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Why Universities Need To Prepare Students For The New AI World

Artificial intelligence is increasingly embedded in our consumer and business lives, and it is poised to transform how societies function in the years to come.

Thoseinterested in careers in AI could pursue a wide range of exciting new career possibilities focused on data science, machine learning or advanced statistics.

Moreover, traditional roles such as business analyst, sales, human resources and others will be augmented by AI, requiring a new degree of proficiency for front-line staff to interact with machines.

Basedon my observations as a Stanford University graduate now working for an AI company, Aera Technology, I’d like to share ideas on how universities can improve student readiness through curriculum requirements, projects with corporations and mentorship programs.

Curriculum Requirements While it’s impossible for universities to keep up with the rate of change in the technology industry, I recommend that universities re-evaluate their core curriculums to ensure that students are prepared for the new age of employment that is approaching.

All students should have the opportunity to take classes that enable them to see how their academic curriculum is setting them up for their careers in the new machine-driven world.

Of course, it also falls on students to conduct due diligence on which institutions are geared up to help undergraduates excel in a tech-driven future.

Universities that embed AI learning and experience into the academic environment will benefit with positive reviews and successful alumni as AI transforms the job market.

How AI could transform the way we measure kids’ intelligence

Going by the standardized tests that dominate schools in many countries around the world, we’re teaching children that we value only a very narrow definition of intelligence—the ability to solve word problems about train times, or identify the purpose of a World War I treaty on a multiple-choice test.

Because we measure intelligence in very limited ways, “we are very impressed by the sort of intelligent behavior our technology can produce.” Luckin’s latest book, Machine Learning and Human Intelligence: The future of education for the 21st Century, argues that if we want to avoid turning our kids—and their teachers—into robots, we have to radically redefine intelligence.

(Finland, of course, is ahead of the curve on this front, having jettisoned the idea of teaching by subjects in favor of showing students to make connections between math, history, economics, and language under umbrella topics like “The European Union.”) Then there’s social intelligence, or developing an awareness of our own emotions and how we regulate those in a group.

(For example, if know I’m a procrastinator and someone who needs to write things down to learn them, I should not wait until one hour before a major exam to try and re-write all my notes.) Meta subjective intelligence, or understanding our emotions and their relationship to our learning and well-being.

Another example of how AI could work in the classroom is offered by the UK learning platform Century Tech, which uses AI and big data to tailor educational content and activities based on individual students’ areas of strengths and weaknesses. Teachers get real-time updates on students’ progress, allowing them to target how best to support learners.

Some teachers seeking to build metacognitive intelligence are using a computer program called “Betty’s Brain.” In the program, science students teach a cartoon character named Betty about river-ecosystem processes, including the food chain, photosynthesis, and the waste cycle.

A story in the Financial Times offers one instructive example, explaining how in a high school in eastern China decided to track students: “A surveillance system, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence, tracks the state school’s 1,010 pupils, informing teachers which students are late or have missed class, while in the café, their menu choices leave a digital dietary footprint that staff can monitor to see who is gorging on too much fatty food.” The school eventually halted the program because of local controversy, the Financial Times reports.

AI is developing so rapidly that, in the future, it will be able to detect, for example, the micro-expressions that pass across someone’s face when they are struggling to understand a concept, and will pick up on that and adapt a lesson to take account of it.” Like teachers, the AI would adapt its approach to each student.

“Now that we have ways of collecting data and analyzing that can help us to do very accurate formative, continual assessment,” she says, “there is a realistic alternative to exams if we want it.” She’s excited by the possibility of how changing what we measure would change what our education system values: “If we can accept that we need to change that assessment system,” she says, “then it opens the door to that radical rethink about what the education system is for.” It’s too soon to know whether the vision Luckin has is utopian, dystopian, or just plain off.

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