Gitex 2021: EdTech companies need to push the envelope, says expert

The technology only addresses administrative challenges for teachers, but more should be done, said Jumana Salem

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Male teacher giving a lecture from desktop PC during a class at computer lab.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Male teacher giving a lecture from desktop PC during a class at computer lab.

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Education technology companies should move beyond their comfort zone and build products and release features to make it a transformative tool for teaching, an EdTech expert said in Abu Dhabi.

Jumana Salem, EdTech vice-president of Injazat — the home-grown national technology champion for Digital Transformation, Cloud, and Security Solutions based in Abu Dhabi, said: “Artificial intelligence (AI) for education sector continues to serve the lowest common denominator of pain points, the lowest hanging fruit, basically the problems that are easiest to fix and in fact have been addressed by several platforms, and this needs to change.”

She said the technology available for the education sector today only addresses and alleviates the administrative challenges of teachers, but a lot more can, and should, be done.

“For AI to have the right impact we (the EdTech industry) need to take on the following challenge: imagine the best teacher you ever had, and build your next feature, your product, your roadmap to serve that teacher. It is easy to build time-saving tools, auto-grading tools for multiple choice-type questions and to generate classroom reports,” Salem said.

“But we don’t need more of that, what we need is for AI to be as transformative for the teaching profession as it has been for many other sectors."

Salem made the comments during a discussion at the Gitex Global panel on AI, XR and Emerging tech that revolutionises end-to-end education.

When asked whether AI will replace teachers, Salem said: “This is a false choice, there is no scenario where it is either a robot or teacher. A good teacher is a role-model who students can look up to and relate to, someone who wants kids to do better every day, who shows by her own practice what it means to have grit, what it means to show respect, what making mistakes and trying again feels like.

A teacher can model compassion and resilience, qualities we have a responsibility to instil in our kids, given the increasingly uncertain future they will undoubtedly face."

While AI can do incredible things in other sectors, she added that it is only employed in education for the most basic needs.

"We urgently need to flip the discourse to: How do we get AI to do more of what we really need them to do. AI is excellent today at teaching and tracking basic skills, but we expect so much more than that for our kids,” she said.

 
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