Three Ways AI Can Answer Every Student Who Raises a Hand

Originally published in Education Technology Insights – August 17, 2018

By Doug McCollum, Senior Vice President and head of Curriculum and Products, K12

Matt, a fourth grader, is confused with math class and has a question about fractions: How can one-third and two-sixths be the same? He wants to ask his teacher, but there are 30 or more other students in the class and another student just asked a question about decimals that will require a time-consuming answer. Although the teacher is trying to move through questions as quickly as possible, class is almost over and there is no time to address Matt’s question. Matt goes home still confused about fractions and lacking the proper tools to help him understand the material.

For many students, this classroom environment has become the norm, making it hard for them to receive answers to their questions, find tools to address specific skill deficiencies or get the support to overcome a learning challenge.

In the past, the student-to-teacher ratio was on the decline or stagnant, allowing teachers more time to engage students in the valuable, one-on-one learning that is fundamental to student growth. But, in 2008, the ration of students to teachers began to increase. Teachers became progressively stretched thin in the classroom. Since then, it has become increasingly challenging for teachers to provide personalized support at a level that ensures students can always get the help they need to overcome academic barriers and master content.

“As AI technology is deployed, we can expect an increase in student outcomes and teacher effectiveness to become the norm.”

While conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of limiting class sizes has produced a variety of results because of the many contributing factors that impact student performance, a report from the Brooking Institution found that “class-size reductions, on the order of magnitude 7-10 fewer students per class, can have significant long-term effects on student achievement and other meaningful outcomes.” With AI, imagine that instead of just removing 7-10 students from the classroom, every student gets his or her own teacher. This would likely have a powerful long-term impact on student performance.

Online education enables learning to be personalized and optimized for every student’s success. It eliminates the need for students to compete with their peers for a teacher’s support. Using AI can expedite answering student questions to spur academic progress, and also has the power to connect students to specific online resources to deepen skill proficiency and track student progress across certain academic experiences to ensure specific practices are meeting student needs.

While AI is quickly developing and has a wide breadth of capabilities, it has the power to address these three nuanced areas of student development.

AI allows students to get an immediate answer to a question

With an adaptive AI algorithm, a student can have a personalized digital learning coach to ensure that they can always get the support they need. For example, K12 is rolling out a new capability called “The Recommender,” which will be activated when students click on a “help me” button while doing an online assignment. The Recommender automatically suggests instructional activities, like games and videos, focused on the specific skill and most appropriate for that students. In addition, the student can also directly connect with the teacher for additional help.

Voice recognition is already being used in some online classrooms, allowing students to simply say their question and get an immediate response, along with suggested activities to support their learning.

AI can pinpoint where a student is getting stuck

While a classroom teacher may struggle to understand the exact step that is tripping up a student, AI can track the particular moment the student gets confused by capturing and analyzing specific incorrect responses. In math, for example, specific incorrect responses reveal trends in a student’s learning and where they are repeatedly running into the same barriers or creating the same errors.

AI can figure out how a student learns best

One of the critiques of the traditional education system is that it does not account for the individual learning styles of students. Every student learns differently and at his or her own pace, facing unique challenges along the way. With incredible advances in technology, there are so many valuable online instructional tools that can support learning and alleviate the pressure on teachers to attend to a high volume of students at once. Through AI, we now have the power to match students with the tools that work best for them.

With advances in AI and in online learning, students like Matt will no longer have to hold his hand up in the air for five minutes, hoping that the teacher has time to call on him. He can immediately have the best tools at his finger tips to help him understand the subject matter, while his teacher can have the time and information to make sure he masters the content. As AI technology is deployed, we can expect an increase in student outcomes and teacher effectiveness to become the norm.

KEYWORDS: Career Readiness

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