Elementary School Students take new AI-powered learning buddies home

  • The Scenario

    Robots in classrooms are now a reality in many European countries, often referred to as learning buddies; in fact, learning buddies are actually AI-powered robots that support individual students’ learning experiences by building their educational profile over time. The learning buddies learn by observing the young students and conversing with them. The more data the robot can collect over time, the more accurate the student profile will become. Educationalists now believed that by allowing the learning buddy to accompany students throughout their educational experience, including home life, it can provide more accurate and constructive support to enhance the student’s learning experience.

    Learning buddies area European initiative that has not been welcomed enthusiastically by all Member States. Issues of cost and training, in addition to the longer time it requires to have a quantifiable impact on education, have led many European countries to reject the initiative, while other countries have welcomed this with enthusiasm.

    This academic year, for the first time, the learning buddies are available for students to take home with them, and keep throughout their elementary school education. The artificial educators are expected to have a positive impact not just in students’ learning and studying habits but, furthermore, in their overall social presence, as there is a particular focus on skills such as decision-making, rather than on particular content or information.

    As the use of learning buddies increases, it becomes clearer that there is a need for computer scientists and educationalists to work together more closely to support this new revolutionary educational approach. Given the interdisciplinary demands of this experiment, policymakers have begun officially encouraging such collaborations recently, to avoid another unsuccessful attempt at incorporating AI in education, as happened recently with classroom robots. Classroom robots, a similar technology that observed classrooms (not individual students), had to be withdrawn only a year after theiruse due to accusations of algorithmic bias deployed by their software. The new learning buddies have been more successful as they support transparency of decision-making and open source code.

    The integration of the learning buddies in the students’ home and family life is a new challenge that needs to be collaboratively addressed by both education professionals and software developers.Consequently, many questions must still be answered:

    How different are affecting attitudes across Europe on the issue of AI in education? How does the digital divide across Europe affect this opportunity? Can we apply best practices uniformly after determining the level of success of this technology? Will this positively or negatively affect wellbeing overall? Can this be quantified? Who is accountable for data training the algorithms used? How do policymakers plan against bias in developing and using learning buddies, discrimination in terms of learning, inequality in terms of access and liability upon usage?

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