion Week
STEFANO RELLANDINI/ REUTERS Models in sequinned dresses on the catwalk for the Dolce & Gabbana autumn/ winter 2016 collection during Milan Fashion Week

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