The classroom has always been an important environment, but often an unstimulating one. Children have limited attention spans and it’s not always easy to maintain their interest in what can be dry subject matter (remember trigonometry?). The issue is problems are usually revealed only when a student turns in a poor project or fails an exam. 

But what if it was possible to gauge faltering interest in a particular topic at an earlier stage — such as when the concept was first being explained by a teacher? 

Artificial intelligence recommends what we should eat for lunch and showing us the news it thinks we’ll like. Soon it could tell us how to teach our children. 
“Consolidating the purpose of education, AI is promoting adaptive learning environments and paving way for extensive knowledge exploration for students,” says Dr Sana Farid, Co-founder and CEO of Munfarid, a consultancy that helps education providers and organisations integrate AR, VR and AI into their environments. 

Growth mindset

“AI educational tools are flexible, comprehensive, customised, engaging and impactful,” she says. “They develop a growth mindset allowing fine-grained understanding.”

AI offers innumerable solutions, Dr Farid adds. In an automation-driven future, AI supports initiatives for skill upgrades from primary school upwards, evolving the education technology landscape. 

“The emergence of AI in classrooms can streamline substantial untapped potential by allowing productive failure,” she tells GN Focus. “Through this method, students can explore a concept before they lead themselves to the right answer. AI has been used in multiple segments and occasions in the UAE, an early adopter of this future-forward technology.” 

Educational institutions here are already integrating the technology. Alef, a home-grown platform backed by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group, uses directed questions and in-house-created content to shape students’ learning according to their preferred style. 

As for teachers, they will take on a more facilitative role. Following an explainer hook video, students answer questions, the answers of which are used by the system to calculate their understanding of a concept. Alef then recommends reading material prior to more questions and group tasks.

Tangible gains

Alef Education says that among a pilot group of 240 Grade 6 Abu Dhabi students who used the system for 12 months, maths scores increased by an average 78 per cent, while English results improved by 27 per cent. 

In Dubai, GEMS Education has partnered with Kinteract, a portfolio and real-time assessment platform that aims to deliver fast feedback and encourages collaboration between parents, teachers and students. Part social network, part interactive learning journal, Kinteract’s “real-time visualisations and reports help teachers predict progress and address potential issues early”, 
the British company says on its website. 

Third Space Learning, another UK-based company, has been providing students maths tuition and recording their interactions with teachers 
since 2012. 

The AI-driven system now has enough data to understand when a student has missed the boat on a particular learning concept. “If we can aim to shape the performance of the teacher — the teacher being the significant input into a child’s learning — then you’re creating something truly powerful,” Tom Hooper, Founder of Third Space Learning, told The Next Web.

Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 report offers a summary of AI’s educational potential: “It can be argued AI is the secret sauce that has enabled instructors, particularly in higher education, to multiply the size of their classrooms by a few orders of magnitude — class sizes of a few tens of thousands are not uncommon.” 

The future’s here — and the future’s intelligent.