After launching our WE ARE AI campaign this year, March set out to find the most innovative aspiring AI company in our home bases of Boston or Atlanta. In the end Knowledge AI rose to the top! The company has already brought their technology, KAIT – which leverages students’ behavioral data through smart pens to determine their overall strengths and weaknesses in the classroom – to schools in 10 countries across the globe, and we’re excited to continue to follow its growing impact.
We sat down with the company’s CEO, Michael J. Won, to discuss the impact and future of AI. During our chat Won predicted that AI will be more impactful than the internet, explained several factors dragging down our education system, and explored how AI can help individualize learning.
1. AI is often talked about as changing the world – for better or worse. What are your views on that?
AI is going to have as big an impact, or an even greater impact, on our way of life than the internet, changing the way we work, the types of jobs we have, and our ultimate productivity. AI is already affecting our daily lives from the advent of autonomous driving, to virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, and our entertainment choices through services like Netflix. Instead of debating whether AI is going to change the world, we must instead think about how to use this technology to enrich our lives for the better.
2. What are the most meaningful ways AI can have an impact in education?
First, it is important to note that schools as we know them today were created during the Victorian era to distribute uniform knowledge for literacy and calculations. Back then, societies and classrooms were more or less homogeneous.
Today, education systems must support a wider and more diverse range of student profiles and needs. These differences also extend to disparities in students’ access to high-quality learning experiences. Even though the internet increased the availability of information, it widened the knowledge gap among students, since many do not have the opportunity to leverage it. Schools can only become effective for the diverse population of students that it serves today by individualizing education to each student’s pace of learning and unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. We can do this with AI.
However, individualized learning requires more time and human resources. Even the most highly qualified teachers cannot deliver this kind of learning on their own, but they can with AI.
3. What are the most important issues we can’t ignore?
Our education system is universally built around standardized test scores. But does a 90% exam score correspond to students understanding 90% of the material? Test scores can be influenced by a variety of factors both cognitive and behavioral, yet we still heavily rely on these scores as a proxy for mastery.
As a result, there is a focus on studying through repetition and memorization, with entire lessons devoted to students getting better scores through test-oriented tactics. But with information so readily available today, time should not be spent memorizing the dates of events or factual knowledge. Education should focus on developing critical thinking skills and nurturing creativity.
If our way of assessment changed, students could reduce studying time and instead engage in productive activities that deepen understanding. Not only can AI accelerate students’ speed of understanding, it can also take on menial classroom tasks to free up teachers’ time to be coaches and cheerleaders for each individual student, ensuring they have the human support needed to succeed.
4. How will schools change by adopting AI?
AI requires a lot of digital data to become more accurate and responsive. However, our current school environments do not generate digital data, in fact most schools are unprepared to accept digitalization in its entirety. Ironically, COVID-19 was a major catalyst for increased digitalization in education. Although it was not intentional, we must continue the progress we made in the last few quarters to improve our delivery of high-quality education across different settings, whether in person or remote.
Also, a common myth is that AI will replace people. This is untrue – Isaac Asimov’s version of AI is not possible at this point, and perhaps not even in my lifetime. AI improves efficiency by changing the nature of people’s jobs. If we can use this improved efficiency to provide better care for our students’ academic potential, why resist using AI? Teachers cannot be replaced, if anything they will have more time to tend to each student’s unique needs.
5. How does Knowledge.AI help push AI forward?
One of the biggest problems with our current education system is its ineffectiveness and growing teacher to student ratio. A UNESCO study found 56% of children of primary school age and 61% of lower secondary school age and will not achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading and math. More alarmingly, the world will need 69 million more teachers by the year 2030. Even in advanced countries like the US, many schools are having difficulty recruiting teachers.
I believe the answer is in the use of AI. If AI is used properly, we can make it easier for teachers to accommodate the growing number of students in one classroom by automating processes like grading and generating feedback to free up more 1-to-1 time. Similarly, if AI can guide each student according to his/her own skill level, won’t the student learn much more than sitting through a class consisting of lectures and problems?
Knowledge AI was created to help teachers and students. Our mission is to transform global education to make it more efficient. AI is a tool to achieve this goal, not the end.
Michael J. Won is the Chief Executive Officer and the founder of Knowledge AI Inc. His lifelong mission is to make education better by using latest advances in artificial intelligence technology. Won’s passion for education came from his long experience as the Executive Chairman of Time Education, one of the largest Korea-based private education institutions. He earned a MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA, with distinction and a college scholars in government and economics, from Cornell University.