Soon, teachers will get by with a little from A.I.

Researchers are developing new artificial intelligence tools to help overworked teachers.

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Soon, teachers will get by with a little from A.I.


Future. Researchers are developing new artificial intelligence tools to help overworked teachers manage classrooms, answer questions, and make sure that every kid feels seen. As students of all ages are outfitted with either computers or tablets, the ability to give every kid an A.I. helper (robot!) may be next.

Human assistants
Robots aren’t taking over the classroom, but they could take some of the burden off of teachers — a “superpowered” teacher’s assistant.

  • Developed at Columbia’s Teacher College, a two-foot tall humanoid robot named ProJo helps students solve math and science problems by gently pointing out mistakes and inviting the kids to fix them.
  • Developed by professors from Brandeis University and Colorado State University, Diana, an interactive avatar on the computer, responds to a student’s nonverbal and visual cues, such as if they’re getting bored or look confused.
  • Developed by Georgia Institute of Technology professor Dr. Ashok Goel, a chatbot named Jill Watson helps students answer more simple questions outside of the classroom, leaving professors to deal with more complex queries.
    • The chatbot is already used in 17 different classes at the university.

Each of these A.I. tools are still in their early roll-out stages, such as testing in small groups and working out usage kinks. But top A.I. experts said these particular tools will also need to focus on questions of data privacy, being able to adapt to different demographic trends, and managing in-classroom power dynamics.

Programmable engagement
Like other professionals in other industries, teachers have worried that the advent of A.I. and automation could make them obsolete. But the new wave of tech being created is meant to complement teachers, so that they can focus on the most important aspects of their jobs.

Lalitha Vasudevan, managing director at the Digital Futures Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, said that “so much of classroom learning is still dependent upon, the teacher says something, the student responds, and then the teacher is able to form an observation and an assessment of that child.” She claims that A.I. is meant to fill in the gaps for teachers, making sure that every student feels seen — a big issue in large classrooms.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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