AI and Edutech Connection
25 April 2017
Something is just not right with
Edutech. Although good intentions
abound, the application of technology in education at best remains peripheral
to the learning process itself. As a result, and in contrast to other
application areas like Finance, Education has not benefited accordingly. And
given the importance of education, this is something that should merit more
research and analysis.
After 12 years as the IT Manager of a
large K12 school and in conjunction with my background in Artificial
Intelligence, I would precisely identify the problem as being a lack of focus
on the core of the educational process which is Knowledge. Almost all learning systems today address peripheral
aspects of education like communication (e.g. blogs, email), collaboration (e.g.
file sharing), multimedia materials (e.g. videos, images) and/or learning path
personalization. But they do not deal
with knowledge in itself. They rely on various text books and other disparate
learning materials, essentially an incoherent approach. This is where
Parmenides, an ancient Greek Philosopher, comes into the picture.
Parmenides was born in the
Greek city of Elea. He was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy. The
single known work of Parmenides is a poem, “On Nature”, which has survived only
in fragmentary form. Parmenides was
among the first to propose an ontological characterization of the
fundamental nature of reality.
An Ontology is a hierarchical set
of concepts and categories along with their properties and the relations
between them. And this is where Artificial Intelligence comes in to the
Knowledge representation and reasoning (KR)
is a field of AI dedicated to representing
information about the world in a form that a computer system can use and
understand. An ontology is a knowledge representation formalism.
So, there you have it: a
truly innovative school of the future would invest in creating one crucial
digital asset: a school centric AI driven ontology to represent the knowledge
it teaches, including basic concepts and sub concepts, assessment and
differentially exposing knowledge based on learner profiles. Peripheral to this, text books, blogs, file
sharing and learning path options would complete a new digital era learning
paradigm. But that would only be the first step.