ZenoBot – AI in the Classroom

With all the talk about AI in this class over the course of the semester, it would seem like we would eventually run out of topics to blog about. Boy was I wrong. After reading an article about how companies are looking to use AI to improve the education system, I started to search on the internet to see if AI had already been implemented into some school systems. I was correct.

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Meet ZenoBot. One their website, www.zenobot.com, ZenoBot is described as a quick an effective way to create and present content. Perfect for today’s increasingly busy individuals. In the education realm, it serves as a teaching assistant for professors and teachers. The program uses digital avatar technology to create a virtual teaching assistant. The avatar can be personalized by the teacher or the class with different features such as, voice, age, facial expressions, and gestures.

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Now a lot of people may be thinking, we’ll here goes AI, taking more jobs away from humans again. They are wrong. The physical teacher will still be giving the lectures in class, with the ZenoBot acting as a partner to the teacher. The Bot will be used as a support teacher, helping the main teacher deliver content and lecture information, allowing the main teacher to focus more time on the one on one interactions with the individual students. The ZenoBot gives the teacher more freedom to go around the classroom and meet the needs of the students, instead of just sitting up front and lecturing the whole time in order to get all of the material in before the bell rings.

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For example, if there is a class where there are a handful of individuals who have a better understanding of the concept than the rest of the class, the teacher can divide the class up into two groups. The large group will stay with the actual teacher, while the handful of students with more knowledge on the subject can go with the ZenoBot. The teacher can give the students a problem set that is more challenging, and the ZenoBot can help direct them and aid them when needed, while the larger group is able to learn the subject from the teacher directly. I think that this is a pretty good idea because there are always the select few students who go into the class with a higher understanding of a certain subject or topic. If they have to sit through a whole class of repetitive questions from students who do not seem to grasp the material, than these select students will become annoyed and ultimately stop paying attention, or even worse start causing trouble in class. With the ZenoBot, these students are given the opportunity to challenge themselves to a degree that would not be attainable with only one teacher present.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=57&v=bJw-Mj5ZB-I

This is a link to a video that explains how the ZenoBot Virtual Teacher’s Assistant works.

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Stepping away from the educational realm and looking more at ZenoBot as a whole, it can be tailored to take on many different tasks in numerous fields. From their website, they explain why the ZenoBot has an advantage over traditional desktop apps with conversation AI, stating that:

“Unlike traditional mobile or desktop apps, with conversation based AI, users interact with apps through a conversation, natural-sounding back and forth exchanges, and not traditional, computer-centric paradigms. All you need to do is talk to the AI. It’s hands free! It accepts numerous languages and accents.”

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It seems as though ZenoBot has limitless applications. Here are some examples of how ZenoBot can be used:

Retail Industry – ZenoBot can be used in shops and stores to display the newest items, along with greeting customers in the entrance and placing aiding customers in locating different products.

Airlines ZenoBot can be used to welcome the guests, help them with check-in information, and help with the safety instructions in multiple different languages.

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Hospitals ZenoBot can be used in hospitals to provide information to visitors regarding hygiene, visiting hours, and rules.

Professionals – professionals can use ZenoBot to help them share and present information in a professional way to an audience in their local language. Especially helpful when the target audience does not speak the same language as the presenter

 

Benefits

I think that the marginal benefits drastically outweigh the marginal costs when it comes to the ZenoBot. Here are some of the main benefits of ZenoBot:

Cost Effectiveness – You are only required to pay for what you need. For example, you do not need to pay for the whole language recognition software if you need to use only one language.

Ease of Use – the software is very quick and there is no real lag time. There is also no lengthy complicated training course that needs to be completed.

Customizable – Each ZenoBot is different depending on the owner’s preference. The owner has the ability to program and utilize it however he or she wants, making it easy to manage.
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In sum, I think that the ZenoBot is a type of AI that has great potential to do a lot of good in the world. In education, it will benefit both the teachers and the students, creating a more interesting and individual learning experience for each student, especially in grade school (K-8). Do you think that incorporating the ZenoBot into the education system will be beneficial, or do you think that it is not a good idea?  What red flags do you think could potentially arise here?

 

See you guys in a few!

 

Riddle of the Week:

 

First I threw away the outside and cooked the inside, then I ate the outside and threw away the inside, what did I eat?

8 comments

  1. The ZenoBot sounds pretty cool. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Although, I do feel kind of weird about a virtual assistant in classrooms. Even if there is still a teacher in the classroom, I think it makes the learning experience a little less personal and may make teachers feel less valued by their students. It might be just me, but I think classrooms are fine the way they are. I do however see the benefits in having these assistants in the other applications you mentioned, especially because they solve a problem where there are not enough representatives to help people get quick information. In airports, for example, I know it can be annoying to try to talk to someone at the check in desk as there can be long lines and they could be busy with other things. A ZenoBot could solve the problem and even alleviate some of the stress from the employees at the check in desk, which I’m sure they would appreciate.

