Empowering education through artificial intelligence

Experts from China and abroad shared their ideas on how artificial intelligence can empower education at an online forum during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference on Friday.

It attracted some 1 million viewers.

Wang Ping, director of the Shanghai Education Commission, shared Shanghai’s experience in organizing the largest-ever online education program during the COVID-19 pandemic at the forum venue, the Shanghai Education TV Station.

He said Shanghai has been building infrastructure and developing teachers’ capability in using modern technology.

“More than 3 million teachers and students from Shanghai schools have taught or learnt at home,” he said. “It was a test of Shanghai’s information development and a precursor to the future online education featuring AI technology.”

Tencent Classroom was one of the applications widely used by Chinese students when taking classes online at home during the pandemic.

Wang Tao, vice president of Tencent Education, said the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed every industry to become “digitalized, webified and intelligentized.”

“Intelligent manufacturing, services and retail are pushing forward high-quality economic development,” he said. “The integration of AI and health care and transportation is making our life better. I think education is the industry that should best embrace the power of AI.”

He said there are significant changes in the approach of education.

“Education is no longer taking place only in classrooms, educational resources are no longer limited in schools and the providers are no longer teachers only,” he said.

“People are learning ubiquitously. The interaction between teachers and students is also moving online and we provide tools and assistants for online education. I believe that the integration of information technology and education will provide more means for educators, learners and administrators. An era featuring cooperation between human beings and AI is coming.”

Andreas Schleicher, division head and coordinator of the OECD Program for International Student Assessment, participated in the forum via the Internet. He said an OECD survey found that by 2018, there was a marked increase in investment in modern technologies in education, with augmented reality/visual reality (AR/VR) technology on top, followed by AI.

According to Schleicher, technologies have provided new directions for education reform, enabling teachers to know how students are learning and make plans for follow-up teaching. However, he said technology cannot replace teachers.

He said he wished educational administrators would pay more attention to the effect of technology rather than merely increasing investment in new technologies.

Yuan Wen, president of Shanghai Open University, said the university is developing a program called “shen xue ma,” or Shanghai learning codes, to create a smart learning environment for users to record their learning history. They can then design their own lifelong learning plans with AI teachers and AI assistants.

During the forum, the Shanghai Educational Technology Center launched cooperation with 10 enterprises, including Tencent, Shanghai branches of China Mobile and China Unicom, as well as iFlytek, to promote AI in education in Shanghai.

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