‘Theresa Maybe’, but Colin definitely is an aide for greater educational equality

I was struck yesterday by the juxtaposition of the Economist’s dubbing of Theresa May as “Theresa Maybe“and the Telegraph article authored by the PM about her desire for a shared society that will tackle “everyday injustices”. How exactly will the shared society work, and in particular in what ways will education be changed in order to achieve the worthy goal of a fairer society for all? I feel there is already a lack of decisiveness in the lack of detail about what kinds of policy will deliver this solution to the everyday injustices faced by many learners across all ages and sectors of education. (From an interesting article in the Huffington Post)


Education can change lives for the better, but sadly it often does not and those who are privileged are able to benefit from better opportunities for learning. So here is a suggestion for unlocking some of this inequality.



My colleague, Wayne Holmes and I were asked to write an article for ‘How we get to next‘ and we used this article to pitch the benefits of an AI classroom assistant to help and motivate teachers to ensure that all learners are involved in activities that meet their needs. We tell the story of Jude, a teacher in the year 2027.


“And at Jude’s side, there’s her AI Teaching Assistant, Colin, whom she’s named after a childhood friend. In fact, so many aspects of how Jude understands her students’ learning are different now, thanks to her machine aide.

Through working with Colin, she has become somewhat of a metaphorical judo master, harnessing the data and analytical power of AI to tailor a new kind of education to each of her students. Her role at the helm of the classroom, however, is fundamentally unchanged.


Since Colin makes ongoing assessments based on daily student performance and engagement in the classroom, there is simply no longer any need for what were often inaccurate and stressful evaluations. The AI aide’s primary task is to build and maintain learner models for each child based on a combination of data gathered over time with things like voice recognition (which identifies who is doing and saying what in a team activity) and eye tracking (to note engagement and focus). The profiles are updated continuously, monitoring students’ progress against analysis of their emotional and motivational state.”


I know that well designed AI can help us build a much fairer education system in which all learners benefit and prosper, and that we have the technical and human capacity to create the right type of AI. A better educated population would then surely help us to tackle some of the other major challenges that a shared society agenda might face, such as inequalities in the health system and problems related to immigration.

2 Responses to “‘Theresa Maybe’, but Colin definitely is an aide for greater educational equality”

  1. Simon Rushton Says:

    At our school (Plymouth School of Creative Arts) the article that you wrote for ‘How to get to next’ got us all very excited because it describes a future we believe would be much more equitable than the present, as well as more effective, and enjoyable, for learners.
    We are taking our own transformative steps on the journey having introduced an adaptive learning system at Easter. So far we have given Years 5, 7, 8 and 9 opportunities to use the system in ad hoc and structured settings so have gained a lot of experience and collected a substantial amount of data about learning.
    We have noticed effects on learners, carers, and teachers which range from amazing (in terms of scale) to unexpected (in terms of scope).
    Our Head, Dave Strudwick, and Deputy Head, Andy Carpenter, will be at the BETT exhibition in London the week after next and we also have a ‘pop up’ school at the Tate Modern (http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/tate-exchange/making-learning) in the same week. Anyone reading this, please reach out (sorry!) if our ‘shop floor/sharp end’ experience, and on-going project to transform education, might be of relevance to you in any way.

    • rose Says:

      Many thanks Simon, that is great to hear. We at the UCL Knowledge Lab also have a stand at Bett so do please come along and see us, I’d love to hear more about what you are doing. Rose

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