  2. Great post! I had no idea about how AI was being used in the education field. It think that it is a great idea but it can definitely have downsides. I see this having more benefits in classrooms with younger kids where there are sometimes 2 teachers present during class. Being able to customize the content and the slides is a key feature because it enables the teacher to focus on any questions that may come up after a general lecture.
    I think that in-class time will be spent more efficiently because they teacher will be able to focus more on the problematic areas of the topic discussed and he/she will be able to concentrate on kids that need it most.
    The only downside that I see is that kids will feel divided in the classroom because they are being treated in a different way. Also, by letting the smaller group of kids do more challenging problems, they won’t be learning at the same pace as most of the classroom, which can be an issue when the class comes together again and they are not on the same page.

  3. Really interesting post, Keenan. Like @katherinekorol, I’ve never heard about anything like this.

    To me, this raises one concern, something unavoidable in all things that we do—cost. I know you mentioned that one of the benefits of this company is that it is cost effective because you only pay for what you need. I wonder, though, how much it is to get the basics to have this in every classroom in an elementary school. To me, this raises issues for schools that aren’t well funded. Will the kids fall behind in material? Are they at a drastic disadvantage compared to other students at other schools? Etc. However, the upside is that if this the technology that this company produces becomes very widespread or adapted, we can be almost sure that the costs will go down in the long run.

  4. Interesting post, I really appreciate your summary of the benefits which got me thinking. I agree with your point that the marginal benefits outweigh the marginal costs, because such technology can benefit so many industries. But I think it might have some red flags, especially in the using of education. One thing worth to mention is that ZenoBot divided the students to different level of classes, where some students are better than the others. This some how might potentially create a rank system which students clearly know who has good grade and who does not. May be such system can motivate students to do better, but it can also hurt the confidence level and privacy.

  5. I can see this being useful in any customer service industry that is facing staffing issues. Check in at an airline could help but many airlines already have automated kiosks for check in that don’t need to be AI intelligent. I think a lot of thought needs to be put into figuring out how to use this technology. Education is a possibility but I feel like it could alienate some students if they are constantly interacting with a bot rather than a real teacher. Others have expressed this concern. Maybe this could be better suited for higher education, where there is a higher demand for TAs and this can help fill that demand.

  6. Nice post. I do think that this is only scratching the surface of what’s possible with AI in education. I think we’re coming into a “golden age of education,” but the challenge is whether people will use AI as a partner to help them excel or as a crutch to get the tech to do it all for them.

  7. Keenan, seems like a great concept. I actually recognize that this could have value in a variety of scenarios. I agree a little bit with @katherinekorol that Teacher’s might be pushed aside in their importance on the surface where really, I think it’s the personal attention that they give to students which proves their worth. I know that as a child I found online learning to be pretty boring and quickly learned that actually working with the teacher in class was far more valuable. I wonder if the lessons with ZenoBot would prove to be so futile that many students would need the personal attention and care of the real teacher far more often and the Zenobot wouldn’t change much.

    Perhaps though the select students who are excelling in the material would rather learn from a less personal ZenoBot so that they may move on in the material. This is best emulated when some students excelled in math and moved on with some computer software when I was in elementary school or went to a specific teacher that could teach them more. Really cool stuff here.

  8. Thank you for extending the conversation about AI! I actually can’t get enough of it, and always feel excited to see new topics brought to the front of discussion. Like Katherine and Tucker, I’m optimistic about the use of AI in the classroom as an effective aide that would allow the professor to comprehensively answer particular student questions that would otherwise be difficult to address in the middle of the regular class session. With such an intricate task delegated to an AI, I’m sure there could be problems that arise along the way such as misinformation and difficulties arising from the variances in student learning styles.

    In spite of these potential issues, I’m optimistically picturing a more idealized scenario where the AI is advanced enough to function as-intended in the classroom. In such a scenario, professors would be able to “automate” general teaching tasks in order to increase dedication to more intricate assignments. A single classroom could then effectively cater to numerous skill levels equally, like you mentioned, allowing all students to derive an equal amount of productivity in each session.

    While I believe in the possibility of an AI-assisted classroom, much like how I believed computers would become more commonplace in the early learning process, I think it will take a much longer time before it becomes as widely-adopted into school curriculums as computers have. I’m sure there will be a large amount of hype around the potential benefits, as there is with any new implementation of technology. Hopefully, we can see these being used within the next few decades!

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