AI (artificial intelligence) has shifted from an obscure concept found only in films to something we see every day in real life. It refers to a machine's ability to perform a task that would've previously required human intelligence.
We now see AI all around us, often without realising it's there. Early years AI is also common and especially helpful for helping children to learn. Read on to discover how AI technology can enhance your early years setting and improve educational outcomes.
AI can be used without us even realising it. Navigation apps, video games, facial recognition and smart assistants on smartphones have been around for many years. As AI moves more into the mainstream, we see AI in education, often assisting children in learning and discovering new and exciting things. But how is it used in education, what are the benefits, and are there any risks?
There are multiple ways AI games can be used for learning. Some of these are listed below:
Many schools and nurseries have children attend from multi-lingual and multi-ability backgrounds. AI can help bridge the gap that some minority students face. For example, children with visual or hearing impairments can use AI to access their education in a more custom way. Those who cannot attend school due to illness can also use AI learning at home for a more 'real' experience. You can consider AI in this context as a flexible, virtual teacher willing to adapt to how you learn.
The interactivity of AI allows children to learn in a new way. It moves children away from teacher-led classroom learning and gets children more involved. This could be through chat apps, games or augmentation. AI can also cater to different abilities and learning styles, which frees the teacher up and prevents children from falling behind.
We've known for some time now that playing games helps children to learn. AI enhances this experience. For example, 'Code Monkey' is an example of a coding app for kids that even includes teacher-marking and customised development. Another example is 'Things Translator', which is an app that identifies anything you take a photo of. Found a rare plant or famous painting? The app will educate you on the subject in real-time.
Older children who want to complete projects can do so using AI. An example of this is Synthesia, an AI app that creates videos based on your written content. These videos can be used to illustrate presentations. Children can also use Chat GPT and OpenAI to create written content, discover new ideas, find answers to questions and learn information in a new way - quickly.
ChatBot-based mental health apps now exist, helping young people with an instant helping hand if needed. There are many mental health apps out there, but AI-focused apps can have real-time conversations with the child, help them to explore their feelings and reflect better.
There are many ways that an Early Years provider/childcare centre can use machine learning to streamline workflows and improve education.
ChatGPT is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. It is an AI-powered tool that generates text responses based on the person's request, acting as your own personal writing assistant. For example, if you asked it, "Give me information on King Henry VIII, Chat GPT would generate content relevant to this topic. You can then ask for more information or for specific areas of information.
Teachers and practitioners can utilise Chat GPT to create classroom learning plans/lesson plans, mark homework quicker, or create learning prompts. Similarly, parents can use Chat GPT to better understand the work a child is doing, help to explain things in a way a child can understand, or translate them into a different language.
Google Bard is a similar program and can be used the same way as Chat GPT.
AI can help nursery and educational settings streamline admin tasks. For example, in 2017, AI technology was invented by Fujitsu to help match children to a suitable childcare provider. AI can also automate activities like registration and data collection and create automated seating plans.
The future of AI in nurseries is bright, and practitioners can be assured that many longwinded manual tasks can be taken over by AI and delivered with as much (if not more) accuracy.
Intelligence in education is full of potential. As an early educator, it is your responsibility to identify potential risks within this. AI for kids is fun, enhancing, and inclusive. But there are downsides:
1) Children can rely on AI to do the thinking for them and may fail to learn and retain information.
2) AI cannot replace the human and emotional support that students need to succeed.
3) AI could get it wrong! Chat GPT is an example of this risk in action, seeing as (at the time of writing) it only contains relevant data that existed before its launch.
4) There's always a potential data risk. AI has the ability to collect highly sensitive and detailed data on an individual, and the risk of a data leak is always there.
5) Students might not want to learn new skills (such as creating a presentation manually) because AI is able to do it for them. This could deskill the child if this manual skill is useful later in life.
With all technological advances, there are risks and rewards. It is up to you to implement appropriate AI strategies into your early years setting. The goal of AI should be to improve the quality of learning and get better outcomes for children.
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