miércoles, 3 de julio de 2019

Artificial Intelligence in The Classroom: A Threat or a Helping Hand?

                                                                                  By Zarela Cruz

         We all know the scenario: robots overtaking humans…how scary is that? When it comes to our classroom, what are the chances to be displaced by artificial intelligence or mere chatboxes?

         First of all, let’s get information about what artificial intelligence is capable to accomplish. I quite often read information about algorithms, chatboxes and apps, not only to be updated but also to try them myself. There is an important distinction to be made: technology used by teachers and technology employed by students.  Each one has definite purposes, to say the least.

         Below we can find some reflections about my findings:

 AI is already being applied in Language Acquisition In fact, this is not new at all. The application of AI started about 30 years ago. Duolingo is a free app used to learn languages and it is quite popular among students, since it is free. This app has recently included a new feature: a chatbot, which allows students to practice without feeling embarrassed of making mistakes, especially if they do not feel particularly confident when speaking. We were all new to the language once; would you not have preferred if there had been absolutely no potential of anyone taking notice of those mistakes?

2.   AI is really effective in terms of collecting data, which allows the standardization of information regarding students’ production, let’s say in written tasks, and also provides instant feedback. There are platforms that are available 24/7. This gives the students the sense of always getting attention. Who would not like getting immediate replies when practicing? Waiting for feedback may be quite discouraging.

3.   LUMILO is an augmented reality assistant which, together with the teacher, monitors students’ performance in real time and allows the teacher to assign more challenging activities to stronger students and provide support to the ones that are struggling with the tasks. If we do not step up and accept the challenge that the ever-improving augmented reality technology presents, who will?

4.   GRAMMARLY corrects students’ writings. This means saving a lot of time in class. What can a teacher do then? Identify the students’ weaknesses and providing them with practice on that particular issue. Besides, this application helps students to know their scores, how well they are doing, but NOT how to write and/or organize a text. Because of this, students will still ask themselves “but what can I do to improve?” which will result in them seeking advice from their teachers.

5.   Technology promotes collaboration. Forums and wikis work really well. Teachers start the thread and students participate by answering the main questions and replying to at least two of their classmates. Rules regarding participation must be clear to make the most of it.

    6.   Technology reduces repetitive tasks by programming the feedback of each question in an exam after it is finished, for example, which in turn allows not only to get the score, but also statistics of the classroom’s results. It is also very handy when getting the final scores of a course since we upload each activity’s grade all along the duration of the course or the term; when it is finished we are able to get the final score just by clicking on it. As teachers, we deserve some help with data organization too, don’t we?

7.   And last, but not least important, when dealing with this fear of being substituted by a contraption, rest assured, technology will never be able to replace teachers. However, our roles are constantly changing, and this is no exception. We will turn out to be supervisors in the learning process. Once again, this is not breaking news. With the Flipped Classroom, we have a similar role. It is a matter of not losing perspective.

Now, what about you?
Have you ever felt threatened by technology that your institution has invested on?
Do you think it is not a fair competition or just not possible to compete with Artificial Intelligence?

Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in the Teaching of English and Spanish. She has also completed some online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor for more than 25 years. She has just finished her master’s studies in Translation. This article aims to reflect on this important current topic, the use of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom.

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