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Robot Teachers? The Pros and Cons
On keeping students first, and humans central
The West’s current educational system, developed in the 19th century, promised to prepare generations of students for the labor market’s needs. But our societies now face massive changes in the way we learn and think about basic reality. A.I.-driven personalized learning (EdTech) is emerging as an innovation potentially capable of unlocking students’ full educational potential. But the fruit of this new technology will manifest only when we strike the right balance between pedagogy, technology, and individual student needs, with guarantees that individual benefits will also support social goods.
“We have lessons every day.” Doll's Day, by Beatrice Bradshaw Brown, illustrations by Barbara Haven Brown. Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1931. Library of Congress.
The ability to tailor learning pathways to individual student needs, abilities, and interests is the heart of personalized education. A.I.-empowered educators are now able to adopt personalized, automatically tailored learning styles to particular students, instead of applying universal and standardized methods of learning to the whole class. This A.I.-driven teaching tailors the classroom experience to student weaknesses, strengths, and learning styles and maximizes comprehension and engagement. Properly implemented, A.I.-driven teaching improves the educational experience by integrating elements such as gamification and dynamic content that make learning fun and interactive. By catering to students’ interests and preferences, EdTech applications enable students to love even challenging subjects.
During a recent visit to Poland, I met with three young programmers who have an idea: launch an EdTech platform with a virtual trainer who not only adjusts to student’s needs, but is also able to help students overcome underlying challenges, such as depression or procrastination. A.I. algorithms that continuously assess student performance, adjust content, and ask simple questions about mood, attitude, and identified challenges make such developments possible. This adaptive approach encourages students to master concepts before they progress, preventing knowledge gaps, boosting confidence, and building stronger characters, thus contributing to a more educated and resilient society.
“She tells us tales of other lands.” Doll's Day, by Beatrice Bradshaw Brown, illustrations by Barbara Haven Brown. Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1931. Library of Congress.
Another of EdTech’s benefits lies in real-time assignment and assessment feedback, which can help students improve quickly and master material more easily. This instant feedback loop fosters a growth mindset, encouraging students to embrace challenges and refine their skills. Educators are simultaneously receiving a comprehensive view of student progress, which enables them to identify areas of concern and develop targeted interventions that AI algorithms alone can’t address.
But all technology carries risk. Of primary concern are the questions raised about privacy and security when student data is collected and analyzed. And what about the algorithm bias, which can promote certain points of view while negating or totally omitting others? EdTech systems can create better outcomes only if equal access to all viewpoints and ideas is ensured.
Moreover, integrating A.I. algorithms into education must not diminish the teacher’s critical role in the classroom: personal touch and human control over the machine should remain a key priority. And the so-called digital divide—lack of access to EdTech—should not prevent students from using it if they wish. Considering these challenges, we must take a balanced approach to harnessing EdTech’s potential while mitigating its challenges.
So how do we strike such a balance?
Doll's Day, by Beatrice Bradshaw Brown, illustrations by Barbara Haven Brown. Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1931. Library of Congress.
First, ethical considerations that ensure that data is anonymized, biases are purged, and student privacy remains secured must be integrated into A.I. algorithms. Second, teachers must remain the center of the educational system and they should have equitable access and training in the A.I. empowered digital tools and resources. Finally, we must remember that EdTech is just a tool. To create individuals capable of building strong and resilient societies, it must be coupled with a well-rounded education that includes social interactions, physical activities, and emotional intelligence development.
The path EdTech learning offers toward a more tailored, engaging and effective educational system is transformative, but the journey demands careful consideration of ethical concerns, equitable access, and the preservation of human socialization and interaction.