AI: The New Teacher's Pet - OZY | A Modern Media Company

AI: The New Teacher's Pet

AI: The New Teacher's Pet

By Toyloy Brown III

By Toyloy Brown III

Throw out the chalk and blackboards, because there’s a new player in the world of education. While ink and copybooks were the foundation stones for a new era of learning centuries ago, in 2021 we stand on the precipice of another massive change in educational technology: artificial intelligence.

Today’s Daily Dose takes you through the exciting new ways technology is set to mold education in the years to come. We look at how it can ease stress, save time and put a 21st-century touch on some age-old teaching methods. So hang up your backpack and put away your pencil and scissors. Right here is where tomorrow’s classroom takes shape.

Cyber partnership

help is on its way

Reducing Stress

In grade school classrooms filled with dozens of students, teachers have long been expected to notice and report who’s having an off day or suffering with something more weighty. Some children act out when there is something on their mind. Others go into their shell, internalizing their struggles. The point? Educators can’t possibly know how each student is doing. To help, a machine learning algorithm has been developed to analyze speech patterns from children’s audio recordings to better understand their moods and monitor for depression. The resulting study has proved insightful. “The algorithm was able to identify children with a diagnosis of an internalizing disorder with 80% accuracy,” says Ryan McGinnis of the University of Vermont, a lead author of the study.

Streamlining Schedules

For decades, school administrators have been forced to converge on school grounds every summer to set about completing the thoroughly painful but essential task of scheduling classes for students and teachers for the coming year. Organizations trying to register kids for summer camps and events faced similar challenges. Not for long. Developed by a mother of two boys, a company called 6crickets uses AI to help parents create schedules that work for them and their kids. The 6crickets “schedule recommendation system predicts the suitability of each activity to each user using machine learning techniques and aggregates these predictions,” according to Forbes.

Speech Therapy

You’ve heard of TikTok. Here’s TikTalk. For students and professionals alike, speech therapy can be a slow and tedious but obviously critical part of a child’s learning experience. But AI is set to help. Its secret? Using video games that focus on word repetition activities to make learning fun for kids. Better yet, the learning experience can be deployed in children’s homes, taking the stress out of what used to be a scary and often humiliating part of a child’s school schedule. The technology has already been piloted in Ohio and Maryland.

Socratic Learning

You might not have heard of it, but you’re certainly familiar with the system: Socratic learning, where teachers use questions to facilitate discussion and critical thinking, has been a cornerstone of teaching students since, well, the days of ancient Greece. Its raison d’etre is to help students rigorously examine commonly held beliefs, and it has been a feature of modern teaching methods for decades. So how might that be applied to AI technology? Simple: Teach the machine to suggest ideas rather than offer answers. Montreal-based company Paper has put this idea into action, using instant messaging to tutor students at affordable rates. Human tutors are often only available to families with cash to burn, but AI might be able to help level the academic playing field.

Jigsaw Learning

Created by a researcher in Texas 50 years ago to deal with in-class competition and racism, the jigsaw teaching technique effectively turns children into pieces of a single puzzle. Problems and tasks only get solved when students work together. Now, in Japan, which has been lauded for its inclusive teaching methods and cutting-edge approaches, cloud systems are being used to better facilitate students’ participation in jigsaw learning strategies. Students’ conversations and debates are recorded, transcribed and collated in a computing cloud that helps teachers tailor lesson plans based on how classmates are interacting with each other.

Black leaders in digital education

Lisa Gelobter

Raise your hand if you’ve ever laughed at a GIF. You can thank Gelobter. The computer scientist helped develop the animation software used to create GIFs. Great for jokes and expressing your thoughts and feelings in the virtual world, GIFs have been shown to also be beneficial in the classroom, in part because they capture and hold students’ attention, even if for a limited period of time. Gelobter, now 50, graduated from Brown University at 20 with a degree in computer science. She worked with the White House as chief digital service officer for the Department of Education under the administration of former President Barack Obama, serving as a part of a team responsible for redesigning the College Scorecard, an online mechanism used to compare the cost and value of schools.

Cyber partnership

Kimberly Bryant

Tech has a well-documented diversity problem. Black workers comprise just 2.5% of Google’s entire workforce and 4% each of Microsoft’s and Facebook’s. Globally, female AI professionals constitute only 22% of the field, according to data gathered by LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum. These stark disparities are why the work Bryant does is vital. The Memphis native is the founder and executive director of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit committed to diversifying the tech industry by helping get more girls of color into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. She’s already helped teach more than 14,000 girls around the world how to code. But Bryant, 54, is only getting started: Her goal by 2040? One million.

Wainright Acquoi

This Liberia-based entrepreneur is the co-founder of TRIBE, a social enterprise launched in 2019 to empower a new crop of change-makers, innovators and leaders in the West African country. The aspiring incubator also works to address the systemic issues facing Liberia’s secondary education system, from outdated and underdeveloped curricula to inadequate resources for technology equipment and infrastructure. Acquoi, a self-described “gritty idealist,” is helping lead a charge of ambitious entrepreneurs and problem solvers across Africa through TRIBE’s virtual mentorship program, an online learning series and bootcamps.

Tony Effik

A managing director at Google, Effik is keen to debunk the corporate myth that a lack of Black talent has resulted in fewer African Americans in leadership positions. “We like to say talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” he told Forbes. Which is why the Nigeria-born Effik, who also teaches marketing at Columbia University, joined forces with his wife to co-found The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network, a New York-based organization devoted to building a diverse workforce in AI. How? By establishing networking opportunities for professionals belonging to a racial minority. The network partnered with Codecademy, an online coding school, and a number of professionals to develop an AI accelerator to embolden Black and brown students to go after opportunities in AI.

edtech companies of the future

Nuance: Conversational AI Tools

Focusing on speech recognition technology, this Massachusetts-based company’s AI system, Dragon, helps cut down on the amount of time students spend on writing tasks, both in the classroom and at home. Bought by Microsoft in April, Nuance boasts accurate dictation, including in web apps such as Gmail. And its software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, helps people who face difficulties using a keyboard or mouse. A leader in voice recognition, you can expect to find this software in classrooms around the country in the years to come — it’s already being used in more than three-quarters of U.S. hospitals.

CENTURY: Individualized Learning

The AI platform developed by this London-based tech startup is said to improve students’ performances by 30% while cutting six hours every week from teachers’ workloads. CENTURY is all about improving time management for educators and students, whether inside the classroom or at home. Recognized last month by the World Economic Forum for its pioneering approach, CENTURY leads the EdTech world in large part due to its personalized learning offerings and organizational interfaces.

Kidaptive: Crunching the Data

You must be doing something right if one of the biggest education publishing companies in the world wants to buy your company. That’s exactly what happened to Kidaptive in March, when McGraw Hill bought the California-based company. Kidapitve focuses on the consulting and data side of EdTech, working with educational companies and schools to make the best use of the reams of information collected from different learning contexts. With the adaptive learning software field expected to grow from $1.61 billion in 2019 to nearly $8 billion by 2027, you can expect to encounter Kidaptive’s technology in your kid’s school curriculum in the not-too-distant future.


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