No developer is going to waste time building an AI tool that runs on an obsolete browser through a snail’s-pace connection, yet many schools are still struggling with flaky broadband, ancient hardware and outdated software.
Computing infrastructure costs money, as does AI development. But Rose Luckin, professor of learning with digital technologies at University College London, believes that a whole-hearted move towards using this technology would actually save more than it costs.
In a recent paper in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, she estimates that a detailed AI assessment tool for a core curriculum in England would cost about £500 million a year to implement. That seems like a staggering sum at a time of ever-tighter school budgets until you realise the estimated costs of the exam system run upwards of £800 million per year.
Luckin also suggests that switching to AI assessment would free up a small army of exam setters and other workers to take up more useful roles – including teaching.
Yet the UK seems to be lagging behind with most of the work developing educational AI that is going on in the US and elsewhere in Europe. This is a major concern for Luckin and her colleagues in the field. “It would be nice to think there could be a magic moment when we buy into what AI can do, but I think it will be more gradual. It will happen, but it may not happen here post-Brexit,” she says.
Priya Lakhani, founder and CEO of UK-based Century Tech, isn’t giving up hope just yet, though. “Our education system was built during the industrial revolution, and since then the only technological advance has been to go from a blackboard to a whiteboard. We should use technology to supercharge teachers – the status quo is unacceptable.”