AI Boom in Chinese Classrooms
A pilot project in Jinhua Xiaoshun Primary School in Eastern China now allows teachers to keep tabs on their students and also improve their attentiveness in the classroom with the help of AI. Students at the school begin their lessons only after wearing a headband and meditating for two minutes. During this, they are encouraged to feel their “inner universe.” They enter into a contest that plays out in the form of a simulated rocket race on a screen at the front of the classroom. The headwear can measure electric signals from neurons in the brain and translate that into an attention score using an algorithm. The higher the rocket flies, the more focused a student is with a higher score. If the score falls—meaning the student’s attention is waning—the rocket slows.
“It’s like a psychological hint,” Zhang Yiwei, a language teacher, says of the new technology in her classroom. Students “feel as if they are being monitored and feel the need to read louder, to pay attention.”
This is just a mere glimpse into an artificial-intelligence boom in classrooms across the country which even uses digital cameras scan students, detecting them raising hands or chatting behind the teacher’s back, and facial-recognition robots take attendance and quiz toddlers. Bluetooth wristbands record heart rates and how much time a student spends in the library or on the playground. Such information can boost safety, help teachers quantify learning progress and make education more individualized. Virtually unobstructed access to a potential sample pool of around 200 million students allows Chinese scientists and researchers to amass an unrivalled database, which is indispensable to develop advanced algorithms. That provides a key advantage for China in an ongoing race with the U.S. for global dominance in the field.