Harnessing AI to improve education for everyone

Yang Meiping
A demonstration class at the brand-new Shanghai Institute for AI Education showed how an AI system developed by East China Normal University can improve education.
Yang Meiping
Harnessing AI to improve education for everyone
Ti Gong

Students at an AI-supported class at East China Normal University over the weekend

Forty primary school students in grades 3-6 were given tablets supported by artificial intelligence (AI) for a class at East China Normal University over the weekend –  part of the Shanghai Institute for AI Education's launching ceremony.

Students used the tablets to answer a question: If 60 percent of a pile rocks is used and a third of a ton is left, what was the original weight of the rocks?

Three students answered incorrectly, but their tablets provided study plans based on the computer system's deep-learning algorithm and learning-measurement models that make intelligent assessments of students' cognitive status based on answers, response speeds, hesitation and help-seeking behaviors. The system provides individualized learning approaches, educational materials and encouragement to increase students' ability to learn and their motivation.

The demonstration class showed how an AI system developed by the university can improve education, while the new facility helps meet the need for intelligent education in Shanghai and across China, said Yuan Zhenguo, dean of the institute.

“With the rapid development of technology, intelligent education will become a focus for AI development,” Yuan said. “Individualized, diversified and independent education will be accessible on a larger scale. The third education reform is coming.”

He said the university will integrate all of its disciplines to make innovation and AI top priorities in its future development.

“We're aiming to build a highland for intelligent education in the city and the entire nation,” he said.

The institute's mission is to reform the way students learn and create a dynamic future for education.

“AI is a double-edge sword or a running horse that doesn’t know where to go,” Yuan said. “We need to make it serve us, especially in education.”

The institute will focus on both basic research and AI applications, and will try to solve problems by carrying out research and developing products that are affordable and low-risk. Moreover, the institute has begun researching and developing robots to help teachers design teaching materials and make learning fun for students, as well as tutor and help them learn languages at an early age.

“We want to share resources to make education more equitable, use technology to promote innovation in education and promote assessment reform to build a learning-oriented society that is borderless and accessible to everyone, everywhere, anytime," Yuan said.

Seventeen experts from China and abroad serve as members of the institute's academic advisory body. The university has also assembled teachers from eight different departments to compile 24 volumes of textbooks about AI and education, and launched the nation’s first doctoral program for intelligent education.

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