Education Transformation in the Age of AI

Students in classroom

Education system leaders from across Europe are facing a huge challenge – and a huge opportunity – to transform their systems in the face of digital disruption. As data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and use of machine learning become more pervasive in society, work and life, educators are seeking to address the changes that this implies. The modern workplace demands new types of student skills, like creativity, problem solving and computational thinking – while students themselves have a wider variety of needs, increasing the complexity of classroom teaching. 

Education leaders trying to successfully address these issues met in Brussels recently, to learn, debate and share thinking on how they are transforming their education systems in the face of this changing paradigm. Data analytics, AI and machine learning can help to accelerate system transformation and access life- and work- relevant learning experiences for students.  

“Modern work is a hive of continuous collaboration, and Microsoft Teams is quickly becoming the digital enabler of this collaborative conversation. Our education research and analytics show that Teams is also a powerful digital environment for learning, as it enables peer learning, rapid cycle feedback loops, and deeper more personalized relationships between educators and learners,” said Dr. Maria Langworthy, Director of Education Research at Microsoft. 

Capitalizing on the opportunity of data and AI requires careful planning of the goals of analytics, deep consideration of student data boundaries, and only then the data collection, data science exploration, insight development and prediction to leverage data as part of a transformation strategy. Through the Education Transformation Framework, leaders saw a model through which they could put in place the building blocks of a system-level strategy for change.  

Education leaders at the event agreed that AI, analytics and data are opportunities for the education system to evolve more quickly.  

“Collaborative knowledge building requires smarter learning technologies. When your goal is to provide engaging and effective learning, the solutions need to be based on an simple and natural way to communicate, learning analytics that make the process visible for both educators and learners, and easy to use tools, which enable your learners to create and take part,” said Topi Litmanen, Chief Educational Scientist, from Finnish start-up Clan-Ed. 

Speakers and panelists described new approaches to apply predictive analytics to identify students who need more support to succeed in the education system, and to enable better targeted learning design informed by data. For instance, Microsoft’s Learning Tools and Skype Translator use machine learning and AI models to effectively help students with difficulties in reading or understanding the language used in the classroom.  

However, they also pointed to the need for ethical use of AI, including giving leaders, teachers and students better understanding of AI, algorithms and data, as well as strong privacy policies to protect students. Many pointed to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation as the gold standard for protecting privacy, but remarked that schools and teachers need more support to apply the requirements. Microsoft’s GDPR for Education eBook is aiming to bridge the gap. 

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Alexa Joyce
Director Future-Ready Skills, EMEA

As Director, Education System Leaders at Microsoft Corp, Alexa Joyce supports national and regional governments and other education bodies in transforming education. She has worked in more than 60 countries across the globe in re-designing national and regional strategies for education transformation, including policy models, teacher training and IT infrastructure for schools. Prior to joining Microsoft, Alexa worked with European Schoolnet (a network of 30 Ministries of Education in Europe), UNESCO and OECD.