Isaac Asimov, when he postulated the ‘Laws of Robotics’ and imagined a future where the robots would take over a variety of job-roles or Philip K. Dick in his world of cyborgs and humans battling out; would not have realized how prophetic their words would be.
Across top-notch defence contract firms, universities and quasi-government organizations around the world robots powered by AI are being designed to make a purportedly better world, which would cause lesser damage to humans. Could you conceive a future where wars would be fought by robots or law and order issues would be handled by robo-cop like cyborgs? All of this sounds a bit too far-fetched and straight of a Hollywood flick, right?? Let’s tone down our expectations and fantasies a bit and look at some of the implementations of AI and robotics in education.
Education as a service or as an industry powers the livelihoods of people and companies across the spectrum. From teaching staff, support staff, fabric makers, tailors, paper-mills making notebooks, book printers and publishers, shops that sell school supplies, private school bus and van operators, the parallel tuition industry! Do you see the vast spectrum of people across different strata of society who are impacted?
In India, the use of technology in the classroom is restricted to digital learning solutions that are offered in premier schools. Still a vast majority of schools in towns and villages are yet to adopt digital learning technologies in schools. Forget advanced solutions, there are many schools in far-flung remote areas of the country that do not have a computer. But things are changing as the government aims to bring a unified learning system and curriculum in place with ample support for digitisation. It will take time, but slowly we seem to be heading in the right direction, at least with the adoption of technology in the education system!
What AI and VR Can Offer Now?
Technologies tested out in the USA, Europe and Japan offer a multitude of possibilities for teachers in the classroom. Technology that lets students upload their assignments and test-papers onto a secure platform and the system does an initial grading to weed out plagiarism and blatantly incorrect and wrong answers before the teacher does a final validation is already in place. This saves a lot of time for both teachers and students.
Would it not make history and geography lessons even more fun if students could actually get a 360-degree tour of ancient Egypt or the Amazon forest or the African wildland. Well VR headsets have become incredibly affordable and there are dedicated videos created for the VR experience that allow students to explore new lands with ease all from the comfort of the classroom! The same holds true for Biology classes when the student learns about the DNA structure or Chemistry classes where the structure of a compound is analysed. Now does this not make the class a fun-ride with increased levels of engagement and interactions.
Animated storytelling apps and software that allow users to turn lessons into animated videos with voice and background effects like Plotagon are gaining a lot of popularity as they ensure that the students are engaged in the classroom and boring concepts can be explained with ease. Each student is unique with a different set of learning abilities and powers to understand and comprehend. This is why a standard style can’t always succeed. Efforts are underway to make these children take up a basic test and assess their knowledge levels. Then specific efforts should be taken to personalize learning and help students up-scale themselves along the learning pyramid.
Technology is not going to replace the human teacher. Robots are not going to drive away all the teaching jobs. Children need guidance and care and the human touch of kindness, care and empathy will always remain and be needed to help create successful students. It is important that educators adopt technology that can help students learn better and not use it just as a gimmick. Technology is to be used as an enabling tool that simplifies the process of learning and not complicate it.
Happy tech-enabled learning!