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by Spyridoula Stamouli, George Paraskevopoulos and Nassos Katsamanis (Athena Research Center)

The AI4EDU project develops an innovative approach to incorporating AI in education, featuring conversational tools like “Study Buddy” and “Teacher Workmate”. This initiative is reshaping learning and teaching, emphasising ethical and inclusive AI practices, and is bringing together education and technology experts to enrich educational experiences.

Given the profound impact of AI in future labour markets, the domain of education is regarded as one of the most highly impacted by developments in the field of AI. Consequently, the need of educational systems to adapt their teaching and learning practices to related future skills and competences has been multiply highlighted. In this context, there is an international consensus on the need to leverage, support and promote the integration of Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIEd), acknowledging its potential to innovate teaching and learning and to enhance flexibility, individualisation and effectiveness of education, in the context of its digital transformation [1]. Policy makers, stakeholders and the educational community have been engaged in a dynamic conversation to pinpoint AI applications in teaching and learning, essential technologies and the associated challenges. Ethical, equitable, and inclusive aspects of AI deployment in education are also raised, to ensure responsible and fair implementation. [2].

Recent advancements in AI, most notably the introduction of Generative AI technologies like the Large Language Model-based ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, have introduced a new era of possibilities in education, reshaping teaching and learning and modernising educational methodologies. These technologies are increasingly being harnessed to create sophisticated conversational AI applications that cater for the specific needs of both teachers and students. ChatGPT, with its advanced language capabilities, promises enriched and interactive real-time learning through natural conversation. At the same time, the introduction of Generative AI in education has raised new issues regarding its ethical, safe and meaningful use, as well as new needs for regulating its use on the basis of a human-centred approach [2].

In this context, the project AI4EDU – conversational AI assistant for teaching and learning [L1], co-funded by the European Commission, European Education and Culture Executive Agency (Project 101087451 – AI4EDU – ERASMUS-EDU-2022-PI-FORWARD), was set up, aiming to explore the manifold ways in which AI-driven systems can contribute to the enhancement of teaching and learning practices, while also examining the critical challenges and ethical considerations that accompany their implementation in educational contexts. To achieve its objectives, AI4EDU brings together partners with high expertise, complementary skills and experience, relevant to the inter-disciplinary domain of AIEd: Athena Research Center (Greece), Luleå University of Technology (Sweden), University of Cyprus (Cyprus), Ellinogermaniki Agogi School (Greece), Drumcondra Education Centre (Ireland), and the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute (Cyprus).

Figure 1: Interface of the “Teacher Workmate” conversational AI tool.
Figure 1: Interface of the “Teacher Workmate” conversational AI tool.

AI4EDU embraces a forward-looking approach by encompassing a multifaceted exploration of AI’s role in education. The project addresses different educational agents, namely students (student-facing AI) and teachers (teacher-facing AI), aiming to develop, implement and evaluate conversational AI-powered assistants that cover learning and teaching needs in the context of the everyday educational practice (learning with AI). Moreover, AI4EDU addresses some cross-cutting facets of the AI application in education, which involve knowledge building on AI technologies (learning about AI), understanding the implications of the AI integration in educational contexts, in terms of pedagogical methods, ethics, equity and inclusion, and preparing present and future citizens to collaborate with AI applications in their everyday life, study and work environment (learning for AI-human collaboration) [2].

At its core, AI4EDU endeavours to revolutionise the learning experience by leveraging the capabilities of AI and advanced speech and language technologies. For students, the introduction of a conversational AI assistant, “Study Buddy”, presents a promising solution to enhance the quality of self-study and everyday preparation for school. This AI-driven companion is designed to offer personalised support, adapting to individual learning styles, and providing scaffolding and feedback to facilitate effective learning. Moreover, AI4EDU introduces an AI-driven application for teachers, the “Teacher Workmate” [Figure 1]. This tool is designed to empower educators by offering assistance in their teaching and assessment activities, thus contributing to more effective lesson preparation and student evaluation. Several workshops with students and teachers have been conducted, as part of the project activities, at secondary schools in the four project countries, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Sweden, aiming to investigate the end users’ needs. Data from these workshops highlighted several areas where the AI4EDU applications can significantly support students and teachers. Major areas where the “Study Buddy” is expected to support learning were stressed by students, such as assistance with homework completion, enhancement of comprehension of concepts, and facilitation in the revision of study material in the context of exams preparation. Respectively, teachers highlighted lesson plans preparation, creation of teaching materials, and facilitation of students’ assessment as major use cases of the “Teacher Workmate”.

In addition to its focus on enhancing learning with AI, the AI4EDU project takes a holistic approach that extends to AI-human collaboration within real educational settings. This pivotal aspect of the project involves the investigation of the implications that the adoption of AI holds for educational environments. The project aims to comprehensively assess how the “Study Buddy” and the “Teacher Workmate” impact the learning and teaching dynamics within these settings. Through this evaluation, AI4EDU seeks to provide empirical evidence of the benefits, challenges, and potential risks associated with AI integration in education. Moreover, by analysing the outcomes and feedback from real-world usage, AI4EDU aims to provide the educational community, policymakers and stakeholders with well-informed, evidence-based guidelines. These recommendations will be instrumental in shaping the effective, ethical, inclusive, and equitable deployment of AI in education. This holistic approach ensures that AI technologies in education align with the broader goals of fostering a learning environment that serves the diverse needs of students and educators, while adhering to ethical principles and equitable practices.

Link: 
[L1] https://ai4edu.eu/

References: 
[1] Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence and Education, UNESCO, Paris, 2019.
[2] AI and Education: Guidance for Policymakers, UNESCO, 2021.
[3] Guidance for Generative AI in Education and Research, UNESCO, Paris, 2023.

Please contact: 
Spyridoula Stamouli, Institute for Language and Speech Processing / Athena Research Center, Greece
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

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