Artificial intelligence in the classroom: where does Germany stand?

The pandemic at the latest has made it clear that Germany is lagging behind in terms of digitization in schools. A new study re-emphasizes the urgency of implementing learning programs and AI in everyday school life.

The funding for the so-called Digitalpakt were increased again last year. This ensured that many students were supplied with hardware, in Bremen, for example all students got iPads. But what about tutorials or performance analysis? What about the use of artificial intelligence in schools? There is a new telecom study some insights.

Solutions that include AI technologies such as learning analytics, machine learning or face recognition have found their way into many other areas. In medicine, for example, more precise diagnoses can be made thanks to machine learning, and in sports every movement of the player is analyzed. Just like the trainers, teachers could also track the learning progress of the students, but the possibilities of this technology have so far been rarely used in the education sector.

The authors of the Telekom study consider the potential that the use of artificial intelligence in schools has to be immense. The issue of educational equity also remains relevant, especially after more than five months of online lessons. According to the authors, AI applications can offer disadvantaged children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyslexia or dyscalculia more precise analyzes and assistance.

AI solutions for schools: what is there already?

Although the acceptance of AI solutions is also increasing in Germany, their use in education continues to be controversial. Some programs are already in use, such as the Bettermarks math program. The software is used in Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Berlin. The Bettermarks-KI ensures adaptation to the individual learning process of the students.

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An interactive English book called Feedbook which was tested at the school for one year from September 2018. The AI ​​in Feedbook provides the students with individual grammar feedback and, according to the University of Tübingen’s own study, enables significant learning progress. Schleswig Holstein has been working on a reading app since September 2020 that aims to improve the reading skills of primary school children. The goal: With the help of the AI, children should be able to read 120 words per minute fluently at the end of primary school. The teachers receive precise information about the learning progress of the individual child.

The Telekom study provides a detailed breakdown of the areas in which the use of AI is possible: in school organization, the teaching process and the learning process itself. The programs should therefore primarily work as an assistant and support the teachers, not replace them. Teachers would have to be trained in how to use the applications – and repeatedly question them critically.

Of the 99 programs researched, over 50 percent came from China and the USA. According to the study, this is due to the fact that both nations have strong IT industries. In addition, personal and data protection rights are not as important in China as in Germany. When it comes to developing applications with AI, Germany ranks third. However, this ranking is only partially meaningful, because applications from Scandinavia were not included due to the language barrier.

In order to make further progress in Germany, data lakes are therefore necessary. The AI ​​would have to be constantly fed data in order to promote machine learning. The introduction of new AI programs in Germany is more difficult due to the high data protection standards. Therefore, the establishment of anonymized data sets is necessary, as the study shows.

Other countries are already one step further: In Great Britain, the GCSE and A-Levels were canceled and one last year Algorithm should calculate the final grades. This met with a lot of displeasure and was therefore not carried out. Despite everything, these processes are possible in Great Britain because the teachers feed the Ofqual algorithm with the students’ data. Regular digital learning progress measurements would still have to be established in Germany.

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