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Embracing Chatbots as Elementary School Educators: A New Frontier in Teaching

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Chatbots have the potential to significantly contribute to elementary education by addressing challenges, supporting teachers, and enhancing student engagement. They can provide immediate responses, personalized feedback, and streamline administrative tasks. However, it is important to recognize that replacing teachers entirely is a complex and ongoing debate.

Chatbots are ubiquitous, and the elementary education level is no exception. The idea of utilizing these as elementary school educators is being seriously discussed. Chatbots can potentially address the long-standing problems of teacher scarcity and the high costs associated with personalized tutoring, offering a wider range of use cases.

However, it is important to refrain from considering them as a cure-all for elementary education. While Bill Gates has claimed that chatbots can help children start learning much faster than human teachers, we must take such statements with a grain of salt.

This is not due to resistance towards chatbot implementation but rather because claims of this nature must be validated by research and evidence.

Why Using Chatbots May Be a Good Idea

Like every sector, elementary education has problems that provide the context for the need for chatbots.

Scarcity of Teachers

Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, took the opportunity of Teacher’s Day to address the pressing issues faced by educational institutions in relation to finding, recruiting, retaining, and training high-quality teachers. According to UNESCO, the attainment of universal basic education by 2030 requires an estimated 69 million teachers.

In her address, Azoulay explained:

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Lack of training, unattractive working conditions, and inadequate funding all undermine the teaching profession and aggravate the global learning crisis. UNESCO has always placed teachers at the heart of the fight for the right to inclusive and quality education. There is an urgent need to better recognize this profession on which the future of our children depends.

The task of finding and retaining quality teachers has become an even bigger challenge, particularly considering UNESCO’s 2030 deadline. It is an immense hurdle that requires immediate attention and concerted efforts.

Expensive Personalized Tutoring

Personalized tutoring is widely recognized as one of the most effective methods of teaching children, although it can be costly. A study conducted on a high-dosage math tutoring program in Chicago revealed that it incurred an annual cost of $3,800 per child. Governments worldwide are acknowledging this issue and taking steps to address it.

For instance, the United Kingdom’s Parliament has allocated approximately $1.27 billion for personalized coaching, with around $442 million specifically designated for tutoring programs in primary and secondary education. Similarly, the Government of the Netherlands has been actively developing a program to tackle this challenge. These initiatives demonstrate the recognition of the value of personalized tutoring and the commitment to making it more accessible for students.

How Could Chatbot’s Involvement in Elementary Education Help?

This section highlights the current integration of chatbots in the elementary education system and explores the potential benefits they offer.

Research indicates that chatbots are already being utilized in various areas of elementary education. These areas include administration (5%), advisory (4%), teaching and learning (66%), assessment (6%), and research and development (19%).

It is evident that chatbots are predominantly used in teaching and learning activities.

Teaching and Learning

Chatbots are currently being utilized in elementary education to deliver course content through online platforms, although they are not intended to replace teachers entirely. From the student’s perspective, this integration offers the opportunity to engage with interactive technology for learning purposes. Students can freely ask questions and receive responses from chatbots that employ AI technology, enabling them to adapt to the specific inquiries posed by students.

A significant advantage is the 24/7 availability of chatbots, allowing students to ask questions at any time, thus addressing the challenge of personalized learning to a considerable extent.

Additionally, chatbots can play a role in supporting the learning experience of neurodivergent students. They can adapt to the unique learning styles of these students, creating an inclusive, enjoyable, and safe environment for their education.

Administration

Chatbots have been providing effective administrative support in various educational institutions.

They can offer assistance in several areas, including:

  • Supporting teachers in question paper creation;
  • Assisting with answer assessment and student scoring;
  • Maintaining student performance data.

Additionally, they can contribute to optimizing resources within educational institutions by:

  • Providing ideas on budget utilization;
  • Improving administrative task efficiency;
  • Facilitating staff hiring processes.

Chatbot integration helps streamline operations and enhance overall administrative support in educational institutions.

Immediate Response

One major advantage of chatbots in elementary education is the ability to provide immediate responses to students’ queries, eliminating the need to wait for teacher availability in the classroom. The 24/7 availability of chatbots allows students to access assistance whenever they need it, which is particularly beneficial at this age.

While the accuracy of responses can be a topic of discussion, the AI technology behind chatbots should be capable of addressing questions at the elementary education level.

Chatbots also enable students to automate various tasks, including:

  • Submitting homework or assignments on time;
  • Scheduling assignments;
  • Setting up alerts for important deadlines.

Advisory

AI chatbots have the capability to provide valuable advice to students, contributing to their performance improvement. For instance, chatbots can assess English tests or essay writing assignments and offer personalized feedback to both students and their parents.

By integrating with online platforms focused on English and grammar, chatbots can provide robust advice tailored to individual needs. This integration can greatly benefit students, as they receive targeted feedback and guidance to enhance their skills and overall academic performance.

Motivation and Engagement

Chatbots have the potential to keep students of this generation more engaged due to their availability 24/7 and easy accessibility through smartphones. While books continue to play a role in learning, online resources such as e-books, quizzes, and websites are gradually gaining prominence. Chatbots offer a more suitable user experience considering the decreasing attention span of students in recent years.

This does not suggest the demise of books. Rather, chatbots provide an additional and accepted approach to learning and absorbing knowledge for students at the elementary education level.

The Bottom Line

Chatbots are a reality and can, to a certain extent, address the long-standing problems highlighted earlier in this article that affect the elementary education sector. The benefits they bring have been tested and verified.

However, the question of whether they can replace teachers is a complex and distinct debate. Chatbots have effectively served as allies to teachers, relieving them from tedious administrative tasks and allowing them to focus on their core responsibilities.

Elementary education holds significant importance and should be treated seriously. Teaching is a specialized job that requires complex cognitive skills and extensive knowledge. The question of whether chatbots can acquire such complex cognitive skills is still under debate, as it is a challenging task.

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Kaushik Pal

Kaushik is a technical architect and software consultant with over 23 years of experience in software analysis, development, architecture, design, testing and training. He has an interest in new technologies and areas of innovation. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open source software, WebRTC, big data and semantic technologies. He has demonstrated expertise in requirements analysis, architectural design and implementation, technical use cases and software development. His experience has covered various industries such as insurance, banking, airlines, shipping, document management and product development, etc. He has worked on a wide range of technologies ranging from large scale (IBM…