ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) is defined as a facet of computer science that has an objective of creating systems that are capable of functioning in an intelligent and independent way. It is the capability of a machine or computer programme that exhibits thinking and learning abilities. In other words, AI makes machines smart.
It is all about coding and communicating with computers. AI is labelled as the skill of the century and it is credited as having the ability to contribute towards empowering mankind to create intelligent machines and systems that are capable of forming tasks that require a high level of human intelligence.
AI has indeed become part of a person’s day-to-day life and has numerous advantages, especially in the corporate sector, where it is credited for improving the quality of products and services of organisations, to ensure they are capable of creating more effective business models and are able to enhance decision-making as well.
AI permits machines to learn in such a way that it mimics human intelligence. It is now used widely to improve the performance of organisations in various industries, even in the education industry. There is an increase in the use of AI in the sphere of education, especially when it comes to early childhood education.
Many have pointed out that AI does provide children with a head start in life and allows them to learn more effectively. It is being weaved intricately with the way the world works, and there are numerous possibilities for AI. It is starting to mushroom across the world and at present, there seems to be an increase in the importance of AI in early childhood education.
Many researchers have accredited the use of AI in helping to provide better career opportunities to children when they become adults; to promote a greater level of analytical thinking abilities and fluency; and to ensure children can grow up to add value and be useful adults that can contribute to the society. It can enhance the imagination of children to think more critically and more innovatively, improve their problem-solving abilities and generate better early childhood outcomes.
Researchers are continuously uncovering proof that autonomous robots are capable of enhancing educational outcomes as well as resulting in children being able to socialise more efficiently. This obviously does not mean much to an average person if such technology is not made available in early childhood education centres.
There is increasing research that shows evidence to substantiate the fact that AI, as well as robots, are likely to have a positive outcome on the early educational activities of children. Research shows that by allowing children to have an early start in education, it will enhance the likelihood of them attending college. This itself can be described as being a significant predictor of success.
When it comes to the development of a child’s brain and thinking system, researchers have stated that the first few years of their lives are important and formative as well.
A typical child is born with about hundred billion neurons in the human brain to produce various connections between these neurons. When the child has reached three years of age, there are twice as many neurons as they were at birth and these neurons are being produced at a much faster rate than at any other time in their lives.
According to science, positive early childhood brain development would result in successful and fulfilling lives, and the correlation between quality of early care and life satisfaction is substantiated by research.
Certain studies have shown that a very strong predictor of academic success of a child and his development is the presence of a responsive relationship within the first three years of his lives.
A critical assumption made by researchers is whether AI would become a decisive factor for child development. There are also views being expressed about the new digital age divide between those who have AI at their disposal and those that do not, and on an even more fundamental level, those who are AI literate and those who are not.
The future with regard to AI has to commence with the most vulnerable members of society, who are children. There are certain researchers who argue that the most efficient way to accomplish the above is through nurturing the emotional resilience of children as well as to nurture their social and emotional skills using AI during early child education.
The digital literacy of children could well be enhanced through AI-based play and learning techniques as part of early childhood classroom experience. Besides the child’s experience in the classroom, AI does also have the likelihood of helping to enhance the quality of care by empowering early child practitioners.
Such technology may be utilised to automate standardised procedures, to acquire insights from data analytics and provide AI-based professional development programmes and initiatives.
Through optimising all of these three dimensions of early childhood learning, AI may have the benefit of freeing up time for teachers as well as administrators, together with parents, for them to emphasise important matters such as interacting with children.
Dr Akram Al-Khaled is Senior Lecturer/Head of MBA Programme, Faculty of Business, BERJAYA University College.