How to Use Chatbots in Education

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is journalist and blogger with a passion for technology and continued learning. She is currently a contributing writer for Muck Rack, Ragan and Technorati. When she isn't busy writing about the latest educational or tech trends, she loves spending time with her husband and playing video games.

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A chatbot is an "artificial intelligence (AI) program that simulates interactive human conversation by using key pre-calculated user phrases and auditory or text-based signals" (technopedia.com). Businesses throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere are rapidly adopting chatbots to support their business. Vodafone, the well known phone company, has a chatbot to help people learn about which phone plans best fit their needs, for example. But what about using chatbots in educational settings?

Teachers Won't Have Their Jobs Replaced
Most chatbots get smarter as people interact with them, but in the early stages, many aren't very clever. They still have potential, especially when teachers supervise how students use the bots. Teachers don't have to worry that chatbots will replace their jobs, but there are plenty of effective ways to use chatbots to supplement learning.

Here are some ways chatbots are used in education - or how they could be.


1. Help Students Stay on Top of Homework
Students frequently make up excuses for why they didn't complete their homework. Some are purely untrue, but there are instances where learners genuinely forgot to do their take-home exercises.

A chatbot called Christopher Bot designed by a 14-year-old from Canada was made to help with this issue. It asks students to enter which classes gave them homework for the week, then helps them keep track of all assignments, in a lighthearted tone. Additionally, the bot gives daily homework summaries so users don't need to use written lists that they could lose.

This chatbot clearly has abundant potential, especially when students are falling behind with homework and time-limited teachers are becoming concerned.


2. Determine How Students Feel About School Life
In the bustling environment of a school, it's sometimes difficult to pinpoint the students who are feeling down, seeming maladjusted, or otherwise struggling with school's demands. The United Kingdom's Plymouth School of the Creative Arts is trying to tackle the issue with a chatbot called Emoti-OS. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic natural conversations and encourages students to talk about their feelings.

There are two ways to use this chatbot: the first involves an installation in the school atrium that prompts people to select one of seven avatars that most closely matches how they feel. They can then branch out into the second way to use the chatbot, which entails talking about why the chosen avatar represents how they feel. Users can then start to give a voice to their feelings through non-judgmental interactions. It's also possible to use the chatbot to send messages to other pupils.

When necessary, teachers or other members of the school's team can intervene thanks to a built-in AI safeguarding system.

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3. Help Students Find Information
Rob LoCascio, founder and CEO of chat technology company LivePerson, believes chatbots will eventually replace websites. If that happens, people could theoretically find the information they need faster than before by posing questions to the chatbot instead of looking through various pages or using search boxes to locate the content themselves.

Regardless of their age, students typically spend significant portions of time in libraries, whether they're doing research about the topics of upcoming papers or studying for tests. The Mentor Public Library, located in Mentor, OH, deployed a chatbot named Emma that served as a sort of virtual reference librarian, answering questions about the library and advising people on how to find information.

The Mentor Public Library was undoubtedly a pioneer in the realm of chatbots for education since it started using Emma in November 2009. According to one article about the bot, Emma answers about 1,000 questions per week.


4. Educate Children About Safe Internet Usage
The internet has been an integral part of classrooms around the world for a while, but teachers sometimes struggle to engage students when giving them tips about how to use the web safely. In this age where cyberbullying and impersonation are increasingly common, knowing safe internet practices is particularly crucial.

Telenor Hungary, one of the largest mobile phone operators for Hungarian residents, recently revealed a chatbot that helps young people become more informed about safe internet usage. Within 30 days of when the chatbot became available, more than 7,000 people used it.

This chatbot also provides materials for parents who want to teach their kids about the positive and potentially negative factors of the internet. Teachers could also apply it in the classroom by using the resources to guide discussions that take place after students try the chatbot in school or at home.

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5. Make Class Trips More Valuable
Teachers commonly arrange trips to museums and other educational sites to enhance their curriculum. Some of them may find that chatbots factor into such trips because the representatives associated with the attractions realise that chatbots could help people get the most out of their visits.

In another project from Ohio, the Akron Art Museum offers Dot, a chatbot that assists individuals in choosing which collections to see. Then, when people admire each piece of art, the chatbot gives further information about the work and provides prompts for discussions. Developers designed the bot to cater to tour groups, making it ideal for class outings.


A Vast Range of Opportunities
This list emphasizes that there are virtually limitless possibilities for using chatbots to facilitate learning. If educators have an idea for how to use them in the classroom, there's a good chance the technology exists to bring that option to life.

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