What if we were to tell you that due to the advance in technology, the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) being used in schools to educate children was to become real?
AI is a thing of science fiction novels; we read about it but could never comprehend its true existence. After all, science fiction is based upon the imagined scientific or technological advances that one might believe will one day bear fruit.
What we’re trying to tell you is that artificial intelligence is real, and its purpose is to bring us closer to technology than we’ve ever been before, to make the technology as we know it more intelligent in order to benefit us. There’s a good chance you’ve used it but might not have noticed what it was; Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are both considered AI’s developed for our convenience. We have some books here at Kortext for both beginner and intermediate users of artificial intelligence if you want to delve deeper into AI.
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Although convenient to use recreationally, the concept of bringing artificial intelligence into classrooms for children to learn from does propose a risk. Children are surrounded by technology, and school time should be a part of their day where it is absent. That’s not to say AI doesn’t have the potential to act as another kind of stimuli away from textbooks and whiteboards, but becoming further dependent on machines in terms of education means another thing can be added to the list of things we rely on technology for.
It’s important to note developmental psychology among children when talking about using AI as a means to educate the younger generation. Developmental psychologists use a scientific approach to better understand growth and change, especially during childhood and are concerned with the biological, social, emotional and cognitive processes within the child. Their overall goal is to describe, explain and optimise development. So the question is, will AI have an impact on a child’s development, either for good or for bad?
The development process is exactly why we should have this discussion. A child’s mind is still malleable and evolving during their time at school, and it is undeniable that because of science and technology, our brains are being wired distinctively differently to how they were in previous generations. But who is to say this is a bad thing; we are simply far more advanced than we were fifty years ago. However, how technology affects the brain certainly depends on what form of technology is being used. Phones and tablets being used to go on social media can have a negative impact on a child’s life, but an AI used to educate, inform and convenience us? Perhaps that’s technology used correctly.
This is where we introduce you to Joe McAlister, a 21-year-old computational artist, privacy advocate, creator of several different forms of educational artificial intelligence, and the inspiration behind this blog post. Starting programming at the age of 12, Joe quickly learnt that capturing and conceptualising ideas was as easy on a computer as it was with pen and paper, he told us, and later on, he learnt that “the two mediums could be used together with good results.”
During our interview with him, he made it quite clear to us he was aware of the threat technology poses to the younger generation, having grown up with iPads, iPhones and virtual assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, and how this has the possibility to “erode social skills in the youth.” However, in this new era he noted, it’s important to recognise all the benefits we have and will receive from it. Thanks to the Internet, learning resources that were once out of the reach of thousands, are now accessible thanks to e-learning platforms and the world wide web!
But let us talk a bit about Joe’s work; The Justice Syndicate is the most complex of his creations. Imagine this, a popular children’s surgeon is accused of a crime, did he commit it? It’s up to 12 students acting as 12 jurors, selecting evidence from both the defence and prosecution and 12 iPads will analyse their decisions. The iPads will provide opinion polls and other interactive elements to test the students when making their decisions, all the while questioning ethics and how they act and react in a controversial environment. Joe expressed how a tool such as this can be used to teach controversial topics in schools and universities while testing a pupil’s ability to interpret all necessary information under pressure. The Justice Syndicate is also a perfect way for a teacher or lecturer to gain an insight into their students’ minds over a certain topic, one that might be awkward to approach originally and one that students might be uncomfortable sharing their views on openly to their class.
He has also created a three-part series, Jo-Jo, Another Memory Interrupted (AMI) and Meet The Watsons. Jo-Jo is a computational child who can speak with live audiences and warns of the dangers children face when browsing the internet, such as malice or false information. AMI narrates a specific part of Joe’s life and explores how we often misrepresent ourselves through social media. Finally, Meet The Watsons are a projection of four sculptures who break down a Twitter account, making you question what you should openly publish online.
Perhaps slightly ironic, using one piece of technology to warn of the possible threats of another piece of technology, but all three have a similar theme; how to use the internet correctly and stay away from unwanted harm. Not only will teachers be able to provide real-life examples of the negative impacts social media and other programmes have, but will also be able to teach an extremely technology driven generation how to be safe when surfing the Internet.
Joe believes interactive education provides a more appealing learning experience to a generation whose whole world revolves around technology. An eTextbook, for example, can have a significant impact on the youth as it will help to correct false information that is spread online, as well as educating them in an innovative way that they might have never experienced before. It’s his general feeling that artificial intelligence in education is a new and exciting way to engage with students, without the need for teachers to break up the class in order to ask for students’ current thoughts, simultaneously monitoring each individual child in areas that aren’t possible in a classroom.
Joe’s work is unquestionably revolutionary. To be able to use artificial intelligence the way he has created it on an academic level is quite possibly game-changing, not just within technology, but education too. If implemented correctly, perhaps AI and other technological learning platforms will rejuvenate an arguably traditional and outdated education system. If you wish to learn more about Joe McAlister and his exceptional inventions, click here.