Personalised AI assistants to reduce teacher workloads

UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has announced a £2 million investment in new AI technology, designed to help lesson planning and reduce workloads

Recent years have brought about an increase in the integration of modern technologies into a classroom environment. Today, AI holds the potential to completely transform our perception of education, by incorporating a range of AI-driven tools and technologies to assist not only students but teachers as well.

Some examples of these advancements have included the integration of learning management systems, the application of gamification, the utilisation of video-assisted learning, and the incorporation of virtual and augmented reality. These innovations have positively resulted in improving student engagement as well as overall educational strategies. 

The introduction of the classroom response system –  an interactive tool that allows teachers to engage with students in a more practical manner –helped students to promptly respond to multiple-choice questions and participate in real-time discussions. 

At present, AI is actively employed in the field of education through a multitude of methods, including round-the-clock student support chatbots and the use of personalised learning algorithms that adjust to the individual requirements of each student. 

Bots to reduce burdens

Although the need for teachers will never falter, the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has announced the introduction of AI tools in classrooms throughout England as a means to reduce the burden on teachers. Sunak has disclosed a £2m (US$2.42m) commitment to fresh classroom technology, encompassing AI-crafted lesson plans and quizzes.

He has said that the allocated funds will support the enhancement of educational technologies in schools throughout England through the online classroom resource, Oak National Academy, prior to being rolled out for teachers. Ministers have claimed that the funding will in fact pave the way for personalised AI assistants in every classroom.

“AI has extraordinary potential to reform our education system for the better, with considerable value for both teachers and students,” says Sunak. “Oak National Academy’s work to harness AI to free up the workload for teachers is a perfect example of the revolutionary benefits this technology can bring. This investment will play a defining role in giving our children and the next generation of students a better education and a brighter future.”

Oak National Academy’s co-founder and Chief Executive, Matt Hood OBE, says: “Teachers spend hours each week searching for resources and planning their lessons. Oak National Academy is already helping cut workload with our free, high-quality teaching resources, but we believe we can supercharge this by harnessing safe AI – giving teachers even more scope to adapt their resources and freeing them up to spend more time directly with their pupils.”

Is the introduction of AI safe in schools?

Following Sunak's announcement on Thursday last week regarding the importance of taking AI seriously, it is crucial that any potential challenges around the safeguarding of children are addressed. While there are numerous advantages to the integration of AI in education, ethical considerations need attention. Some of the biggest concerns relate to the likelihood of AI perpetuating pre-existing biases along with educational discrimination, the potential implications of AI on student privacy and data security, and job displacement as technology progresses. 

However, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, asks: “While we agree with the idea of developing AI to support teachers and pupils, we have to question the way in which this is being done.

“Is the £2 million investment in Oak National Academy – which is equivalent to employing around 40 teachers – in addition to the £43 million of taxpayers’ money already allocated to Oak over the 2022/23 to 2024/25 financial years? How will this money be spent? And what efforts has the government made to develop this technology through the UK’s existing education technology industry?

“These are important questions because schools and colleges are struggling to stay afloat as a result of a decade of government underfunding and they deserve to have clarity on exactly how and why this money is being spent on Oak.”

Looking to the future, researchers and developers must persist in delving into the possibilities presented by AI in education and actively strive to tackle the challenges that may surface as technology advances and integrates further into existing educational frameworks.

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