The 8th National Conference on AI in Schools, held in Berlin, was a momentous event that gathered experts, policy-makers, and educators to discuss the current landscape and future prospects of AI in education. If there’s one word to describe the atmosphere at the 8th National Conference on AI in Schools, it would be “transformative“.

The conference was not only setting high standards on political representatives, researchers in the field of educational & computer science, but also charged with representatives school supervisory boards, state institutes, and offices for teacher education in all 16 federal states. Overall, there was a palpable spirit of collaboration, optimism, and let”s get things done. Politicians, researchers, and practitioners were engaged and committed, staying until the very end of the event, signalling an overwhelming willingness to bring about positive change. Prof. Dr. Thomas Riecke-Baulecke, Zentrum für Schulqualität und Lehrerbildung (ZSL), Hrsg. schulmanagement” und Prof’in Dr. Felicitas Thiel, Vorsitzende der Ständigen Wissenschaftskommission (SWK) welcomed the audience with a word of thanks: “AI fundamentally changes how we teach and learn, therefore we are glad that so many of you followed us to Berlin to discuss the current situation and needed actions.”

The warm welcome has been followed by received two speeches of responsible Ministers on education. Minister Theresa Schopper, Baden-Württemberg insisted that the role of the teacher is irreplaceable, even as it evolves. She stressed the need for “smart integration” of AI in schools. Minister Dr. Stefanie Hubig, Rheinland-Pfalz focused on various aspects including the need for comprehensive explanations for AI decisions, weighing risks and opportunities, and data minimisation.

The way showing talks from politics have been followed by a series of 15min condense expert presentations, providing an impressive sketch on recent scientific work on AI driven education in the Netherlands and Germany.

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Cress, IWM,  University of Tübingen
Prof. Dr. Cress highlighted the need for Germany to catch up with other countries in the adoption of AI educational technologies as there is almost no AI system currently used in schools in Germany.

Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, IPN Kiel
conducted a systemic analysis that pointed to multi-layered challenges—from public misunderstandings about AI to political inertia and social inequality—that require collaborative solutions.

Prof. Dr. Inge Mollenaar, Radboud University, Netherlands
provided an enlightening international perspective, sharing insights from the successful tri-sector collaboration in the Netherlands known as NOLAI. The NOLAI center received a 80 million Euro funding over the next 10 years to build a innovation platform to collaborate among AI in Education with schools, Universities and Companies to transform the school sector.

A significant highlight of the conference was the exploration of AI-supported tools and their real-world impact in schools in Germany. Attendees were treated to demonstrations of existing AI-powered educational tools like the FeedBook 3.0 of the University of Tuebingen and the HILA infrastructure of the DIPF & University of Frankfurt and learned about ongoing developments in the field.

Prof. Dr. Detmar Meurers and Florian Nuxoll presented FeedBook 3, a project that melds AI algorithms with human teaching skills to provide instant, adaptive feedback to pupils in learning english. The FeedBook is an interactive web-based workbook for English instruction in high schools. It is being developed by computer linguists from the University of Tübingen in collaboration with Diesterweg Verlag, based on the current workbook, Camdentown. The primary goal of this web-based version of the workbook is to provide students with individual, interactive feedback while they work on exercises. Current computer linguistic methods for analyzing form and meaning in the context of tasks are employed and further developed for the FeedBook. From September 2018 to July 2019, the FeedBook was tested for an entire school year in 12 seventh-grade classes in an authentic context. Initial analyses indicate that students who receive specific grammar feedback in the FeedBook benefit significantly more than students without specific feedback. A detailed analysis is published in this article.

Prof. Dr. Hendrik Drachsler from DIPF shared his work on creating Design, Development and Evaluation of Highly Informative Learning Analytics (HILA) tools, developed inclusively with teacher input from the very start. A multitude of Data-enriched Learning Analytics (DeLA) technologies were showcased as essential for generating relevant data and providing high-level feedback. These technologies cover various learning aspects, such as reading, written text, collaboration, and concept modeling. Drachsler also elucidated the research questions and study designs underpinning the effects of highly informative feedback in educational settings. He highlighted challenges such as data extraction, text annotation, feedback delivery, and the need for an organisational culture that supports the implementation of these advanced analytics. He also provided fresh empirical insights into the effects of the HILA research programme and the application of DeLA on large scale in German schools. These presentations underscored the potential for AI to enhance learning outcomes and improve the teaching experience. Moreover, the event emphasised the importance of conducting robust studies to gauge the effectiveness of these tools.

The conference provided a platform for rigorous discussions about the opportunities and risks associated with AI in education. Attendees engaged in thought-provoking conversations on the positive prospects of AI, such as personalized learning and data-driven insights. Simultaneously, they examined the ethical considerations, technological challenges, and data protection requirements inherent in AI integration. Striking the right balance between innovation and ethical responsibility emerged as a central theme.

Prof. Dr. Ute Schmid delved into the ethical considerations of AI usage and stressed the need for basic AI literacy among the general populace.  Topics ranged from addressing algorithmic biases to ensuring robust data protection mechanisms. The collective commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards to protect students’ privacy was a resounding message that echoed throughout the event.

After a coffee break the conference was summarised with panel discussion on Conclusions and the Path Forward. The panelists recognised the importance of cross-border partnerships between academia and educational administrations. Collaborative efforts were seen as a means to share best practices, drive innovation, and collectively harness the potential of AI to benefit students worldwide.

  • Staatssekretärin Sandra Boser who emphasised the need for a “positive error culture” and indicated that the time for moving from dialogue to action has come.
  • Staatssekretärin Dr. Dorit Stenke, underlined that she was highly impressed that there is already AI in school research going on and that this work involves teachers and pupils. She demanded a close cooperation among the Bundeslaender of Germany to join forces and enable a transformation with schools and teachers in co-creation.

  • Prof. Dr. Ulrike Cress concluded with a statement encapsulating the day’s spirit: There’s a great consensus that AI can make teaching better. It will not replace teachers but can certainly augment the educational experience.

  • Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller provided a sobering reminder that Germany has much to learn, especially in terms of sectoral collaboration, from more successful models like that of the Netherlands.

Even after the conference had officially concluded, the room was abuzz with constructive conversations. It was evident that the participants were not just physically present but were emotionally and intellectually invested. With an overwhelming willingness to enact positive change, this conference may very well signify a pivotal moment for the future of AI in education in Germany.

So congrats and a big thank you to the organisers of the event, Prof. Dr. Felicitas Thiel und Prof. Dr. habil. Thomas Riecke-Baulecke and a reflection of the event in German language can be found at the the Online-Magazin schulmanagement.