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Embracing the future: The impact of Artificial Intelligence in the preschool environment.

Updated: Jan 4

As we navigate through the 21st century, the world of education continues to evolve. One of the most significant advancements is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Historically associated with high-tech industries and advanced research, AI is becoming more prevalent in early childhood education. As a leading network of preschools in Johannesburg and Pretoria, Little Ashford is keenly interested in exploring this frontier.


AI holds immense potential for preschools, promising to enhance educational delivery, improve administrative efficiency, and provide personalised learning experiences (Wartella et al., 2020). Despite this potential, incorporating AI into preschool settings requires careful planning and preparation to ensure its optimal use and effectiveness.


AI can be a valuable tool in creating adaptive learning environments that respond to children's unique learning styles and paces. Intelligent support systems, for instance, can provide individualised instruction, offering personalised educational content based on a child's performance and progress (Chen et al., 2020). These systems can help children achieve their learning goals more effectively by adapting to their needs in real-time.


Moreover, AI can facilitate the administrative duties of educators, freeing up time for more direct interaction with little ones. AI-powered systems can automate tasks such as attendance tracking, record-keeping, and scheduling, thereby reducing the administrative burden on educators (Holstein et al., 2019).


Furthermore, AI can also contribute to a safer and healthier preschool environment. For instance, AI-based systems can monitor children's health, track their physical activities, and alert teachers to potential health risks (Mou et al., 2021).


While the benefits of AI are clear, integrating it into the preschool environment requires careful planning and preparation.


Firstly, there's a need for staff training. Teachers and administrators must become familiar with AI tools to use them effectively. This training can encompass the basic understanding of AI, its potential uses in the classroom, and ethical considerations around its use (Bulger, 2016).


Secondly, infrastructure must be in place. This includes reliable internet connectivity and devices capable of running AI applications. Additionally, it is crucial to have data protection measures in place to ensure the privacy and security of children's data (McGregor et al., 2020).


Lastly, the introduction of AI should be gradual and responsive to feedback. It is important to assess the impact of AI on the learning experience regularly and make adjustments as necessary.


As we traverse this new frontier, the role of the Department of Education and the Early Childhood Development (ECD) industry in shaping AI integration cannot be overstated. Their support and guidance are vital to ensure that AI is used responsibly and effectively in the preschool environment.


Regulatory guidance from the Department of Education is crucial in establishing standards for AI use in education. As this technology advances, the Department of Education can provide direction on ethical considerations, privacy concerns, and data security, ensuring the safety and well-being of learners. Furthermore, the department can facilitate the allocation of resources to schools for AI integration, such as funding for infrastructure and teacher-training programmes.


The ECD industry, too, plays a pivotal role. Industry leaders can drive innovation by developing AI tools tailored specifically for early childhood education.


The potential of AI is vast, and its implications for preschool education are profound. However, while we embrace technology, we will always remember that the heart of early education lies in the compassionate, interactive, and caring relationship between educators and children.


As Little Ashford, we look forward to collaborating with the Department of Education and the ECD industry to explore the best use of smarter technology in our preschools, including safety monitoring. By working together, we can ensure that this technology is used in a way that benefits our children, supports our educators, and upholds our commitment to providing high-quality early childhood education.


References


Bulger, M., 2016. Personalized Learning: The Conversations We’re Not Having. Data & Society, pp. 1-20.


Chen, Z-H., Liao, C-C., Cheng, H-N.H., Yeh, C-Y., and Chan, T-W., 2020. Influence of Artificial Intelligence on the Effectiveness of Tutoring Systems. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 23(1), pp. 64-75.


Holstein, K., McLaren, B.M., and Aleven, V., 2019. Student Learning Benefits of a Mixed-reality Teacher Awareness Tool in AI-enhanced Classrooms. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1-13.


McGregor, S., Bayne, S., & Petersen, A., 2020. Data and privacy in the digital age: rethinking rights and responsibilities in education. Teaching in Higher Education, 25(5), pp. 610-628.


Mou, Y., Xu, K., & Khakurel, J., 2021. Exploring the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Public Health and Epidemic Prevention: A Case Study of China’s Health Code System. Health Communication, pp. 1-10.


Wartella, E., Rideout, V., Montague, H., Beaudoin-Ryan, L., & Lauricella, A., 2020. Teens, Health and Technology: A National Survey. Media and Communication, 4(3), pp. 13-24.

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