《麻省理工科技评论》采访潘鹏凯博士:人工智能将重塑世界教育

发布时间:2019-08-15

近日,爱乐奇创始人兼CEO潘鹏凯博士接受了《麻省理工科技评论》记者的采访。


《麻省理工科技评论》(MIT Technology Review)于1899年在美国麻省理工学院创刊,是世界上历史最悠久,也是影响力最大的技术商业类杂志。重点关注新兴科技及其对商业和社会的巨大影响,有超过300万科技领域的专业人士及商业领袖关注该刊物的资讯和分析。


在采访中,潘博士就“如何更好地将人工智能运用于教育”、“如何更大程度地赋能学校和老师”、“如何看待未来的教育”等问题分享了自己的看法。


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以下为《麻省理工科技评论》部分报道内容:


中国开始进行人工智能教育实验,它将重塑世界的学习方式


近些年,中国急于推进“智能教育”。如今这些价值数十亿美元的教育科技公司正打算把他们的愿景播撒到海外。


……


Treviranus认为,中国将迎来一个绝佳的机会:重塑一个更能发挥教师作用,以学习者为中心的课堂环境。比起西方陈旧的教育模式,它没那么僵化,而且更愿意尝试新的想法。“中国需要寻找一种与众不同的人工智能形式,”她说。问题是:这种形式是什么样的?


答案可能藏在位于上海的爱乐奇。在那里,儿童教育专家潘鹏凯正在进行一项不同性质的实验。


近二十年来,潘博士一直在思考如何将人工智能适用于教育领域。十五年前,他在麻省理工学院媒体实验室(MIT Media Lab)获得博士学位,回国创立了自己的第一家公司——说宝堂。受到在MIT中学习的经验启发,他专注于构建英语学习的工具。“创新源于差异,”他说。“这正是中国所缺乏的。如果你能说多种语言,那就可以与不同的人交谈,并传达出不同的想法。”


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几年后,说宝堂更名为“爱乐奇”,转型为一家专注K12英语的教育科技公司。然而,与许多同类公司不同,爱乐奇试图摆脱应试教育,强调培养创造力、领导能力和其他软技能。爱乐奇主要为学校和机构提供产品和服务,主要包括教材、平台、测评、运营到视频外教等一站式解决方案。


其中,爱乐奇的在线学习平台与一系列教材相辅相成,帮助学生学习和练习英语技能;而视频外教服务,则是通过视频将3名中国学生与外教连接起来,定期进行1对3课程。迄今为止,爱乐奇与全国1800多家机构的10000多所学校合作,为超过1500万师生提供服务。


与松鼠AI不同,爱乐奇的在线学习平台旨在为传统课堂提供补充。通过自适应学习来锻炼所学知识,如学生可以在家使用爱乐奇APP练习词汇;利用语音识别算法来改善自己的英语发音等。但是,任何需要创造力的东西,比如写作和谈话,都是在课堂上学到的——老师在其中的参与至关重要。潘博士举了个例子:“医院里有很多医疗器械,但我们不能说机器比医生好。它们只不过是医生的辅助工具。”


潘博士对AI在教育中运用的最终愿景是完全摆脱标准化考试。“为什么我们要花两、三个小时来测试一个人,以确定他们的水平好不好?”他问道。他认为人工智能最终会创造灵活的学习环境,无论是对敏锐而有创造力的学生,还是对精确而善于分析的学生都是如此。他说,教育将不再是竞争。


爱乐奇自去年开始尝试更多可能。它将面部识别和语音分析等AI技术运用于课堂分析中,每节课课后都会生成AI报告。算法测量学生在课堂上讲英语的时间、英语发音的准确性、以及他们参与和愉悦的基本指标,如:他们开口说话和笑的次数。今年早些时候,爱乐奇创建了几间配备了摄像头和麦克风的实体教室,以进行类似的分析。教师也可以获得有关自己表现的报告。


我参观了爱乐奇的一间智慧教室。教室不大但充满了童趣。墙上画着爱乐奇的5个吉祥物——极具鲜明个性的马鲁小朋友,它们也同样出现在爱乐奇的教材中。教室里没有常见的桌椅,只有一条靠着墙的长凳。教室前面是互动白板和两台显示器,用于展示当天的课程。


由于我参观时没有上课,因此爱乐奇发给我一段小学课程的短片。在短片里,六个学生坐在长凳上练习说不同动物的名字。“Bird, bird, bird!”他们和老师一起唱着,老师则挥动手臂模仿鸟而拍打翅膀的动作。“Turtle, turtle, turtle!”课件切换到卡通乌龟,师生们继续边唱边学。整段视频中,师生互动占据了主要位置;人工智能展示则被刻意隐藏起来,在后台发挥作用。


智慧教室.jpg学生在爱乐奇的智慧教室学英语


爱乐奇的CTO唐进认为,在智慧教室中生成的数据类型将会非常有用。但他同时也强调,摄像机和其他传感器都有可能被误用来判断学生的情绪或心态。潘博士对此表示同意:“这就是为什么我们主要为教师而不是学生提供数据,因为我们尚未进行大规模的科学测试。”


潘博士告诉我,他尚未计划将爱乐奇的业务扩展到国外。他正在推广一种非主流的教育理念,光靠国内市场就有足够的挑战了。不过他正看到国内教育出现了一些转变。


政府开始寻求新的方式来促进“创新”,如:加强素质教育、强调创造力和语文等,均已经提供助力。


去年2月,中国教育部通过了一系列改革,如更严格的教师资格证要求,旨在减少对考试的过度依赖。前不久,政府还公布了一套指导方针,更多地关注体育、思想道德和艺术教育,减少对考试的关注。虽然有人指出高考仍未取消,大家对考试的关注并不会因此而大减,但潘博士对教育改革持乐观态度。爱乐奇也准备帮助国家寻找新的前进道路。


“我们希望用技术改变中国教育的未来,”潘博士说。目前中国在人工智能教育方面的大规模试验及其必须做出的选择,也可能改变世界教育。


以下为MIT Technology Review报道原文,作者Karen Hao:


China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns.


