By Sara Bruskin

 

With class sizes growing in public schools, teachers are hard-pressed to spend enough one-on-one time with their students. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are looking for solutions to this problem in the world of artificial intelligence with a program called the U.S. National Science Foundation AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming. Collaborating with nine other universities and two public school districts, researchers will spend five years on the $20 million program to see if “AI partners” could help students and teachers.

The research team envisions a classroom in which small groups of students can work with AI partners to encourage thoughtful conversation. By asking the students questions, providing feedback and assessing students’ interest levels, the AI units could help facilitate more productive learning. This support would be especially beneficial in low-income communities with smaller school budgets, where class sizes tend to be larger.

To be successful, the technology first needs to improve, which is a large chunk of the project’s mission. The team will be working to advance AI comprehension of human speech, gestures and facial expressions, while also working with students to identify which of their needs could conceivably be met by an AI partner.