“Personalized learning” sounds great for any ear interested to hear about education advancements, but it also comes with a rather broad definition. The core idea is to offer each student the possibility to learn any subject based on their already available knowledge, level of interest and individual pace on the learning curve, in an environment that constantly adapts to their learning needs.

How exactly to deliver personalized learning is a matter of debate. The most efficient option is definitely a 1:1 approach. But this is far from being also effective. For too many students this can’t be an option. So educators are free to opt for the way they consider most appropriate to personalize their instruction. Which is not a bad thing, considering the many restrictions our standardized educational system implies.

Whatever approach to achieving the personalization of education one might choose, one thing is certain: one teacher cannot do it alone for a class of 30 (give or take) students. That teacher needs specialized assistance — or a sidekick, as I like to call it — and that specialized assistance may often take the form of artificial intelligence, or shortly AI.

How AI shapes up our world

AI is a prevalent ingredient in many if not most of the technological advancements that are currently transforming industries and fields of activity. Artificial intelligence is in search engines, and ATMs, talks to you through the voice of Siri or other virtual assistants, and allows you to turn on the lights in your living room by voice command, from a completely different part of your house.

AI is everywhere.

While it can get a little bit scary to think about all the things that could go wrong if AI get out of our control, it opens the door to many positive possibilities nonetheless. In many industries. Including education.

How AI shapes up K-12 education

Perhaps things will not change overnight — the educational system is notorious for its resistance to change — but ed-tech is conquering more and more classrooms and AI follows suit.

Teachers now have plenty of tools to use in order to deliver enhanced instruction, from educational apps (including VR and AR ones) to videos to various cloud-based tools to learning management systems, and more. The classroom as we know it is being transformed by this use of technology, by putting it into the hands of students and pushing the learning experience into the 21st century.

Artificially intelligent technology for educational usage is still developing, but even today’s levels are enough to give hope to those in need of special education. But the big promise AI brings into the realm of education is that of personalized learning.

If educators are to deliver personalized learning to each and every one of their students, they must rely on big (learning) data and the technology that parse, analyze and report it. The smarter the technology the better the reports and the better the decisions. Not only that, but AI can assist teachers in offering targeted student support, at the moment of need, to each student.

AI in education — a glimpse into the future

While the human imagination holds no limits in terms of what the future might be — for the world in general and for education and ed-tech in particular — there’s one idea about the use of AI in K-12 education that could become very real: artificially intelligent lifelong learning companions.

The name is definitely cool. What these learning companion systems do is even cooler.

According to “Intelligence Unleashed – An argument for AI in Education“, a recent paper by Pearson and UCL Knowledge Lab, “the next generation of learning companion systems will offer huge potential for future teaching and learning. There are no technical barriers to the development of learning companions that can accompany and support individual learners throughout their studies – in and beyond school. These lifelong learning companions could be based in the cloud, accessible via a multiplicity of devices, and be operated offline as needed.”

The publication goes on to say “Rather than teaching all subject areas, the learning companion might call in specialist AIEd systems or humans with expertise in the particular subject area required by the learner. In addition, the companion could focus on helping learners to become better at learning through developing a growth mindset or an impressive array of 21st century skills. And because this type of system can help all learners to access learning resources that are optimal for their needs, it will be suitable for struggling learners as well as those who are high achieving.”

What do you think about that? How would you use these in your classroom of the future?

Author: Livia M

Livia is the lead online voice of NEO by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about education technology for K-12 and higher ed, gamification, BYOD, as well as other ed-tech subjects.