June 2018


  • Back to the future
    Geoff Barton says it's important we look to the future of education but in doing so, we mustn't ignore the significant challenges we face at present. More
  • Smarter learning
    Artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to transform learning by drawing on a range of data to pinpoint each child's specific learning needs as they work. Education needs to embrace it, says CEO of a school improvement platform Priya Lakhani OBE. More
  • A step in the right direction
    ASCL has campaigned for fair education funding for over 30 years. Here, former President Peter Downes highlights key moments from our quest and says, although the proposed new formula isn't perfect, ASCL and its members can be proud that the principle for which it has campaigned has been accepted. More
  • Keep your head
    One ASCL member shares his experience of going through the redundancy process and says he can't speak highly enough of the help he was given by ASCL when he needed it most. More
  • Is the grass greener?
    Why are so many teachers leaving the profession? Jack Worth, Senior Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at the latest research. More
  • Changing the narrative
    ASCL PD Associate, Carly Waterman, explains how collaboration could help change the narrative of the recruitment and retention problem in schools and colleges. More
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Artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to transform learning by drawing on a range of data to pinpoint each child’s specific learning needs as they work. Education needs to embrace it, says CEO of a school improvement platform Priya Lakhani OBE.

Smarter learning

Technology is transforming every other sector in the world. In any role, in any sector, if we do not equip our workforce with the right tools to succeed, they cannot be expected to deliver. But what has technology done for education? In schools we have gone from a blackboard to a whiteboard, but not much else has changed. Rather than retrofitting technology to education it is imperative to think about the problems in education first and look for the technologies that can solve them.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.

AI has enabled millions of people to become more efficient and more effective in many other sectors. AI technology in education allows us to combine data science with neuroscience and combine methods such as reinforcing memory function and promoting metacognitive skills with machine learning.

AI is the new buzzword and it has enormous potential to help teachers and learners. However, we must be careful that the technology we seek is actually using AI technology, and to help the sector navigate this complex area, Professor Rose Luckin from the Institute of Education (IOE) and I published The No BS Guide to AI available online at www.ascl.org.uk/guide-to-AI

How can AI make a difference?

If we offer students access to an artificially intelligent online learning environment, the technology can track every interaction, click and mouse movement. It gathers all this data and analyses it with the data it is collecting about the thousands of other students also learning on the platform. The machine spots patterns and correlations in the behaviours of the students and learns how the student’s brain learns. It learns pace, focus, difficulty levels, knowledge, skills, gaps in knowledge and skills, and when concepts move from the student’s short- to long-term memory. The technology quickly learns the literacy and numeracy levels of the child.

By learning how the student learns, within only minutes, the machine can plot the most effective route through the curriculum and ensure that every child is supported in their learning. Gaps in foundational knowledge are quickly identified and remedied, weaknesses are scaffolded and strengths built upon. Rather than a student having to wait weeks for work to be collected, marked and returned for misunderstandings to be addressed, AI can intervene at the point of need.

The result is a learning journey as unique as each student, carefully crafted to recommend the most useful topic at exactly the right time.

While there is no shortage of content available online, sifting through it to find specific pieces of content appropriate for each learner would be a Herculean effort for teachers. AI technology can not only automate this task for teachers, it can perform it better. Machines can analyse data on a scale that humans could not possibly manage in the same amount of time and can instantly react to support learners.

Live data at your fingertips

All too often, data tracking and analysis are a drain on teachers’ time. With AI technology, this is eliminated: as students complete work on the platform, a teacher’s dashboard is automatically populated: teachers have at their fingertips data on how every single one of their students is progressing and achieving, who is on-task, who is distracted and the learning behaviours of the student, including effort. While students can skip through questions and content on other platforms, the artificially intelligent platform identifies hesitation, skipping and guessing. Teachers have a wealth of actionable information available to make timely and targeted effective interventions.

Traditionally, this data is populated by the teacher after micro-assessing, micro-marking and typing the data into the school management information system (MIS). With AI, it is through the student’s interactions that the data is being populated. No more marking. The AI also uses the data to suggest a smart lesson plan for the following week. No more Sunday nights spent planning. Schools that are already using AI technology in their classrooms are reporting time savings of an hour a week per class up to six hours a week. Data-driven decisionmaking is particularly effective in education as we can see from Professor John Hattie’s research that shows that when teachers have an accurate picture of their student’s performance, the effect that they have on outcomes is vast.

CENTURY Tech has demonstrated that students using AI technology increase their understanding of a topic from 29% to 44%.

The technology also has a great levelling effect. Across different analyses we see no difference between genders, in either performance or engagement. For students with special educational needs (SEN), AI technology provides the possibility to make the same progress as non-SEN learners: data analysis shows that, despite different learning patterns for dyslexic, dyscalculic and autistic learners, students who use CENTURY Tech’s AI platform achieve the same outcomes as their non-SEN peers.

Impact on SEN

The technology has had a particularly potent impact on those who are typically disadvantaged by the mainstream classroom: students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and those with SEN. This technology is being used by groups of alternative provision schools, which provide education to permanently excluded students and those otherwise unable to attend mainstream schools. These students typically are severely behind in their schooling, largely due to classroom absence.

David Moran, Headteacher of The Ashwood Academy in Hampshire, notes, “The boys particularly like to challenge themselves to get 100%, meaning they go back and re-do tests, something they would never have done before. The platform adapts to their learning needs to ensure no child is left behind and they particularly enjoy the personalised messaging which encourages them to learn and adopt a growth mindset.”

In another school, AI technology is being used to support students who are unable to attend due to severe emotional difficulties; some haven’t attended school in several years. Compared to the most active students on this particular platform, these students are both putting in the most effort and reaping the most success.

I am often asked if AI will replace teachers. The answer is a firm ‘no’. AI will augment the skills of our teachers and teaching assistants. It will enhance the human in our teachers, allow them the time to make those targeted interventions, teach and inspire our children and provide the pastoral care that only a teacher can.

We want our teachers to be able to deliver. We have a responsibility to provide them with the tools that will enable them to do so. We want them to have time for their own wellbeing, and unless we open ourselves up to the use of smart technology, which every other sector in the world has embraced, we will struggle to overcome the challenges that our wonderful teachers and learners face every day.

By learning how the student learns, within only minutes, the machine can plot the most effective route through the curriculum and ensure that every child is supported in their learning.

Membership offer

CENTURY Tech is an ASCL preferred supplier. ASCL members can subscribe to CENTURY Tech and receive a 15% discount. The cost includes CPD-Accredited training. Quote ‘Leader’ and sign up at www.century.tech

Priya Lakhani OBE
Founder CEO of the school improvement platform CENTURY Tech