Susan Winslow

What You Need to Know About Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

Blog Post created by Susan Winslow Employee on Oct 4, 2017

What was once a far-fetched possibility only seen in science fiction novels is now a reality—and it’s one that’s rapidly becoming a part of everyday life. We’re talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s here, and it’s already shaking up the world as we know it—and that includes the classroom.

In fact, education is a natural incubator for AI capabilities. From adaptive learning to personal assistants, educators can now take full advantage of the power of AI and use it to benefit their students. This is just one of the many reasons why we decided to dedicate Day 1 of this year’s STEM Summit 5.0 to artificial intelligence. We’ve gathered leading experts in the field to come and share their invaluable insight and perspectives with our attendees.

A brief history of AI

The basic concept of artificial intelligence has been around for centuries. Of course, the earlier concepts were a bit more rudimentary—Chinese and Egyptian engineers built automatons, while the ancient Greeks dreamed up myths about robots. It wasn’t until 1956 when the modern concept of AI—and its term—were developed at a Dartmouth College conference.

While the modern concept of AI was a hot topic for many years in the tech space, it eventually went cold, for the most part, from 1974 to the mid-nineties. Then, IBM’s Deep Blue brought back AI with a vengeance and put the multinational technology company at the forefront of AI advancement. Fast forward to today, and IBM’s Watson is known for beating reigning Jeopardy champions and powering a variety of programs and devices.  

AI in education today

While AI’s adoption is more readily accepted throughout various business sectors, the technology is making its way into the education space.  We’re at the tipping point with this new technology, and we’re eager to see where the latest trends will lead.  A few currently developing areas to keep an eye on include:

    • Adaptive learning: Twenty years ago, an instructor wouldn’t find out if students were struggling with their homework until after it was due. With the potential of today’s AI adaptive learning programs, instructors AND students could have a much better learning experience . Using advanced predictive algorithms that adapt to specific learning styles, assignments can change to cater to students needs as they surface. This ensures that students are actually learning, at the right pace and at the right level.

    • Voice activated technology: Siri, Alexa, and Google are all ready and waiting to help you out with anything you need—and this includes in the classroom. If you’re stumped on a specific question in the middle of class, just ask Alexa. Don’t know what your schedule looks like for office hours? Siri can help you with that.  How will these “assistant” technologies ultimately pair up and play with pedagogy to be most beneficial to students? We’ll ask our panel of presenters at the conference.


    • Customized content: Not all content is created equally—and the same goes for student’s learning preferences, too. AI can be used to match students preferred learning modalities to popular and effective content. Think of this as similar to the way in which Netflix recommends movies it thinks users will love. Can AI find a way to re-engage students into learning with more effective content that is tailored to their interests?


The future of AI and education

While many aspects of the future remain uncertain, we do know that AI will continue to impact and transform the classroom. We expect the current trends listed above to evolve in terms of sophistication and adoption. In fact, one of our STEM Summit 5.0 speakers, Ashok Goel, created an AI teaching assistant that is powered by IBM’s Watson. Imagine a course where an AI voice-activated teaching assistant is the norm? That means less time grading papers, answering emails, and scheduling appointments and more time spent focusing on student success.

And, of course, there are a host of issues that come along with these powerful advancements. As a society, we will have to decide how to deal with issues surrounding student privacy, what it means to lead an inclusive classroom in an AI world, and what will the future roles of teacher and student look like?

Macmillan plans to be on all of these front lines of AI development in education. This is one of the many reasons why we’ve dedicated a portion of STEM Summit 5.0 to AI. It’s a great time to become a part of our Summit community. For those who are unable to join in person, you can tune into our live stream.  You’ll be able to watch the leading AI experts present from wherever you happen to be.

Bring your curiosity and join the conversation.