AI in Education: Co-Founder Reflects on 2023

Maria Walley, Co-Founder & VP of Content, shares insights on Prof Jim's year of growth.

As we welcome 2024, it’s only natural to take a moment for introspection and reflection from the past year. A year marked by challenges, triumphs, and growth in the field of education and AI, it’s been a remarkable journey for our team here at Prof Jim Inc. In this article, one of our co-founders, Maria Walley, VP of Content, shares her insights and reflections on the transformative year that was. 

Can you share one ‘aha’ moment from this year while working on educational content for Prof Jim’s clients? 

Our work with dyslexic students definitely brought me more than one ‘aha’ moment! Roughly 15% of the world has dyslexia (though percentages vary as many people do not know that they’re dyslexic!) But more overwhelmingly, 80% of students placed in special education have dyslexia. Our technology could be transformative for so many of these students.  This year, we undertook a pivotal study to explore this impact specifically. While more research is on the horizon, a standout revelation was the positive effect of the avatar on learning outcomes for those with dyslexia. (Pst, you can read more on that study here.) In fact, now we’re working with two of the leading special education providers in the country – so more to come on that front!

How has AI influenced content creation at Prof Jim?

My team was early to the game. We saw how much things improved from GPT 2 to 3— and thus, we claimed several basic patents before GPT 4 really shook up the world. And it really, really shook up the world, didn’t it? Now, while much of the education world has been focused on the negative (and there have been real negatives regarding students cheating with GPT), many of the positives have been overlooked. And considering that The AI For Good Global Summit stated that education was one of the most promising arena for the AI impact and transformation, there’s much potential good that AI can do.

For example, one of our AI tools, the Creator Assistant, makes education creators 15X more efficient in creating presentations. Then, there’s Reelbooks, which transforms textbooks into engaging video lessons. What once took an enormous effort, a small team can now produce up to 100 high-quality interactive video lessons weekly. And those are videos that otherwise would not exist if it wasn’t for AI. Without our tools, they would have just been far too expensive for most education companies to produce.  

What do you say to people who fear that teaching jobs might be replaced by AI? 

These advancements aren’t just about tech efficiency; they’re about enabling educators and publishers to create resources that were once too costly or time-consuming. As for the role of AI in content creation, it’s supportive, not substitutive. Think of it as a super-efficient secretary or teaching assistant. Very soon, all teachers will have this kind of AI support, which will hopefully make the teaching career look more attractive than it did last year – as teachers continue to leave the profession in droves for a myriad of reasons, one being overworked.

As I discussed on eSchoolnews last year, much of the administrative work – including preparation and grading – featured in the graph above could be greatly reduced due to AI technology. For one, AI could tremendously cut down on lesson prep. Furthermore, it could also reduce challenges with taking time off (for the student or the teacher). And finally, it can transform textbooks or teacher’s notes into interactive study guides. After all, students are already seeking videos to study for class. If a video was automatically created for their class – we’re just meeting students where they already want to go.

However,  the human element remains indispensable, especially in education, where the personal touch is fundamental to motivation. Robots replacing teachers? Please! Spend a day with a group of K-12 students, and you’ll see how essential the human connection is in learning. 

Bio: After a decade working in editorial writing and marketing, Maria co-founded Prof Jim in 2021, a pioneering company at the forefront of educational content transformation through AI. At Prof Jim, she crafts scripts, fine-tunes lesson plans, and collaborates with a dedicated teaching team, revolutionizing how students engage with educational material.  

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