Three Predictions on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Education

By David Lariviere

If a technology company talked about the end of computers, it would raise some eyebrows.

So when Andreas Oranje, a principal research director at Educational Testing Service (ETS), made a recent presentation at SXSW and predicted “when it comes to education, we will speak no more of things like assessment and testing,” it created a buzz. A testing company saying there will be no more testing?

It was the first of three predictions Oranje made in looking at the impact artificial intelligence (AI) could make in the classroom within the next decade. “I actually started to try to capture what the future of education and the future of classrooms would look like and what people will be doing and (the predictions) kind of bubbled up,” he explains.

“So there are plenty of people railing against testing or assessment, but when someone from ETS says it, it’s different,” adds Oranje.

Oranje doesn’t mean that testing will go away but that assessments will change. “Instead of having these somewhat artificial events where you have an assessment and you’re just looking at the end product, we design learning experiences where we follow the student throughout the learning process,” he explains. Examples of future assessments are virtual and augmented reality simulations and interacting with a massive open online course (MOOC) or game-based learning experiences.

His second prediction is that only those who have a strong understanding of what data is actually important and why will be able to succeed. “People may think of education as this undiscovered field of data and it’s not,” Oranje states. Along with student privacy restrictions, Big Data is often bloated with unusable and even incorrect information, so simply having access to a lot of information doesn’t give someone an edge and can do harm. It’s those who can separate the wheat from the chaff who will be the ones creating true, meaningful innovations, and that requires substantive understanding.

Prediction number three is that “at least 95 percent of the current educational technology offerings will be gone” in a decade. “It goes back to the Big Data discussion as well in that you can harvest tons of data but, if it’s not inherently meaningful and connecting to some experience, what good is it?,” wonders Oranje. “The ed-tech that’s going to survive is what is most useful to teachers, that is developed by and for teachers, and that makes their job more meaningful.”

When asked if he’s confident that his three bold predictions will come true, Oranje snaps, “absolutely not. They’re predictions.” But then he clarifies: “I’m confident it will happen, but it will not happen everywhere at the same time. It’s like that famous quote (by sci-fi author William Gibson) — the future is already here, but it’s not uniformly distributed.”