I have a number of passions, however few of them compare to my drive for learning. Whether it’s understanding new coding techniques or increasing my knowledge on the world as a whole, learning is my true passion. With that in mind, today I want to discuss the question of whether or not artificial intelligence algorithms can improve education.
As a quick spoiler alert: yes they can. AI will not only assist in making education better, but will revolutionize it from the ground up.
Education is Already Changing
Over the past few years we have witnessed a dramatic shift in the educational space. No longer is having a traditional University degree the requirement that it once was. Nowadays individuals can attend a coding bootcamp and get a great development job within a few months.
However, the changing landscape of education is nothing compared to what we’ll see happen over the coming years.
How Can Algorithms Improve Education?
So how exactly can algorithms improve education? Let’s take a look at how school works right now. And even though my daily focus is on teaching students how to code, I’m going to give a more basic case study.
An Educational Case Study
My 11 year old daughter, Kristine, is about to go into middle school. I’m going to walk through her educational experience to establish a base case for how students are taught today.
When Kristine gets to school she’ll be supplied with a text book for each of her courses. Because of how the educational system is formulated, her curriculum was picked by various school boards.
The Problem with Standard Curriculum
So what’s wrong with this approach to learning? Tamim Ansary, a former schoolbook editor, posted an article in Edutopia and said:
“Textbooks are a core part of the curriculum, as crucial to the teacher as a blueprint is to a carpenter, so one might assume they are conceived, researched, written, and published as unique contributions to advancing knowledge. In fact, most of these books fall far short of their important role in the educational scheme of things. They are processed into existence using the pulp of what already exists, rising like swamp things from the compost of the past. The mulch is turned and tended by many layers of editors who scrub it of anything possibly objectionable before it is fed into a government-run “adoption” system that provides mediocre material to students of all ages.”
So we tell our kids that they are unique and special in their own way. However we hand them a generic approach to learning. With this approach it shouldn’t be a shock when they struggle in school.
With the advancements made in the AI sector, there is no reason for students to keep suffering from generic learning patterns. Which have proven to produce sub-optimal results.
Where Does Machine Learning Come Into Play?
Let’s take a step back from the challenges with the current educational process. And I’m going to walk through what machine learning is.
TechTarget gives the following definition about machine learning:
“Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.”
Practical Application of Machine Learning
With this definition in mind, I think there is a clear path to understand how AI can improve the educational process. Instead of giving students generic curriculum, give them digital textbooks with knowledge engines. These machine learning algorithms would learn from their performance and create content based on needs.
For example, let’s imagine my daughter struggles with long division. The textbook would analyze her performance and it would automatically generate a learning curriculum based on her specific needs. The key is that it would work with her instead of simply running through the same lessons as every other student.
Even though this concept may seem like it belongs in a Harry Potter book as opposed to our modern day reality, I can assure you that it’s very practical. When I was younger my parents hired a brilliant tutor, named Paul Oppenheimer.
Mr Oppenheimer, who went on to work for Stanford, essentially functioned like a machine learning algorithm for my education. He would analyze my performance and then give a custom set of lessons based on my knowledge. And I owe a debt of gratitude for his instruction, which helped me turn into the computer scientist that I am today.
I wish that every student in the world was given a Stanford researcher as a tutor. However machine learning algorithms may be the next best thing.
Machine Learning Algorithms for Learning How to Code
We used my 11 year old daughter as a case study for this guide. However an AI approach to learning can be applied to any field. Notably right now a number of computer scientists and I are working on a machine learning system that will help teach aspiring developers how to code.
The world of software development is incredibly complex. Which, you would think, would lead instructors to create unique learning programs. However all too often schools and bootcamps train individuals in a completely generic fashion.
You, as an individual, have a unique set of triggers that help you acquire knowledge. Therefore your training curriculum should be dynamically generated based on specific needs.
I hope that this has been a helpful discussion on the the topic of algorithms improving education. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in being included in the work that I’m doing. And hopefully we can help take the educational space to the next stage of evolution.