At first glance, it's easy to think that artificial intelligence (AI) is far from the education sector. However, AI is already being used in real-world projects, such as predicting the risk of students dropping out of school. It could also help reduce the cognitive load of school personnel.
"Since AI is in its infancy, it is up to school personnel to take an interest in its possibilities and to appropriate them in order to orient them towards the needs of the environment. It will thus fit into what is already being done," said Simon Bouchard and Carolanne Tremblay of the company Optaniaspecializing in artificial intelligence and educational technologies. They offered a conference on the occasion of the ADF Weekorganized by FADIO.
Throughout their presentation, they popularized the potential of AI for the education sector, while reassuring attendees. "AI will never replace a school practitioner's brain, judgment or professional experience. Even if the software does an initial analysis, the decision making and analysis of the results will and should always be done by humans. Humans have essential qualitative data that the machine cannot interpret. On the other hand, AI can be used as a decision support tool. It provides quantitative information that can guide the latter.
For example, based on the analysis of factual data such as age, previous academic performance, and place of residence, an algorithm could predict whether a student is at greater risk of failing or dropping out of school. "Far from stigmatizing students, this may allow for earlier or sustained intervention. At that point, the intervener can give himself a mandate to successfully disprove the AI's prediction through his coaching," say the two speakers.
Cégep de Chicoutimi already uses a tool called ISA to identify students in difficulty. Previously, detection was done around mid-term and required a lot of analysis by the teams. With the use of ISA, the work is done by the machine in just a few seconds. In addition, it can be done as soon as the school year starts, based on the information available to the school, which allows staff to immediately focus their efforts on prevention and support activities. "They have the opportunity to make a situation happen...or get out of hand!"
Other projects pairing education and AI have led to the development of personalized learning platforms, which can take the form of exercisers that tailor questions to the user based on his or her previous answers, and conversational bots, which can provide first-line answers to students' questions. In the latter case, the Ali robot, which takes the form of a mobile applicationis also used at the Cégep de Chicoutimi. It accompanies students in their integration during the first session and can follow them throughout their college studies. In the end, Ali can even guide the students towards the Cégep's interveners.
The importance of data
Obviously, it's impossible to talk about AI without talking about data collection and use. "What supports AI is data. The better the data, the better the work that AI does."
Thus, ethics is never far from AI. Are the data used sensitive? Are they really representative of a population? In what context were they collected? Will it be properly anonymized? Has the individual given his or her consent to their use? These are all questions that need to be asked and that should be part of every AI project, regardless of the business sector. And that's why education stakeholders should be interested in AI development: they can influence the ethical choices that will be made about data so that they are as consistent as possible with their values.
In conclusion, Simon Bouchard and Carolanne Tremblay are convinced that AI, since it will be able to free school personnel from repetitive tasks and complex analyses, will also be able to "give them back time to get back to the basics: building caring relationships with learners.
It is possible to listen the entire conference :
In addition :
- A comic book that popularizes AI
- Support for success and screening of students in difficulty at Laval University
- Primary school students discover artificial intelligence with Kat'IA
Dimension (s) of digital competence related to this article
2- Develop and mobilize your technological skills
11- Develop critical thinking towards digital technology
To see the Framework.