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AI in education: Terminators replacing lecturers?

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Kim Schildkamp [University of Twente]

Before the hackaton, I was very scared of AI, had this vision of terminators taking over the planet. Participation in this hackaton made me aware of what AI can and cannot do, and the possibilities it has to offer. But it also made me admire our human brains even more”.

This statement of one of the participants of the Hackaton Artificial Intelligence (AI) and feedback organized at the University of Twente  highlights one of the reason why we organized this hackaton. The example above is an example of the so-called “Jaws effect”, as also explained by Pierre Gorissen, who was one of our inspiring lecturers during the hackaton. Sharks were depicted in the movie “Jaws” in a very negative way, which made people scared of sharks. However, the chance for a human of being bitten by a New Yorker is bigger than the chance of being bitten by a shark! The jaws effect is about movies having a big impact on how people look at certain things. This also applies to AI. In most movies, AI is about robots often trying to take over our planet. This leads to people having a negative perception of AI and narrowly associating it only with robots.

The field of AI is developing rapidly, and this also has consequences for education. Applications are already available that score assessments of students automatically, that provide students with feedback, and that provide students automatically with their next assignment based on their performance on the previous assignment. However, there are a lot of questions surrounding the use of AI in education. Will it take over the role of the lecturers, what are the risks associated with using AI, what are the ethical implications, what can it do, what can’t it do, etc. ? This is the reason that the acceleration plan developed the so called field-lab AI in education, in the form of a hackaton.

At the University of Twente we organized a three day hackaton, during which teams worked non-stop on their own chosen case related to feedback in education. Under the guidance of the Jedi's (AI experts), these teams worked on their own AI application for their own chosen case. During these three days they were also inspired with three inspirational sessions, by Duuk Baten (“the computer says you will fail”), Maurice van Keulen (“when it comes to the quality of data, be paranoid, very paranoid”) and Pierre Gorissen (“the jaws effect”).

Seven teams with different backgrounds (secondary education, higher education (including one student team), teacher training, and Cito) worked on very different topics: (1) a tool for students and teachers that can help them see whether the student is on track; (2) a smart phone tool to improve presentation skills using video data; (3) a 4TU online educational platform for engineering education in secondary education; (4) a personal learning opportunities creator that provides students with assignments at their own learning level; (5) a chatbot and dashboard including automatic feedback that helps students to talk more productively and teachers to orchestrate their online classroom; (6) a tool using the Netflix concept to match students to the right content/offerings of Pre-U; (7) a tool that provides students with feedback on how to improve balancing (reaction) equations in chemistry.

The jury had a hard time selecting a winner from these seven great ideas. The jury was also pleasantly surprised about the progress the teams had been able to make in such a short amount of time. There is real potential in these ideas, and we are going to look into how we can further develop these ideas, starting with the winners of the hackaton: the chemistry team! For me, this hackaton is another great example of why we need to combine the potential that data and AI have to offer with the experience, knowledge and creativity of people!