Resident robot appears in parliament to champion AI in education

And we really do mean a robot! Pepper the robot has made history, becoming the first of its kind to attend a UK parliamentary meeting and represent the artificial intelligence (AI) community.

Based at Middlesex University, the resident robot, which can recognise faces and make eye contact, works with students on projects that focus on helping children with special needs to improve their numeracy and caring for the elderly. The robot also appears at events to discuss the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in education and how it can relieve teachers by carrying our lengthy tasks such as marking exam papers.

According to the BBC, Pepper told MPs: "Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans to sense, make and drive value from technology."

AI and related technologies are expected to create as many jobs as they displace in the UK over the next 20 years, according to a new analysis by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers).

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PwC’s research has revealed that approximately seven million existing jobs could be displaced, but around 7.2 million could be created, giving the UK a small net jobs boost of around 0.2 million.



Education needs to keep up with technological evolution

Pepper is not the only one of its kind. These robots, which cost between £10,000 and £12,000, are owned by a number of schools and universities around the UK.

The BBC reported that Brian Holliday, managing director for Siemens Digital Factory, said there was “a need for greater co-operation between schools and technology companies and for educators to concentrate on not just ‘knowledge-based learning’ but also ‘applied learning’ from the world of work”.

Holliday also disputed studies that suggest lots of jobs would be lost to AI or machines: “We have taken people from the factory floor and moved them on to our digitalisation teams.”

Professor Rose Luckin, from University College London's Knowledge Lab, supported Holliday’s points, adding that AI could play a useful role in the classroom by carrying out tasks such as data collection, assessment, administration and lesson planning that usually take up a lot of teachers’ time: “If we don't get this right, too much of what we should be doing will be allocated on to machines.”

In the fourth industrial revolution, computer science skills are needed more than ever and now is the time to get them. According to The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, graduates who studied on computer science courses at Imperial College London had average salaries after six months of £50,000 – twice the national average – followed by graduates from Oxford on £45,000. In total, computer science was ranked 15th for earning power with average starting salaries of £25,724.

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Read more: How AI specialists help lead the education revolution


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