In the 2017-2018 edition of Technology and Innovation magazine, Learning Leader of Design Technology at Seven Kings School, Gurpal Thiara explains how a trial with VTCT owned, Digital Assess Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology (in the form of a duck) has completely changed D&T teaching and learning at Seven Kings School, Ilford.
Gurpal says that Design and Technology is constantly evolving, and seeking ways to enhance the learning experience is essential.
She said: “When we were approached about a Government-backed trial to realise the benefits of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom, we were keen to take part. The technology, FormativeAssess, is a web application that uses machine learning to provide live feedback to students, in the form of an avatar. In our case, the avatar was a duck”
According to Gurpal, there are five main points that the experience has taught them about AI:
1. It encourages independence
In a subject like design and technology, which places huge importance on continuous improvement, it’s key that students are encouraged to think imaginatively and autonomously. The technology doesn’t give them the answers, but helps them develop a solution themselves.
2. Creative questioning is key
The key to success lies in the open questioning the machine learning uses. My suggestion would be to make the “what stage are you at in your project?” question more focused, to challenge pupils right at the start so they can begin to think more creatively. For example, the question that asks pupils to “imagine your product was made out of custard”, empowers them to think completely differently – more laterally – throughout the task.
3. There’s nothing to fear
Teachers don’t need to be afraid of the onset of this new technology. It cannot replace teaching, but if used properly it can be a useful resource. The students are already so technologically savvy that they can pick it up and run with it, and we should be embracing the benefits rather than avoiding it.
4. It’s not complicated
This technology is easy to implement provided the school already has the IT infrastructure. At Seven Kings School, we have laptop trolleys and internet access, so it was very straightforward for the pupils to log on and access the programme online. Apart from a few minor issues at the start of turning on the machine learning, which were quickly resolved by the company, the trial ran smoothly.
5. It frees teachers to teach
Artificial intelligence can lead to a valuable increase in differentiation time for teachers. Whilst the technology gives each student a form of tutoring, helping them to generate solutions to the tasks given them, teachers can focus on the pupils that are struggling or need extra assistance face-to-face.