Artificial Intelligence and Learning

With the growth of tools like the Amazon Echo, IBM’s Watson, or Apple’s Siri there’s been a renewed interest in artificial intelligence and learning.  In this blog article I’ll showcase just a few directions that are part of the contemporary landscape: adapted learning; personalized learning; chatbots and online learning; and new ways to access personal information.

Adapted Learning

According to Wikipedia, adaptive learning dates back to the 1970s. The idea was to create software that could emulate the human ability to adapt to individual learner’s needs creating a more effective learning experience. Adaptive learning usually has four components or “models:”

  • Expert model – The model with the information which is to be taught
  • Student model – The model which tracks and learns about the student
  • Instructional model – The model which actually conveys the information
  • Instructional environment – The user interface for interacting with the system

Much of the initial research came from work at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University. Today products like ALEKS, Knewton, and MATHia demonstrate the power of adaptive learning. It’s interesting to see that most of the work has been done in the area of mathematical learning. While there have been attempts to move beyond mathematics, adaptive learning works best in a very predefined world.

Personalizing Learning

There are many approaches to personalizing learning, but based on my experiences working with teachers, it’s next to impossible to do without digital technology. There have been some recent attempts by Alt Schools and Summit Learning to develop software to make the task easier for the learner and the facilitator. Key to both of these approaches is the use of a variety of data that pinpoints where the learner is on some continuum of skills, the learner’s goals, and resources to help the learner master a set of skills, competencies, or objectives.

Chatbots and Online Tools

The first chatter boxes were based on keywords. Today AI plays a new role opening up more sophisticated ways to engage a user in an online conversation. According to Wikipedia, “Today, chatbots are part of virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, and are accessed via many organizations’ apps, websites, and on instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger.” Today, chatbots are often used as part of homework tutorial programs like Nerdy Bot. Chatbots also play a role in grading essays. Hewlett Packard sponsored a competition in 2012 and the winner had 0.81 correlation with human graders.

At Georgia Tech, students were charmed by the teaching assistant, Jill Watson. What they didn’t realize was the fact that their online teaching assistant was actually a chatbot based on IBM’s Watson technology. The Coppell Independent School District (ISD) in Texas is the first school district to use the IBM Watson app to provide deeper levels of personal interactions and learning experiences for its students.

New Tools to Access Information

The Amazon Dot is a new tool for education that uses the technology behind Alexa, Amazon’s tool for the consumer market. Here are some ways Dr. Bruce Ellis suggests to take advantage of Alexa in the classroom:

  • Use Alexa in your classroom to support literacy by having students ask her how to spell a specific word, suggest a synonym, or provide a definition.
  • Social studies students can skip an internet search by asking Alexa simple geography and civics questions.
  • Math students can use Alexa to check their work when they’ve finished an assignment, and science students will find Alexa is great at converting units of measurements.

Arizona State University is one of the first educational institutions to test out the Amazon Dot as a learning tool. Starting the fall of 2017 1,600 engineering students are using the Amazon Dot. The university intends to evaluate the Amazon Dot as a tool that “combines sensing, connectivity and data analytics to inform decision making, optimize operations and energy efficiency, and create a highly personalized campus experience for every student, professor, staff member and alumnus.”

 

 

 

 

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