In recent years, the country has rushed to pursue“intelligent education.” Now its billion-dollar ed-tech companies are planning to export their vision overseas.


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Treviranus worries that Squirrel’s educational philosophy is representative of a broader flaw in China’s pursuit of intelligent education: its emphasis on standardized learning and testing. “The tragedy of the China experiments is that they’re taking the country to a point of education that any progressive pedagogue or education system is moving away from,” she says.


But she believes that China also has one of the best opportunities to reinvent a more teacher-friendly, learner-focused classroom environment. It is less entrenched than the West in older models of education and much more willing to try new ideas. “China needs to look at a completely different form of AI,” she says. The question is: What does that mean?


The answer may lie a dozen miles west of Squirrel’s headquarters, across from the Huangpu River that courses through Shanghai. There, Pan Pengkai, a children’s educational expert, is conducting experiments of a different nature.


Pan has been thinking about how to use AI in education for nearly two decades. Fifteen years ago, he founded his first ed-tech company in China after getting his PhD from the MIT Media Lab. Inspired by his experience in grad school, he focused on building tools for learning English. “Innovation comes from difference,” he says. “That’s exactly what China lacks. If you are able to speak multiple languages, you are able to talk to different people; you are able to communicate different ideas.”


Pan now runs Alo7, a K-12 ed-tech company with the same mission of teaching English. Unlike many other firms, though, it seeks to move away from test-oriented learning and instead foster creativity, leadership, and other soft skills. The company offers products and services for both physical and digital classrooms. It has an online learning platform, paired with a collection of textbooks, for example, that help students learn and practice their language skills. It also has a service that connects up to three pupils via video with English tutors abroad for regular group lessons. To date, it has served some 15 million students and teachers and partnered with 1,500 institutions nationally.


Unlike Squirrel, Alo7’s online learning platform is meant to supplement a traditional classroom. Knowledge that can be exercised through adaptive learning, like vocabulary words, is practiced at home through the app. So are skills like pronunciation, which can be refined through speech-recognition algorithms. But anything requiring creativity, like writing and conversation, is learned in the classroom. The teacher’s contribution is vital. Pan offers a parallel: “There’s lots of medical technology used in hospitals, but we cannot say the machine is better than the doctors. It’s still a doctor’s assistant tool.”

Pan’s ultimate vision for AI in education is to get rid of standardized tests entirely. “Why do we test people for two or three hours to determine if they are good or bad?” he asks. He thinks AI will eventually create flexible learning environments that are as good for sensitive and creative students as for precise and analytical ones. Education will no longer be about competition, he says.


Last year Alo7 began to experiment more. It added face and voice analysis to its video tutoring sessions to produce summary reports of each lesson. Algorithms measure how much time the students spoke English in class, the accuracy of their English pronunciation, and basic indicators of their engagement and joy, such as the number of times they opened their mouth to speak and laugh. Earlier this year, the company created several physical classrooms equipped with cameras and microphones to produce similar analyses. Teachers get reports on their own performance, too.


I go see one of Alo7’s intelligent classrooms for myself. It’s small but bursting with color. The walls are illustrated with the company's mascots, five cartoon companions with distinct personalities, which appear throughout the company’s educational materials. There are neither tables nor chairs, just a bench that runs along the back wall. At the front are a whiteboard and two TVs for displaying the day’s curriculum.


There are no classes in session, but a company employee plays me some short clips of elementary school classes. In one, six students sit on a bench and practice saying the names of different animals. “Bird, bird, bird!” they chant with their teacher as she flaps her arms like wings. “Turtle, turtle, turtle!” they continue as the screen changes its display to a cartoon turtle. The teacher-student interactions take the foreground; the AI purposely fades, unnoticed, into the back.


Dede says the kind of data generated in an intelligent classroom could be useful, but he cautions that cameras and other sensors could also be misused to judge a student’s emotions or state of mind, applications that have little grounding in science and could lead to over-surveillance. Pan agrees that it’s important to be careful: “That’s why we provide the data mainly for teachers and not students, because we haven’t yet run scientific tests.”


Pan tells me he doesn’t have plans to expand Alo7 beyond China. The domestic market alone is enough of a challenge when he’s selling an education philosophy that goes against the mainstream. But he’s begun to see a shift in the national conversation. As government leaders have sought new ways to stimulate innovation, the idea of a “quality-oriented education”—one that emphasizes creativity and the liberal arts—has gained momentum.


In February of last year, China’s education ministry passed a series of reforms, including stricter licensing for tutors, aimed at reducing the obsession with testing. Earlier this month, the government also unveiled a set of guidelines to focus more on physical, moral, and artistic education, and less on exams. Though critics point out it still hasn’t eliminated the gaokao, Pan is optimistic about its intent to change. Alo7 is also ready to help the country search for new paths forward.


“We want to change the future of Chinese education with technology,” Pan always says. China’s current mass experiment in AI education, and the choices it must make, might also change education for the world.



2019年是爱乐奇创办15周年。在这15年里,爱乐奇一直坚持将人工智能技术应用于教育之中,为未来设计教育。目前,爱乐奇已经与全国1800个学校/机构共10000多个教学中心进行了合作。


未来,爱乐奇会持续输出更多“有趣、有效”的产品和服务,与学校和老师们一起培养出更多的世界公民、未来领袖。


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