Artificial Intelligence In The Classroom - Head's Blog

Posted on: 08/11/2019

I am writing my blog today (Sunday) in advance of returning to school after a wonderful half term break.  Hopefully everyone is feeling as energised and as rested as I feel as we enter another busy and fruitful half term. I am on a school inspection this week, thus not in school Tuesday - Thursday, so taking the opportunity now to write the Friday blog! I would be most interested to hear parental views on this week’s topic.

I am sure that everyone is very aware of the momentum that AI is having in our society as systems become more automated in our daily lives. AI is something which we cannot ignore; we must embrace it and move with it as appropriate for our lifestyles. I am not convinced yet about the prospect of cashierless supermarkets (Tesco’s have already trialled this in one of their 'Express' stores), but I will watch with interest as Amazon Go plans and opens its first store in Oxford Circus.  

So, how should we move with Artificial Intelligence in education? Could the teaching profession be threatened by AI - might we find robots in the classroom 30 years from now? Personally I do not think that this is a reality, but the benefit of using AI in education is that the technology can be used to personalise children’s learning as the work set is adapted according to data collected as the child moves through a task. This is known as adaptive learning. 

The official definition of this is as follows: 'Adaptive learning is a technology-based or online educational system that analyses a student's performance in real time and modifies teaching methods based on that data. Think AI meets dedicated math tutor meets personalised engagement.'

Adaptive learning, also known as adaptive teaching, is an educational method which uses computer algorithms to orchestrate interaction with the learner and deliver customised resources and learning activities to address the unique needs of each learner.

There are many adaptive software learning apps available not only for children but also for adults. Mr. Crehan is already an avid user of a language app to assist him in his acquisition of Mandarin. This also inspired my use of Bussu to help me with my Spanish and there are numerous others on the market such as Duolingo or Babbel which are widely used by children and adults alike.

The UK unfortunately does seem to be quite behind in embedding AI as an integral part of a pupil’s learning in school. The US, India and China are way ahead of where we are and it will be very interesting to monitor the growth of AI in these countries and its impact. Whilst attending the IAPS Heads' Conference in September, I heard from the founder of CenturyTech - Priya Lakhani OBE. Priya’s company has established a successful adaptive learning platform for pupils in Key Stage 2 upwards in English, Maths and Science. Her presentation was inspiring and many UK based schools are now looking at how we may embrace AI further to enhance teaching and learning.  At St. Helen’s College, our pupils use technology exceptionally well. They have excellent digital literacy and technology is used across the school in many curriculum areas. However, what more could we be doing?

Mr. Lewis and I are meeting with a CenturyTech representative for a demonstration of their learning platform tomorrow (Monday) and I am looking forward to hearing from their representative as to how this product may enhance the experiences and opportunities we offer your children.  

If any parents have further insight or experience of AI in education - please do share! It is a very exciting and fast moving industry but should be approached with caution and with an awareness of who is developing the products and why. We do not wish to remove teachers from the classroom - adults still need to work with children to develop their soft skills and assist them in becoming creative independent  individuals.

We need to prepare our children for the future but be well informed and confident that what we do offer them is right for them and us as a school. 

You may enjoy reading this for further depth:

Mrs. Drummond