Eric Wiebe, a STEM education professor at the NC State College of Education and a senior researcher at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, is part of a new National Science Foundation (NSF) research initiative that will create and use artificial intelligence ( AI) tools to advance learning and education.
Wiebe is a senior executive with a five-year, $ 20 million grant from NSF for the AI Institute for Engaged Learning. James Lester, distinguished college professor of computer science and director of the Center for Educational Informatics at NC State, is the Institute’s principal investigator.
“The Institute is really going to provide a fantastic melting pot to bring together some of the best AI researchers in the country who, perhaps in the past, have not focused on issues related to education,” said Wiebe. “The researchers on this project, myself included, have a deep desire to use our AI and knowledge for the good of society and the Institute will now give us the opportunity to pursue some of these goals. Like any solid interdisciplinary project, we are now bringing together subject matter experts from different fields to be able to pool our knowledge and resources and guide this collective energy towards some of the great challenges facing education today.
Wiebe joins an interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in AI and education from the State of North Carolina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, Indiana University and the non-profit educational organization Digital Promise. He will be part of the AI-enhanced Engaged Learning Group, led by Co-Principal Investigators Mohit Bansal, Cindy Hmelo-Silver, and Jeremy Rochelle, and will focus his research on AI-driven and focused learning environments. on storytelling that will engage students in authentic problem-solving scenarios.
Storytelling-centered learning uses an adaptive and evolving story that changes based on how a student interacts with a particular system or activity. It focuses beyond individual tasks and examines how they are woven into larger academic concepts that can be explored through a narrative structure. Treating learning in this way allows researchers and educators to have a starting point for thinking about the problems to be solved and the tools and techniques to be developed and explored.
According to Wiebe, the Institute’s goal is to empower, rather than replace, teachers. He says they will work on how best to use AI as a tool in the classroom, either directly with the student or working with teachers to inform and provide insight into student learning. By providing this information, he hopes to reduce the low-level work that teachers engage in managing the day-to-day functioning of a classroom.
“Maybe in the short term we can provide some AI tools that can ease some of that burden on the teacher to allow them to really use their skills to their fullest potential to engage in a higher-order strategic thinking about how to guide individual students, groups of students or entire classes, ”Wiebe said. “I am always enthusiastic about providing solutions large and small for teachers and schools that they can employ to help them in their work. “
For example, AI could provide insight into student momentum during activities or lessons, either in real time or on a daily or weekly basis. If a student stalls, the AI could identify these moments and eliminate the time and effort a teacher would have to spend discerning this behavior on their own.
The Institute will work on the design of tools and the structuring of the most usable and useful information for teachers, including the information to be collected.
“For me, success is going into a classroom and seeing engaged kids who are really excited about the learning they’re involved in,” Wiebe said. “They work well with their classmates and with their teacher, and their teacher also feels engaged and empowered to help guide these students’ learning and feels equipped with the tools and information they need to get the job done. at hand. “
This story originally appeared on the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation website.