Artificial Intelligence in Education: What We can learn from Current AI Successes and How We can apply it in Tomorrow's Classrooms

By Dennis Bonilla, Executive Dean, College of Information Systems and Technology, School of Business and College of Criminal Justice at University of Phoenix

Dennis Bonilla, Executive Dean, College of Information Systems and Technology, School of Business and College of Criminal Justice at University of Phoenix

Since its inception in the 1950s, artificial intelligencehas helped provide solutions to automate tasks and make life easier and more convenient. Considering how quickly technology – particularly artificial intelligence – has increased over the past decade alone, a promising future may lie ahead for further advancements and increased use of artificial intelligence technology in coming years.

Artificial intelligence, or “AI,” is the ability of computer systems to perform human tasks, such as decision-making and speech recognition. This technology is becoming increasingly more ubiquitous and odds are most of us have probably interacted with or experienced AI in some capacity in our daily lives. From Netflix and Amazon’s predictive recommendation engines and algorithms to virtual voice assistants Alexa and Siri, this technology has created a more positive, interactive, and engaging customer experience.

As AI becomes more prominent in our daily lives, we can look to current successes and future outlook to develop a blueprint for greater adoption in an area where artificial intelligence can make an immense impact on consumer experience – education.

"Human capital is one of, if not the most important variables of the future success of AI"

Current state of AI in education

AI in education is gaining traction. Education systems, from kindergarten to higher learning, have embraced the integration of technology into the classroom. AI is currently being used to automate administration tasks, like grading and identifying learning gaps, and work is being done to provide individualized learning and translation services and tutoring support. Future outlook also looks promising. Research and Markets predicted that AI in the US education sector would increase 47.5 percent from 2017-2021.

Adoption of this technology in today’s and future classrooms could be beneficial for student comprehension and improved teaching methods. With AI in the classroom, machines can manage the repetitive tasks like analyzing data, allowing teachers additional time to focus more on the human side of educating, such as empathy and individualized access to each student.

Building upon the foundation of established AI technology, education institutions can develop a strategy to implement AI into both traditional and non-traditional classroomsfurther. To make this successful, it is crucial that we learn from success and mistakes and take steps to improve upon an established, promising foundation.

Improving the future

According to a 2017 Deloitte study, many people expect AI to become mainstream – and disruptive – very soon. 94 percent of respondents felt that AI would disrupt part of their business, their whole business or the whole industry ecosystem. Most felt it would hit its peak in two to five years (43 percent) or 18 months-2 years (31 percent). With a solid foundation for success already in place and a brighter future seemingly looming, the next step isimprovingthe adoption, development, and sustainability of AI in the classroom by overcoming two critical hurdles: knowledge and inclusion.

This is extremely important in education, where the technology is still in much more of an infancy stage than in the business space. The same Deloitte study found that companies who have not yet started the AI journey were most concerned about sustainability (29 percent) and accountability (43 percent).

To overcome these, pioneers in this space must be vocal about the benefits of AI and how they plan to use it. Data on adults’ comfort and trust of AI specifically in education does not yet exist, but we can assume that sustainability and accountability would be concerns for all levels of education institutions attempting to integrate the technology into the classroom.

However, this issue cannot be solved purely on its own. In a vacuum, increased knowledge on the subject matter could positively impact consumer opinion, but the second hurdle – diversity and inclusion in AI – must be solved in tandem to ensure future success.

Ensuring diversity and inclusion

Women and minority groups continue to be under represented in the technology industry. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s 2017 report, only 26 percent of the computing workforce last year were women.The ugly truth is that bias has formed in technology and has bled over in AI. Without the input of these groups, we face a future of AI that lacks a true universal mission to improve functionality for everyone.

Last October, I had the pleasure of serving as the opening keynote speaker for the twelfth annual National Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference. My topic was “The New Tech Evolution: Ensuring Women have an Equal Voice.”This is an epidemic that has plagued the IT space for nearly two decades. Today, technology is evolving in near real-time – via machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics and more. But, if tech continues to be dominated by males, then they will be the ones in charge of creating the technology evolution, thus creating bias. We must ensure that women’s points of view are incorporated into the future evolution of the human race.

Women offer a unique perspective that is imperative to removing bias. Diverse groups often create more innovative, creative, ethical, and successful solutions. As a male in the space, I believe that men need a central, consistent seat at the table to be active in the conversation and serve as allies in the fight for inclusion. We must empower not only women but minority groups to make their voices, opinion and ideas heard.

Building a better future for AI in education

Human capital is one of, if not the most important variables of the future success of AI. While AI can improve our lives, people long for human interaction, especially in a personal industry like education. The impact a teacher makes in the classroom cannot be overlooked or overshadowed. What makes this even more integral is the fact that the National Center for Education Statistics reports that more than three-quarters of all teachers are women.

In removing a large segment of human capital by excluding women and minority groups, we are limiting the future success of AI. This technology can be a valuable tool to help improve the education system not only in the US but around the world. Applying the lessons we have learned from today’s successful pioneers and taking steps to overcome the pitfalls in AI, we can help ensure that we are creating the best possible future for our students.

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