How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms | WSJ


(speaking in foreign language) – [Presenter] Teachers at
this primary school in China– (speaking in foreign language) know exactly when someone
isn’t paying attention. (speaking in foreign language) These headbands measure each student’s level of concentration. The information is then directly sent to the teacher’s computer and to parents. (upbeat hip hop music) China has big plans to
become a global leader in artificial intelligence. It has enabled a cashless economy, where people make
purchases with their faces. A giant network of surveillance cameras with facial recognition helps
police monitor citizens. Meanwhile, some schools offer
glimpses of what the future of high tech education in
the country might look like. (speaking in foreign language) Classrooms have robots that
analyze students’ health and engagement levels. Students wear uniforms with chips that track their locations. There are even surveillance
cameras that monitor how often students check their phones or yawn during classes. These gadgets have
alarmed Chinese netizens. (digital dinging) (quizzical music) (digital swishing) But, schools say it wasn’t hard for them getting parental consent to enroll kids into what is one of the
worlds largest experiments in AI education. A program that’s supposed
to boost students’ grades while also feeding powerful algorithms. (speaking in foreign language) The government has poured
billions of dollars into the project. Bringing together tech
giants, start-ups and schools. (upbeat electronic music) We got exclusive access to
a primary school a few hours outside of Shanghai. (speaking in foreign language) To see firsthand how AI tech
is being used in the classroom. For this fifth grade class,
the day begins with putting on a brain wave sensing gadget. Students then practice meditating. (speaking in foreign language) The device is made in China
and has three electrodes, two behind the ears and
one on the forehead. These sensors pick up electrical signals sent by neurons in the brain. The neural data is then sent in real time to the teacher’s computer, so while students are
solving math problems, a teacher can quickly find
out who’s paying attention and who’s not. (speaking in foreign language) A report is then generated
that shows how well the class was paying attention. It even details each
student’s concentration level at 10 minute intervals. It’s then sent to a
chat group for parents. (speaking in foreign language) The reports are detailed, but whether these devices really work and what they exactly
measure isn’t as clear. (speaking in foreign language) We were curious if the headbands could actually measure concentration. So, one of our reporters
tried on the device. (speaking in foreign language) – This is a new technology with, still, fairly little research behind it. – [Presenter] Therodore
Zanto is a neural scientist at the University of
California San Francisco. He was surprised to learn that this tech, called electroencephalography,
also known as EEG, is being used in the
classroom on children. It’s usually used by doctors
in hospitals and labs. – [Theodore] EEG is very
susceptible to artifacts and so, if you are itchy
or just a little fidgety or the EEG wasn’t setup
properly, so that the electrodes didn’t have a good contact,
effects the signal. – [Presenter] Despite the
chances for false readings, teachers told us the
headbands have forced students to become more disciplined. (dramatic piano music) (speaking in foreign language) Teachers say the students
now pay better attention during class and that has
made them study harder and achieve higher scores. (speaking in foreign language) But, not all students are as enthusiastic. (speaking in foreign language) This fifth grader, whom we
caught dozing off in class, told us his parents punish
him for low attention scores and that kind of data adds a new kind of pressure for students. (speaking in foreign language) Companies we interviewed
said the data can go to government funded research projects. We spoke to parents who were unclear about where the data ended up and they didn’t seem to care too much. Zanto says, there’s likely
no privacy protection at all. – [Theodore] The
classroom is you’re trying to make an assessment of
an individual student, you really can’t anatomize it. (dramatic electronic music) – [Presenter] Experts and citizens alike are sounding alarms about various aspects of the country’s huge push
into artificial intelligence. These classrooms are laboratories
for future generations and while these new tools
may potentially help some two hundred million
students raise their grades, just how this all works
out won’t be apparent until they become adult citizens. (upbeat electronic music)

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