As with many of our former societal norms, the educational institution with which we are familiar is changing and evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students missed out on graduations, proms, and the last few months of the current academic year—what is even more disheartening is that we are faced with the possibility of schools remaining closed for the next academic year. We have seen drive-by birthday parties taking the place of large celebrations, video conferencing platforms replacing social gatherings, online classrooms, and remote work taking over the typical brick and mortar school or office setting. These adjustments have shown us that we are resilient and able to evolve and adapt in ways we would have never foreseen possible.
Parents have been tasked with doing it all from upholding their careers to homeschooling while being stay-at-home parents, which despite all the difficulties, has encouraged them to consider homeschooling their children from the next academic year.
It is important to decipher the difference between homeschooling and virtual schooling. Homeschooling involves the student’s parent as the primary educator, diving into unique instruction and often focusing on familial values and integrating this into academic instruction. Virtual schooling mirrors traditional face-to-face instruction, with certified teaching leading the virtual instruction and utilizing a plethora of platforms and delivery methods.
Still, we are faced with the question as to what this new normal can teach us? Where will we be, and more importantly, where will the future leaders, today’s children and students, be after experiencing firsthand the evolution of the academic institution? While the future is unclear and the path of the pandemic is uncharted, parents, educators, administrators, and in some cases, government officials are faced with the challenge of preparing for the unknown. The possibilities for the educational system range from putting simple adaptations in place such as smaller class sizes to larger, more involved changes like moving to an entirely remote or virtual platform. However, one thing is known: education and the classrooms have already evolved since we have encountered COVID-19, and the educational system, as we know will look different.
How can artificial intelligence and technology improve student performance?
According to a 2016 Stanford report on the trends of AI, we are making a “move from intelligent systems to systems that are human-aware and trustworthy,” with trustworthiness being an integral part of that shift (Stone et al., 2016, p.15). Experts do believe that education will most likely always require a human interaction component that cannot be replaced with computer-based learning systems; however, the projection surmises that gradual AI integration will ideally assist instructors and thus improve student retention and performance (Stone et al., 2016).
A promising hope for AI in academia is to drive self-paced, individual learning, incorporating the possibility of blended classrooms, and student-driven education (Stone et al., 2016). Naturally, this will require a level of parent involvement to ensure appropriate motivation in younger learners, but will ultimately benefit all levels of education in the United States as it supports learning at the individual student’s pace as well as matching the way they learn, ultimately personalizing education.
Virtual experiences, and eventually virtual reality are taking students on explorations far outside the scope and sequence of a usual field trip outing and are vastly expansive of the classroom itself. Students are able to explore museums, parks, zoos, aquariums, and more through online streaming and higher-level students (university level) are experiencing virtual reality in the form of archaeological digs (Stone et al., 2016). The possibilities for career and job training are truly endless when we consider where this technology is heading. Think about the medical field and surgical training already occurring with robotics—big things are coming with AI advancements. Now, it is time for educators and students to explore new learning tools and opportunities. As a companion robot, Roybi Robot continuously enhanced to be more than an educational tool but also an emotional support provider, especially while we’re all tackling the mental toll of social distancing and isolations. Machines can never replace a teacher’s place, but an AI-power robot can assist a teacher and parents with providing individualized attention to each child’s skills and needs.
How can families integrate technology at home?
As we consider the future of America’s education system and how the global pandemic has impacted our academic structure, we would be remiss if we did not consider the implications technology will have on the home-school environment.
While the financial investment often required to implement advanced technologies places a barrier to education, especially homeschooling, there are ways to take advantage of technology during these unprecedented times as we watch schooling evolve. As mentioned, virtual experiences have filtrated the home over recent months and most of these are free. What makes this shift from school to home effective, is that children are willing and excited to engage with technology and find it interesting and fun. Sure, technology is not perfect and still has more room for improvement for it to be fully integrated within our educational systems and as assistance at home. Yet, even this is a lesson or perhaps a source of inspiration for our future leaders and inventors. Discussions about the benefits, problems, and limitations of the technology are essential conversations that should be regularly discussed at home to make sure the youngest amongst us are smart users of different technological tools.
In conclusion, it is inevitable that we will witness shifts in the way we currently implement education in the United States. As we adapt our traditional methods and approaches to education, technology integration will be inherent. The future is promising and although uncertainties lie in exactly how this new system will look, we know that we are headed towards great things, combining the best that AI has to offer with educator expertise. Individualized, student-driven instruction has long since been a goal of our education system and as advancements progress, we are closer to meeting the needs of all students, giving each and every learner the chance to succeed.
Peter Stone, Rodney Brooks, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ryan Calo, Oren Etzioni, Greg Hager, Julia Hirschberg, Shivaram Kalyanakrishnan, Ece Kamar, Sarit Kraus, Kevin Leyton-Brown, David Parkes, William Press, AnnaLee Saxenian, Julie Shah, Milind Tambe, and Astro Teller. “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030.” One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence: Report of the 2015-2016 Study Panel, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, September 2016. Doc: http://ai100.stanford.edu/2016-report. Accessed: September 6, 2016.