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Ian O'Byrne

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. - Larry King In issue of my newsletter. Subscribe at wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #silence

#121

Ian O'Byrne

Thinking more about bots in education

2 min read

My line from this post:

Ultimately, this bot, and ones in the future could serve as an automatic teaching assistant that is always present and available.

Response from Katie Paciga:

So alt school uses the idea of customized playlists to help children engage in areas of interest for project based learning. To what extent do you think bots might automate some of that? http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/07/altschools-disrupted-education

Interested to hear your thoughts.

My response:

Great question. :)

IMHO, I think that there is/should be a set of algorithms that are guiding the learner, and setting up content and curriculum that they might be interested in. Or, at least with “big data”, what students just like you might be interested in.

Of course this concerns me as you’re already limiting the scope of what the child might learn. I’d like to see a certain amount of randomness, or serendipity in the learning materials for the students. I’d also like to see opportunities where students can identify and develop their own (prescriptive or descriptive) learning pathways.

In terms of your original question, I think a bot might be able to fill specific needs. Hopefully a parent, teacher, or peer would be able to have dialogue with the child about the content and learning. In lieu of this interaction, perhaps a bot could carry on dialogue with the child.

Yes, this sounds super sci-fi and a bit impersonal, but it’s already happening. An example is with the Quartz news app. The news app acts like a messenger, or assistant with some slick AI embedded. The app/bot will share news or info that you might be interested in. It shares it in a conversational style or tone. As you carry on dialogue it will question you…and allow you to question the app.

I’d see this as a powerful opportunity to build up some smart AI in the form of a bot to support student inquiry. The app would start by asking the student what they want to learn that day. If she or he is stuck with a direction to head, the bot would suggest research they previously would be working on, or identify new fields to focus on.

Perhaps. ;)