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November 9, 2018

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Is Artificial Intelligence Education's Next Great Challenge?

Today we may laugh at Alexa - Amazon's virtual personal assistant (VPA) - when she replies, "I don't know that," but tomorrow she will likely provide a much different response. If Gartner, Inc.[1], one of the world's leading research and consulting firms, is correct, "through 2022, technologies related to (several key) trends will reach a level of maturity that crosses a critical tipping point."[2] Alexa and her siblings - Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri - are becoming smarter, forming a class of rapidly improving intelligent apps that are actually working to create a "new intelligent intermediary level" between people and systems.[3]

According to Gartner, whose slogan is "the pace of change will never be this slow again," VPAs are only one area in which this revolution is coming. Our current application of artificial intelligence (AI) is really quite narrow. Virtual, augmented and mixed realities will soon change the way we interact with the digital world. Digital "twins" will be created to mimic real-world situations; "swarms" of intelligent applications will begin to work together; and an intelligent digital "mesh" will evolve, linking people and businesses together. What will all of this mean for PreK-12 and higher education?

In a recently published report, The role of AI in education and the changing US workforce[4], Elizabeth Sablich of the Brookings Institution says that AI and other emerging technologies (ET) pose a variety of policy-relevant questions for the education sector. While an increased focus on 21st Century skills across all subject areas and a greater focus on STEM subjects is critical, she notes the single most important factor is that: "K-12 education should prioritize teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork across subject areas. Teaching students to become analytical thinkers, problem solvers, and good team members will allow them to remain competitive in the job market even as the nature of work changes."

AI and ET offer great opportunities to advance blended and personalized learning, but as education works to meet the challenges offered by these technologies, there is one other consideration that requires renewed focus on the part of legislators and policy-makers: "Differences in school resources that correlate with residential and income segregation mean it is likely that the schools best poised to prepare students for changes in the workforce are those that serve children from higher income families." 

Resources do matter. Thankfully, Stark's history of implementing innovative practices collaboratively helps create more equitable access to resources and opportunities for ALL greater Stark students. Our local education and business leaders have an opportunity to make Stark County, Ohio a leader in AI and ET.

[2] Op. Cit., p. 3.
[3] Op. Cit., p. 7.
[5] Analyst(s): David W. Cearley, Brian Burke, Samantha Searle, Mike J. Walker (3 October 2017). Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018. Gartner, Inc.
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The Stark Education Partnership - a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Stark County, Ohio -  is a catalyst, engaging and collaborating with education, business, civic and community stakeholders to drive sustainable improvement and innovation to provide all students with education and career success.  

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