From automation to speech recognition to predictive analysis, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly part in our lives. A new initiative is proposing the use of the technology to record student attendance, leaving teachers to focus on other things … like teaching, writes Greg Adams.
Imagine never having to take the class attendance roll. Instead of getting everyone sat quietly at the start of the lesson, so you can go through students’ names and tick them off manually, a machine does it for you – quietly, accurately, and without anyone even noticing.
Well, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Just such a system already exists – and could be coming to your classroom in the near future.
For the last two-and-a-half years, the pioneering team at Aware Group has been creating ‘Aware Cognitive Platform’, powered by Artificial Intelligence and developed right here in Hamilton.
“This solution has the potential to eliminate one of the most time-consuming administrative tasks for any education institution and achieve this with the highest levels of privacy considered,” said CEO Brandon Hutcheson. “Using computer vision to perform facial recognition, artificial intelligence can track the arrival and departure of students on school grounds, upload data and provide attendance records to management, the Ministry and even parents and caregivers, in real time, and monitor safety and truancy.”
Testing in schools
The system’s already being trialled at a tertiary institution in New Zealand and the company is currently in conversation with the Ministry of Education. The goal is to have it being tested in schools by the end of the year, says Hutcheson.
“The benefits across the sector are significant, from freeing up valuable time, saving money, improving security, and supporting parents and caregivers. It will also help address the growing issue of truancy and its associated costs, including policing, social services and the courts.
“If, on average, a student will spend around three minutes per class waiting for their attendance to be taken, across 13 years in education this can amount to over 122 days lost per student.”
Numbers not video
How it works is by a camera scanning the classroom and recognising individuals, it then performs the comparison on the device and passes the information as a 128 digit number, which is like a barcode. This number is the identity and is transmitted to the central reporting point and marked as present. It does not transmit a video feed to operate. Hutcheson readily accepts that there are some challenges to overcome – more social and emotional than technological. Once a room has been configured, the technology already works, despite knee caps potentially causing some confusion as they look like faces! “Conversations about AI usually start one of two ways,” said Hutcheson. “Either people ask if it will replace jobs or they question its invasiveness, often equating AI with surveillance. If anything, it’ll create jobs and with a system like this, no one is watching, just monitoring.
“The data being collected is no different than people swiping a card when entering a room.”
Replacing mundane tasks
There are a handful of facial recognition projects being tested. In Australia, a kiosk system is being used, where students have to sit in booths to ‘check in’; in China, there’s something similar to this but students all have to face the same way. For now, the Aware Group’s solution is breaking new ground.
“Discussions still need to take place regarding the impact on the student experience because simply automating attendance registration may have other effects, be it using roll time to teach students’ patience on the mat, learning classmates’ names and the inclusion of Te Reo.
“Using AI in this way, is a very good example of technology replacing a mundane task so as to allow a more valuable activity to occur. Adopting this technology to automate registers will change the dynamic of each school day and should bring significant benefits for all involved.”
BRANDON HUTCHESON WAS TALKING TO GREG ADAMS, EDITOR OF INTERFACE MAGAZINE.
AWARE GROUP IS INTERESTED IN TALKING TO SCHOOLS ABOUT THE SOLUTION AND THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED. IF YOU’D LIKE TO BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION CONTACT BRANDON AT INFO@AWAREGROUP.COM
More on Artificial Intelligence at INTERFACEXpo 2019
We’re delighted that Soul Machines’s Tanya Gray will be our keynote speaker at INTERFACEXpo 2019. Join her to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential for education.