iQualify for Schools is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to model a maths tutor. The on-screen adviser works individually with students to help them solve equations, identify what they need to work on and provide personalised, real-time feedback.
As we approach November and NCEA exams, everyone is mindful of COVID-19’s impact on the school year and what it might mean for overall achievement levels. The recent return to Level 3 restrictions in parts of the country has highlighted the need to think differently about learning.
If you’re a maths teacher, imagine all of your students being able to engage face-to-face any time of the day or night with a tutor who assesses their knowledge gaps, comes up with a plan of action to address them and reports back to you on progress. This tutor has a name, ‘Amy’, and she is the not-so-human face of education in New Zealand in the 21st Century.
Through a collaboration between iQualify for Schools and the Jaipuna computer software company, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has been used to model a human tutor. The on-screen adviser works individually with students to help them solve equations, identify specific areas they need to work on and provide personalised pathways and real-time feedback.
Learn from the student
The technology is the first of its kind in New Zealand and is accessed through the iQualify for Schools online learning platform, which provides more than 200 curriculum-specific and NCEA resources for schools.
As students have different competency levels in maths, Amy first learns from the person. It assesses strengths and weaknesses, and from there creates an individualised pathway for the student to work on filling any knowledge gaps and reports back to the classroom teacher.
Amy understands why students make a mistake and teaches them what they need to reach the learning outcome set for the class.
For example, a student working on calculus can make a mistake because of something they have forgotten in algebra or trigonometry. Amy automatically teaches them the missing skill and checks that they understand it before they move on.
A recently-updated report on the impact and potential of AI in education published on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, says “it will catalyse a shift away from mass, standardised learning towards more personalised learning, and that intelligent tutoring systems will enable more efficient engagement.
“AI may enhance teachers’ productivity by taking over routine tasks or dealing with frequently asked questions. This will enable teachers to spend more time in dialogue and discussions with students focused on complex activities, as well as time for curriculum design and professional collaboration.”
Amy is one of several AI products and platforms noted in the report, which also says that, despite advancements, human teachers will remain at the heart of education.
The teacher is still the heart and soul behind it all, whether it’s online or in the classroom, and the value of technology – no matter how advanced it may be – will never surpass the value of a teacher inspiring their students to learn. Nevertheless, it certainly has its place and, as an advocate for distance learning, I know there are significant benefits in teachers and schools using a blend of distance and classroom learning.
BY ALEX MACCREADIE, HEAD OF THE IQUALIFY FOR SCHOOLS TEAM.
© INTERFACE Magazine, September 2020