One of the greatest teachers in cinema was Mr Miyagi from the blockbuster movie, The Karate Kid. You may remember that he would make ‘Daniel-san’ wax his cars and sand his fence for hours at a time.
This was just work to Daniel-san. He didn’t realise that Miyagi was building up his karate repertoire. But, more importantly, Miyagi was teaching Daniel-san about discipline.
One of Miyagi’s most memorable lines was: ‘No such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher.’
And that’s true…to an extent.
It is the teacher’s job to make learning exciting. It is also their job to instil a natural curiosity. Hopefully, this combination encourages students to push themselves to achieve great things.
Doing only what’s required won’t be enough. Students should have a passionate desire to invent, innovate and discover.
Maybe I’m expecting too much from teachers.
But what if all teachers could make every student excited and curious to learn more? And what if they could do it on a daily basis? They never got tired, and they never rested. Their sole job was to teach and develop the young minds of the future.
It would be hugely taxing, day in day out, for the average school teacher. But what if teachers were more than they are now? The answer, I believe, lies with technology.
I’m not talking about more computer screens in classrooms. Rather, I’m talking about real human interaction between technology and students.
Working on the teacher to make the student better
You’ve probably heard it said that kids are getting smarter every year. I’ve tutored high school kids of all ages. And, from my experience, this phrase rings true. The next generation seems more capable than ever before.
But this adage doesn’t appear to match up to recent results. According to new figures published by the OECD, Australian kids are falling behind other kids in the rest of the world.
A decline in aptitude was seen across both genders, and across most states, schools and income levels. Aussie school kids are even behind on last year’s results for maths, science and reading.
But the blame shouldn’t be placed on students. I’d ague Miyagi had it right; it is our teachers that are responsible.
So why not create the perfect teacher, or as close to perfect as we can get? A teacher built on artificial intelligence (AI) could be the perfect teacher.
It might be hard to imagine. But soon, students could be interacting with personal AI tutors.
These AI tutors could teach any subject, as they would know everything. And I mean everything. Learning activities could be personalised. AI tutors could also collect and analyse results throughout the year.
This long-term information will be far more valuable than results from a year-end test. Instead of incentivising students to recall information, they’ll be rewarded for applying knowledge.
AI tutors will help students become more capable and ready for the real world.
What about human interaction, you say?
Researchers are already working on this problem. Current AI technology can already understand speech, language and facial expressions.
Earlier this year, Apple Inc. [NASDAQ:APPL] bought a company which developed AI to do just that. The tech start-up, Emotient, used AI to analyse facial expressions to read emotions.
Researchers at the University of Leeds are developing a similar AI system. They are teaching an AI to understand speech, language and facial expressions.
This could be just another component tool for AI tutors to help students learn. By empathising with students, AI tutors could gauge understanding.
Imagine the following scenario: A student furrows their brow and squints at material they’re reading. They are obviously confused, or don’t understand something. The AI tutor can then pick up on their facial expressions. It recognises that the student isn’t following what’s going on, and that they need something clarified.
And this is just one aspect of an AI tutor. Soon, advancements in AI technology could make them indistinguishable from real teachers.
It’s like having the best of both worlds.
The AI tutor always works in the best interests of the student. But it can also recognise how the student is feeling, and it adjusts when needed.
Machine intelligence will further human intelligence
AI has already radically revolutionised various industries.
It is on the cusp of changing the auto industry by being at the heart of the driverless car revolution. AI has made its way into healthcare, diagnosing life-threatening diseases and prescribing treatment in seconds. AI is also peppered throughout the financial sector, used in algorithmic trading and robo-advice.
Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Inc. [NASDAQ:BIDU], believes AI is ‘The new electricity. Electricity has transformed countless industries; AI will now do the same.’
The education industry has yet to be revolutionised by AI. But the day AI is invited into the classroom en masse might be around the corner. International Business Machines [NYSE:IBM] has already developed an AI teaching assistant.
These assistants help teachers to plan lessons and choose material for each class. Right now it’s still a pilot program. IBM expects 200 US teachers to take part in the program towards the end of this year.
For now, it might be just lesson plans. But soon they could be teaching students one-on-one, unassisted. It’s nothing to be frightened of. Rather, it’s something to be excited about. AI could help future generations become, and build, more in the future.
Contributing Editor, Money Morning