AI is moving into classrooms to monitor students

It could be a glimpse into the future of classrooms.  Artificial intelligence is being incorporated into some classroom curriculums.

"When I make connections with the students, then they are more comfortable in discussing things. They are more open, says middle school teacher William Barton.

Human connections are being enhanced by AI.  Although the technology is in the early stages, some schools are using it in different programs.  They operate on the same principle, students learn while interacting.

That means how often a student is speaking and how engaged they are is helped with AI.  The goal is to point out the students who, for whatever reason, are not as involved as others.

"We think this will be incredible assistance to the teacher, just to keep track of what is going on. To help the lesson proceed and the lesson plan you want," says James Pustejovsky, who’s working on the Diana Program.

One of the programs is called TeachFX.

"That’s what we’ve been developing over the past few years. Technology that can parse through the audio of the classroom," says Jamie Plotkin the creator of TeachFX.

TeachFX is an app for teachers that actually measures student engagement.  This is done by providing data on how often a student interacts and what questions prompted that interaction.

Barton says, "That gives me a snapshot of the class. How much did I talk? How much did they talk?"

The Diana Program will soon join TeachFX in schools.

Pustejovsky says it, "Doesn’t have a virtual presence, except maybe an eye pad face that has eyes so it knows who’s talking."

Diana is the product of teams at Brandeis and Colorado State universities.  It can listen to a command and take action.

"What we focused on with Diana is to try to create an environment that is a 3d simulation with a human or another robot interacting with one another,"  Pustejovsky said. "It’s done by recreating my environment through multiple cameras and she’s able to see my face. My countenance."

The next step in the evolution of AI in the classroom is interacting with students.

"The next phase of that will be gentle nudging," says Pustejovsky.  "Like, 'can you do more about that?'."

TeachFX and Diana have a common goal of making sure the voices of all students are heard and that the message from teachers is getting through to everyone in the class.

"Trying to close the opportunity gap between students of color, different ethnicities, even gender. And we looked at how we can close that gap," Plotkin says. "What we are trying to do is show the root causes for these equity gaps. Which we know are strong between white kids and kids of color."

Right now there are AI-driven learning apps to help teachers and coming soon is an animated character on screen that will interact with students.  That could be within a year.

And next after that is another advancement.

Pustejovsky says,  "Where it’s essentially a synthetic presence of a robot. Essentially see what everyone is doing.  There is some hope of bringing in robotic devices."