education

Artificial intelligence to aid learning in schools

Educational platform provides content to Grade 6 students at a Ministry of Education curriculum school

17:08 September 10, 2017

Abu Dhabi: A total of 240 school students in the emirate of Abu Dhabi are this year attending classes driven by a new educational platform that makes use of artificial intelligence.

The platform, known as Alef, transforms the classroom, allowing students to guide their own learning through engaging and interactive lessons and experiential learning activities, developers said in the capital on Sunday. What sets the platform apart is that it also provides its own educational content for use across a range of curriculums.

“Given the rate at which technology and industry continue to evolve, it is unclear what future workplaces will look like and require of workforces. As every sector undergoes some part of the 21st century revolution, the education sector cannot be left behind,” said Dr Saleh Al Hasehmi, chief executive officer of private education technology company, Alef Education.

“We have so far developed hours and hours of engaging content to facilitate the learning of all subjects and lessons delivered as part of the UAE Ministry of Education curriculum to Grade 6 students, and aim to scale up the reach of Alef to nearly 1,000 students over the coming months,” Al Hashemi told Gulf News.

He was speaking at a press conference to launch Alef, which is financially supported by Emirati investment company, Abu Dhabi Financial Group. The technology company is also an Emirati-owned and home-grown company, and includes the contributions of more than 300 technology and education experts.

As was demonstrated at the press event, students can easily log into the Alef platform, and follow lessons under the supervision of a teacher. They can also be directed to perform experiments, or undertake group-based tasks.

Last year, the technology was piloted on a group of students, and developers said that their English language scores increased by an average of 27 per cent during seven months of Alef use. Meanwhile, Math test scores increased by 78 per cent on average.

While there are many education technology solutions available in the UAE, developers said that these programmes do not ensure that the students using them actually absorb and understand the lessons.

“Many e-learning solutions simply digitise textbooks without actually working with students to help them reach learning outcomes. At Alef, we allow students to learn at their own pace and at their own level,” said Pathikrit Banerjee, director of special projects at Alef.

For instance, every lesson begins with a hook video to interest the student, and uses directed questions to ascertain how much is already understood. The student can also choose what type of graphical representation, such as tables and diagrams, he prefers, and every lesson is followed up with questions about the content.