How AI will disrupt the classroom? Perhaps not enough.

Blog_Insights_AI_TeacherWhen the CEO of an Artifical Intelligence (AI) technology company – like Entefy’s Alston Ghafourifar – pens a piece proclaiming the coming disruption of the classroom by this latest technological phenomenon, it is tempting to recall all the other disruptors that were meant to upend and revolutionise learning. Radio, video, email, the web, social media, interactive whiteboards…

This article on VentureBeat (originally on Entefy’s own blog) hits some useful notes – for example, the importance of the teacher-student relationship and lifelong learning attribtues – but there isn’t much critical discussion of how AI might actually take hold in the schooling landscape. It would have been interesting to consider how education politics might drive initial investment in AI products (e.g. to boost test scores through automation and personalisation of delivery) or the possible equal-and-opposite reaction of disillusionment and vested interests seeking to maintain traditional models of schooling.

Ghafourifar suggests that the best use of AI is to act as a support for teachers, freeing them up from the tedious business of their job (like assessment and record keeping) – it reads like an Entefy reassurance that the machines aren’t to be feared after all and that rather than disruption, what we’ll see is noticeable improvements to existing schooling but around the edges. In the original post there is an intersting table comparing the things teachers and AI are respecively good for. It pays lip service to individualisation and “extending learning beyond the classroom”.


One potential I’d love to see explored is giving students greater agency over their learning and connecting them to real and authentic learning experiences and communities. For example, instead of assessment continuing to be controlled by teachers (even if outsourced to AI platforms) , I wonder how AI might help us transform even codified curriculum (e.g. Australian Curriculum) into something that students and teachers can draw on to make real choices about what and how they will learn. This could provide the basis for promoting lifelong learning skills while avoiding the crowded curriculum. Does every student really need to know about isotopes?

Or could teachers and students use AI to monitor learning progress against curriculum goals using evidence from real world demonstrations of learning in the context of genuinely connected and authentic learning experiences? Perhaps the complexity of aligning the individual learning journeys with codified curriculum goals, need no longer be a barrier to making learning connected for every student.


Mattel’s latest AI brings our infants a new kind of Teddy Ruxpin

TR to AristotleRemember Teddy Ruxpin? The moving, talking bear that read stories to children using pre-recorded audio cassettes which included a controlled data stream? We had one for our first child and she loved it although there was something kind of unsettling about a toy that seemed positioned to take over one of the most rewarding forms of parent-child interaction – bedtime reading. In the end both my daughters tended to leave TR to do daytime reading while we claimed the bedtime slot as our own.

Now thanks to Artifical Intelligence comes a virtual assistant for infants – Mattel’s Aristotle – including a HD camera and voice activated control tower that sits on a table and respond to voice commands and baby noises alike. A parent’s task of midnight soothing of a wakened baby can now be performed by a combination of Mattel engineering and Microsoft programming.

Rich Haridy raises additional concerns about the potential of data that the toy gathers about a child’s behaviours and habits (including what toys they play with), to be used for commercial targeting throughout the owner’s childhood and even adolescence. Aristotle is designed to learn and evolve as the child grows.

Mattel’s Chief Product Officer, Robb Fujioka, assures us that the toy giant is also aware of concerns that kids who interact from birth with compliant virtual assistants could turn out ill mannered. Apparently Mattel is working on ways to have Aristotle teach kids manners – one suggestion is that it will only respond to commands that include the word “please”. He hope kids will develop “emotional ties” to Aristotle and that they will be “the right kind”. We hope so too, but in the meantime perhaps not outsourcing this to technology would be a good move for parents?

(Aristotle story by Felix Gillette, Bloomberg via Stephen Downes)

Student protest movement leads to connected learning in Brazil

Rovena-Rosa_Agência-Brasil_-535x268Ocupa Escola – Occupy School – is a Brazillian protest movement led by students in a number of schools that the government attempted to shut down. Students are using social and participatory media to operate a system of “class donations” in which real world experts – artists, mathematicians, scientists, writers – offer free lessons and workshops to students who have physically occupied and taken over their schools to save them from closure.

Story by Carolina Rodeghiero via Stephen Downes

Changes in Singapore–learning through life, not just exams

Connected learning, according to Wikipedia, is “..a type of learning that integrates personal interest, peer relationships, and achievement in academic, civic, or career-relevant areas…” This definition brings to mind the recent changes announced by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) aimed at promoting learning that is connected to students interests, abilities and aspirations, moving away from the comparitive and competitive model that many argue has pushed the country consistently to the top of the international education rankings for a number of years.

The changes have been driven as much by industry as any other group in Singaporean society, as they realise the need to equip school graduates with the “…the creativity and people skills needed to thrive in a volatile, uncertain future”.