Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

In recent years, technology has shaped classrooms all over the world. Not too long ago, chalk and blackboards were all you needed, but then computers, tablets, and the internet came along. But recently, education is being augmented and taken to next level by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). According to a recent Pearson report, AI is set to positively transform education in the coming years.

“The future offers the potential of even greater tools and supports. Imagine lifelong learning companions powered by AI that can accompany and support individual learners throughout their studies — in and beyond school — or new forms of assessment that measure learning while it is taking place, shaping the learning experience in real time,” the authors of the report wrote.

Smart classrooms beget smart students

Customized learning is one of the main fields of education where AI is set to have a significant impact. It used to be unthinkable to imagine one-on-one tutoring for each and every student out there, for any subject but now artificial intelligence promises to deliver. For instance, one US-based company called Content Technologies Inc is leveraging deep learning to ‘publish’ customized books — decades-old books that are automatically revamped into smart and relevant learning guides, like advice on writing a research paper about AI.

AIs also shine in the fact that they are able to analyze students’ abilities, interests and potential through education profiles, classroom interaction, social media, and the like, to find the best learning method (or even career path) for them.

Artificial intelligence will not only revamp the classroom completely, it will also change the face of the job market. Because technology always leverages inequality, it will inevitably exacerbate this inequality. Yes, AI will make many jobs obsolete and will cut the number of employees required in other fields. However, AIs can then be used to train learners how to respond to a jobs market re-shaped by technology by helping them “achieve at higher levels, and in a wider set of skills, than any education system has managed to date,” according to Pearson.

When AI is combined with artificial reality tech like the amazing HoloLens by Microsoft, the Oculus Rift VR headset, or Google Expedition, there is virtually no limit to what you can achieve. These powerful technologies redefine, for instance, what experiential or hands-on learning means. Imagine a paleontology class where students are immersed in a simulated Jurassic environment, later they dissect a dinosaur or inspect a micro-CT scan of a fossil.  

But all of this does not mean that teachers will be superseded — far from it, human teachers will still play a major role in the classroom, one that’s adapted to 21st century needs. For instance, teachers will have to help students develop non-cognitive skills such as confidence and creativity that are difficult if not impossible to transfer from a machine. Simply put, there’s no substitute for good mentors and guides.