AI in education: filling the void

Don’t pause learning – says Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham and co-founder of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education – technology can help

The vital role that advanced technologies can play in widening access to learning and increasing the capacities of education systems is more evident than ever before. Despite school closures in many countries, opportunities to learn and develop are not being extinguished thanks to an array of digital innovations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been an option for educationalists for some time, but many have shied away from its implementation. Now, in a time of need, there are benefits to embracing this technology and harnessing its ability to innovate quickly and at scale.

A recent report by the Institute for Ethical AI in Education (IEAIED), based at the University of Buckingham, emphasised that AI adds value in education not just by increasing capacity but by facilitating personalised learning at an unprecedented scale.

Personalised learning is key. Students will find their learning methods very different at this time and might need extra support.

Pausing learning would not be of benefit, as attractive as that may seem to a handful of young people. This in itself is a lesson we all need to learn

AI can assist in providing more tailored learning experiences to better match the needs of each individual and cater for their unique strengths and areas for development, resources such as adaptive learning platforms and intelligent tutoring systems will help support students alongside feedback and tailored support from their teachers.

Some students may question the need to learn in light of the news around cancelled examinations, but learning is not just a gateway to grades. Knowledge is the basis for personal development and success.

Pausing learning would not be of benefit, as attractive as that may seem to a handful of young people. This in itself is a lesson we all need to learn. As our world evolves, so must we. Lifelong learning is increasingly important; it enhances our understanding and ability to adapt to good and challenging situations.

AI will also support teachers by equipping them with deep insights into how each learner is progressing, allowing teachers to make more informed judgements around how to support individual students and provide fine-tuned interventions – which can even be delivered at a distance.

AI doesn’t come without its risks. From intrusions upon individuals’ privacy to the widening of societal divides, the risks of unethical AI are profound and must not be ignored.

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Educators, learners and societies across the globe need to be aware of these potential hazards so that they can guard against them and focus on utilising these tools correctly and safely. In the current climate we are time-poor, so self-assessment tools can help educational institutions gain a better understanding of the potential risks and deploy AI responsibly.

During these challenging times, educational institutions should be prospecting for opportunities to harness the most advanced educational technologies so that learners may continue to learn, develop and grow.

But they must also be informed of how to deploy these technologies responsibly. By diligently mitigating the risks associated with AI in education, educational institutions will be enabling learners to truly benefit from safe, effective innovations.

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