AI tutors are being used in classrooms to boost productivity and help students better retain critical information

Viewpoint: Can AI tutors help students learn?

AI tutors are being used in classrooms to boost productivity and help students better retain critical information

If nothing else, the past two years have shown us that teaching, learning, and education can take different forms–and the pandemic may have altered how students, from kindergarten through college, learn in the future.   

With students returning to the classroom, educators and administrators alike continue to examine new ways that technology can be used to not replace, but augment, the teaching and learning experiences in our schools.  

What about the use of artificial intelligence in education?  Conversing with AI humans has been a long-time feature of science fiction, but it’s rapidly becoming a reality, particularly in customer service and experience settings as well in education. A realized future with AI is fast approaching. 

Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition, and machine vision. 

The question becomes how AI can be implemented in the classroom to leverage the best it has to offer and not completely diminish the human side of education. The answer lies in utilizing advanced AI technologies, which are paving the way to mimic humans.   

Consider AI tutors, which are being used in classrooms to help teachers be more productive while also helping students gain information and recaps of important lesson plans — something that’s often needed, especially in today’s more crowded K-12 classrooms where students who are learning together may not always learn at the same pace.    

To create a realistic and credible AI tutor, you start with real teachers presenting the curriculum and then building AI models based off them, including chatbot technology to capture their persona and sentiment, along with speech synthesis and voice synthesis, which enable body gestures, facial emotions and lip synch, resulting in an AI tutor avatar that bears the exact likeness of that teacher.  

Crucial to the success of AI avatars is trusting that the information they deliver is accurate. The highly controversial deepfake technology cannot be used to create a believable avatar. The most effective way to experience a realistic AI tutor is with technology that captures accurate lip and mouth synchronization, not just video synthesis.   

These AI tutors can be used to summarize info, for special lessons in smaller groups, or even for online learning.  The idea is not to replace teachers, but to augment their skills and presence. Schools are finding that by using AI human technology they are reducing teachers’ workloads and providing additional learning resources for students.  This enhances the overall experiences of educators, students, and parents alike.   

For example, the Kyowon Group, an education company in Korea, recently developed a life-like tutor using artificial intelligence for the very first time in the Korean education industry.  Their AI tutors are basically virtual teachers created by video synthesis. In order to increase the learning immersion and experience of students, real people (i.e., real teachers) are used as the models for these AI tutors. 

Kyowon created its AI tutors for two-way communication–teacher to student and student to teacher–by exchanging questions and answers between the two about the lesson plan as if they were having an interactive conversation.  These AI tutors were able to provide real time feedback related to the learning progress and were also able to identify, manage, and customize interactions with students through learning habits management.  In addition, to help motivate student learning, the AI Tutors captured students’ emotions through analysis of their strengths and challenges.  By leveraging AI tutors in the classroom, Kyowon was able to offer teacher-led learning programs as well as individualized and customized teachings tailored more to the individual student. 

In this application, AI tutors developed teaching practices based on what they learned through these interactions including emotional coaching and habit management.  When these student habits are learned, these AI tutors help students experience a fun and amazing new way to immerse themselves in the learning process. 

According to Kyowon, a lot of effort was applied in order to ensure their AI tutors were based on real teachers, thus, they created their models.  Kyowon used a well-known elementary school teacher in the district, named Dottie, as one of its three created AI tutors, which helped these students embrace the tutors and overall concept of using AI tutors to augment their lessons. 

In another example, teachers at Seoul Sinbong Elementary School in South Korea are using AI tutors in their classrooms and seeing success first-hand even without the ability for two-way conversations. 

“We’ve successfully embraced AI technology in our classrooms with the singular purpose to ensure students learn and thrive,” said Mr. Yoon, a Sinbong Elementary School teacher in Seoul Korea who uses AI tutors in both his 2nd and 6th grade classrooms. “Our AI tutors augment my lessons through video synthesis that mimics me as well as lesson reviews from other instructors giving students additional information related to the lesson plan.” 

Ensuring efficacy and trust in AI humans 

While AI is being used in various industries, including education, the technology comes under scrutiny as many ask the question if they can trust AI and its legitimacy?  The answer depends on the specific application of AI. Deepfake is an AI technology that is often challenged.  Deepfake uses deep learning artificial intelligence to replace the likeness of one person with someone else in video or other digital media. There are big concerns that deepfake technology can be used to create fake news and misleading, counterfeit videos. 

Although there are some meaningful use cases for deepfake, such as using technology to bring historical figures of the past to life, deepfake technology is mostly exploited. However, the good news is that groups are working to detect and minimize the damage caused by deepfake videos and other AI technology abuses, including credible standards organizations who are working to ensure trust in AI. While there has not been one specific standard way for organizations to assess how much people trust AI models, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. Department of Commerce agency, is leading an initiative and has developed a paper on AI efficacy which includes creating a scoring system to help quantify human trust in AI systems. More groups like this are developing standards to ensure compliance designed to build greater trust in AI. 

For education, the best and only way AI tutors will be adopted and accepted is if interactions with AI tutors are seamless and if there is trust that the information shared is accurate. This can only be done with innovative real-time AI conversational technology that must include accurate lip and mouth synchronization in addition to video synthesis technology. Using real models, not fake computer-generated ones, is critical as well. 

While opportunities to use AI tutors can benefit teachers, students, and parents, there remains the issue of cost and spending on technology advancest as schools are often strapped for resources. To maximize the benefits of this learning approach, it’s important for educators to have a focused learning curriculum and specific content they want to communicate through their AI Tutor. 

AI technology is penetrating so many aspects of our lives – including applications in banking, healthcare, and retail. It’s here to stay and continues to be improved daily to enhance our experiences in many facets of our lives, including classroom learning, which is the foundation of education for students around the globe. 

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