NATIONAL

‘Smart classroom’ is the future of school

By Bak Se-hwan

Machine-assisted educational platforms set to enable learners to study at their own pace.

  • Published : Aug 14, 2017 - 15:22
  • Updated : Aug 15, 2017 - 08:02
photo credit: 123rf

Schools of the future will be very different from those of today, equipped with a combination of artificial intelligence and personalized learning tools, education experts predicted. 

“Students will not spend much time at school as they do now. They might have to come to school only for morning classes or even every other day,” said Gim Chae-chun, president of the Korean Educational Development Institute, a research group that develops educational goals, methods and policy solutions for South Korea’s Ministry of Education.

“After-school classes and self-study sessions will disappear in future schools,” Gim told The Korea Herald.

While at school, students will participate in various learning activities, he said. “For example, in one corner of a classroom, students might be engaged in lessons tailored to their individual needs, interests and pace of learning, with digital gadgets such as smart pads. In another corner, others might be exploring upcoming content on the internet.”

Teachers will play different roles as advisers, coaches, and facilitators who help students learn in more self-motivated ways in the future, Gim said.

Lee Kyung-ho, head of the Future Education Research Institute, said that smart learning would be the norm.

In primary and secondary schools, machine-assisted educational platforms will enable learners to study at their own pace and repeat subjects, courses or chapters that they are struggling with, Lee said.

“Traditionally, what teachers found most challenging was meeting the individual demands of students, regardless of a class’ size. New platforms based on AI will change that.”

Data on millions of lessons will help identify learning algorithms and the patterns of individual students, suggesting a whole new approach to interacting with students, he added.

There are already scoring robots in the market, albeit still in their early stages, with the potential to free teachers from the tedious work of grading and allow them to focus more on in-class activities.   

A paradigm shift in education

As technology changes, so does the role of education, according to Han You-kyung, an education professor at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University.

A new education paradigm will ensure that learning is not to prepare students for one single profession or job skill, but to help them nurture the ability to constantly adapt to changing demands.

“It won’t be like just teaching students a set of fixed knowledge with textbooks over a fixed period. It has to be a lifelong learning process more responsive to the future workforce in a way that students can discover their true passions and talents,” Han said.

The “fourth industrial revolution” across the world will inevitably change the way we think about work and “make us think more creatively” than ever before. In the course of the transformation, outdated models of learning need to be replaced to cope with the unknown challenges lying ahead, Han added.

Some of the challenges are already emerging, says Song Gil-young, executive vice president of AI-based big data analytics company Daumsoft.

“Automated robots are already replacing low-skilled humans in various fields of jobs. In less than 50 years, AI machines will be able to beat humans in many intellectual fields, including law and medicine.”

The main focus of education, therefore, should be on cultivating students’ competencies to identify and solve problems independently, not on operating machinery or doing basic programming, Gim Chae-chun of KEDI said.

“It is difficult to say that South Korean schools are successfully doing the job. It is because Korean education continues to focus more on delivering basic information and knowledge provided by textbooks. Fostering students’ capabilities to identify and solve problems so that they will be better prepared for the rapidly changing job market will be a must,” Gim said.

“We also need to change the evaluation system. We need to evaluate students based on whether they have the ability to create something by themselves or to identify and solve problems independently rather than evaluating them with written, multiple-choice tests.” 

Will a college diploma still guarantee a better-paying job in the future? Not likely, say the experts.

“I believe that the value of college diplomas from famous universities will be gradually depreciated,” Gim said.

In future, what’s important is not whether you “possess knowledge. AI will beat humans in that. What is required is “the ability to utilize that knowledge creatively,” he said.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)