The dream of creating a machine that emulates human behavior has been an obsession throughout human history. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been in our minds for many years, since Adam’s creation: “God creates him from a moldable material, programs him, and gives him the first instructions (Sánchez-Martín et al. 2007).” Even in Greek mythology with Ovid’s account of Pygmalion sculpting a figure of a beautiful woman who is given life for Pygmalion to love her. In Hebrew mythology, the Golem was created with clay and animated to save the inhabitants of a Jewish city. In Norse mythology, the giant Mökkurkálfi or Mistcalf was created from clay to support the troll Hrungnir in his fight against Thor. In each epoch, the examples continue.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), in its most natural sense, is about how to simulate the capabilities of human brain intelligence, so thinking about AI is also thinking about what makes it possible for us to interact and learn. Its applications can contribute significantly to education (Ocaña-Fernández, Valenzuela-Fernández, and Garro-Aburto, 2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked substantial educational changes, among them the migration to virtual learning ecosystems. Teachers must confront the task of attending a wide variety of needs to ensure that students’ education continues. Artificial intelligence can be ideal pedagogical support to facilitate attention to our students at any time. Imagine how it can help you respond to each student’s questions in real-time while being confident that the student is being oriented correctly. Also, you can take advantage of that time to study some topics of interest, deepen the development of your class, conduct research, build teaching sequences, and perform Mindfulness activities to potentiate your creativity and innovation, to cite some ideas. Wouldn’t this be fabulous?
“The main objective is to provide our colleagues with the opportunity to build an intelligent pedagogical assistant through a chatbot, which contributes to solving a large part of the students’ concerns. The structuring of the responses was designed with the flipped learning approach to provide feedback on class concerns.”
What are the real possibilities of applying AI in education? Could AI be a key component in a new educational model? Can you imagine having a colleague who helps us answer hundreds of common questions from our students around the clock or updating anyone who could not connect to the class on time? You probably think that this means having an assistant advisor or a teacher’s assistant. Well, this is not so far from our reach.
History of Artificial Intelligence
The journey of artificial intelligence began with Alan Turing in 1936 with the publication of his famous article, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to The Entscheidungsproblem.” The paper established the bases of theoretical computing and the origin of the concept “Turing Machine,” which formalized the algorithm concept that would become the precursor process of digital computers. In 1956, at the mythical Dartmouth conference, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and Claude Shannon coined the term “Artificial Intelligence.” Even though there was much positive speculation about this technology, AI indeed jumped on the world stage in1997 when the IBM computer, Deep Blue, beat world-chess-champion Gari Kasparov. A profound reflection on its potential began in different fields, like science fiction, computer science, mathematics, social sciences, and even humanities.
A little later, the computer Watson, also from IBM, would win a duel against the human brain in “Jeopardy,” the famous quiz show of questions and answers on the American television network, ABC. Isaac Asimov wrote the eminent three laws of robotics that brought us closer to thinking about the ethical problems that the development of artificial intelligence brings us so that we might avoid the revelations of science fiction like that of Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In recent years we have seen significant progress. In March 2019, the High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG), a steering group for the European AI Alliance, drew up a draft of AI ethical guidelines that help us understand the relevance of this topic being attended not only in the area of technology but also in the social sciences and humanities.
Artificial Intelligence categories
Artificial Intelligence can be categorized into three levels that allow us to locate ourselves as we navigate the continuum of incremental innovation, starting with incorporating this technology into our daily lives, especially in education.
Level 1: Revolutionary. Big technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Hanson Robotics seek to improve living conditions in everyday life and affect our home, cars, food, and health. An example of this is Google’s supercomputer and Sophia, the humanoid robot.
Level 2: Expansion. At this level, AI is used to boost production to a larger scale in areas such as communication, the everyday market, and risk analysis on the stock exchange. An example of this is Amazon’s machine learning systems.
Level 3: Communication. At this level appear the fundamental processes of interaction with free software that seeks to respond to users’ needs either by programming or emulating mechanical learning of the likely responses that are helpful. Examples include natural language comprehension platforms such as Dialogflow, Botmake.io, Cliengo, Snathbot.me, and Manychat.
In education, level 3 tools are alternatives that respond to teaching needs. In particular, a tool we can call chatbot, platforms that understand natural language, and allow the programming of automatic responses emulate human conversations.
Implementation of AI in the university context
At the University of the East in Mexico, we use the Dialogflow tool for processes oriented to our students’ accompaniment with significant advantages that I share below.
The main objective is to encourage our colleagues to take advantage of the opportunity to build a pedagogical assistant that helps to resolve many of the students’ concerns. The structuring of the responses was explicitly geared to the flipped learning approach, which facilitates feedback to the students about their interests. This approach benefits the students by readily available answers and referring them to multimedia reference sources that extend and improve their experience.
We decided to load the application on Moodle, the institutional platform for academic reinforcement, to ensure that the pedagogical assistants were customized to the classes’ needs. The desired results of this implementation were to equip our teachers with more competitive and functional tools to support our students in accompanied activities within a context of constant communication. The main challenge for those participating in this project is to ensure that the responses are much more dynamic and lead to more meaningful contributions.
The academic work with this type of chat allows us, in addition to maintaining a relationship of communication with our students, to link the conversation to other tools that help our students confront challenges through learning capsules that deepen or engage them in contexts of professional development.
Table 1. Structuring of the chatbot
The opportunities that the chatbot brought to our students were varied, from being able to answer questions about delivery dates and job characteristics to delving into ideas seen in class. Of course, one of the primary jobs was to feed the chatbot for greater fluidity and assertiveness continually. In the end, there would be nothing better than talking to the teacher. However, the chatbot’s attention to the students was undoubtedly successful because it helped optimize the professors’ teaching time. Some comments that helped enrich the chatbot were to give it more flexibility in words and greetings, even adding stickers or memes. This new language makes online conversations more affable.
The construction of a chatbot must have at least the resources shown in Table 1 to clarify each of the questions and answers programmed in it. We should not overlook experimenting with each of the elements that are integrated into the chat so that it is functional. The most important part of this exercise is to synthesize the critical points and link them, specifically with the application of knowledge or skill to develop.
This contribution is a brief example of the benefits of AI in learning contexts, showing its advantages. Increasingly, we will see examples of how to extend teaching with AI. If you want to apply this tool in your schools, we can support you by sharing the benefits that these tools give all of us who love being teachers.
Original post: https://observatory.tec.mx/edu-bits-2/artificial-intelligence-in-education
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