Dr. Draniele Di Mitri was interviewed (in German) by Hessischer Rundfunk by Alexander Schmitt.
The theme of the episode was: Artificial intelligence is penetrating deeper and deeper into our lives: we talk to computers, rely on their search results and will soon be driven by robot cars. The revolution is just beginning. What are young research talents in Hesse working on?
Below the answer to the questions translated into English:
You are interested in education and in technology – is it related to your parents?
Yes, I believe I inherited my two main passions from my parents. My father was a first-generation software engineer and my mother was a teacher. In my teenage years, my father showed me how to create a web page and I got fascinated by programming. I chose the informatics track at high school and I enrolled in the bachelor of computer science.
Another thing I got from my parents was political engagement. During my studies, I was involved in various student unions, first in Italy and later at the European level. The main themes discussed in the associations were student’s rights and access to education. There I understood that if we want some change in society we need to improve quality and widen the access to education.
Your issue is better access to education – what exactly do you want to improve?
I believe that we still face a huge educational gap worldwide. Too many young people, especially the minority groups and wakened populations, have no equal access to education. The rate of people dropping from school and university is still high. I believe this is caused by the cost and the lack of inclusivity of education.
Nowadays with Corona, we are also facing an education crisis. Poor distance learning strategies, old and slow laptops, lack of digital support and infrastructure are sabotaging student success. In times of learning in isolation, students have a lower chance to get constructive feedback about their learning progress, which can motivate them and stimulate their curiosity. In my research, I tackle the aspect of providing quality feedback to learners by means of artificial intelligence.
Can AI help us learn better? How can AI improve our learning?
I believe that AI is not necessarily making us learn better but it can provide automatic feedback. When compared to the human teacher, the AI is always on, and can provide personalised feedback for learners.
AI can help education because it can adapt to individual preferences and it can make education more adaptive. AI generally works well for well-structured domains, so it can support well young children to learn subjects as mathematics or physics.
Even though AI is not used at the systemic level in education, AI tools are already being used by students and teachers. For example, AI is commonly employed to automatically translate documents in other languages or for checking grammar and styles of writings. Similarly, through AI algorithms, it is possible writing texts by voice using the speech-to-text function or letting the AI read aloud written documents.
So, in some sense, AI speeds up various aspects of learning, letting us focus on what matters.
Many people are lonely at home in front of their computers in the Corona pandemic – can AI help them there?
Definitely, the AI of computer games makes people much more much less lonely these times. But jokes aside, when it comes to learning in isolation the students are missing the context of the classroom and the connection with peers. For this reason, they miss out on all the unplanned learning moments. For example: how would another student answer a question?
That creates a “feedback gap”: the students are progressing in their studies but they have no understanding of what to change to improve their performance.
AI can support learning and feedback at different time and pace, beyond the video conferencing platform. Through AI learners can exercise and take space and time to make mistakes in safe and not judging environments.
What is your goal – both academically and professionally?
I’m currently setting up a research group on artificial intelligence in education at the DIPF. My ambition is to focus on designing and prototyping various responsible AI systems that integrate both the human-driven and AI automatic feedback. I currently focus on practical learning tasks over standard classroom learning
Alongside my research, I truly enjoy teaching and interacting with students. My other goal is to improve my current course on AI in Education at the Goethe University of Frankfurt and further explore external collaborations to better position it in the university.