Priya Lakhani is the Founder CEO of CENTURY Tech (link is external), an award-winning teaching and learning platform for teachers and students, and co-founder of the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education.
CENTURY uses AI technology to provide a personalized learning journey to students, and offers real-time insights and analytics to educators. It recently launched the platform to a group of public schools in Lebanon, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, to support access to quality learning for Syrian refugee children.
Ms. Lakhani will be speaking at Mobile Learning Week 2019, which is focusing on Artificial Intelligence and sustainable development.
What motivated you to start CENTURY?
While sitting on the UK government’s business advisory board I learned the extent of the problem facing education – that nationally, nearly 2 million pupils were being taught in underperforming schools. It’s no surprise that so many children are being let down, with teachers everywhere – through no fault of their own – being too burdened with high workloads to be able to properly teach.
Technology, including artificial intelligence, was transforming all other sectors in society, yet education remained largely untouched. I decided to pull together the latest developments in AI, neuroscience and learning science into a platform that learns how children learn – and CENTURY was born.
How does CENTURY enhance education and learning?
As students use CENTURY to study and answer questions, the platform learns how every child learns. It constantly calculates their strengths and weaknesses, creating a tailored, individual learning path for them. It’s interactive dashboard allows teachers – and parents – to see how a student is progressing in real-time and offers deep actionable insights to the teacher, allowing them to target interventions at both school and at home immediately.
Research shows that using CENTURY improves a student’s understanding of a topic by 30%. By automating admin tasks like marking and planning it also reduces teacher workload by on average six hours a week, freeing up teachers to focus on actually teaching and inspiring their students.
How does CENTURY support skills development and innovation in users?
CENTURY is underpinned by the latest developments in learning science. We are firm believers in learning in order to learn, rather than to just pass exams – so our platform encourages students to learn better, rather than just cramming pieces of information in their heads.
To help students develop skills and retain knowledge for life, CENTURY employs principles like interleaving, which is where students study multiple subjects in a space of time, rather than just one. This encourages the brain to connect different topics and make links between them, improving long-term memory retention.
We also encourage a growth mindset in students by incorporating personalized messages that encourage resilience and determination. We include messaging to teach students how the brain learns, reinforcing the idea that their ability to succeed is not limited by innate characteristics, but rather that perseverance can improve their performance.
How does CENTURY guarantee the protection of education data?
We take privacy and data security incredibly seriously and have the most robust possible policies, procedures and technologies in place to ensure all data is protected.
Last year, we co-founded the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education to ensure the sector is best placed to maximize the benefits of AI in an ethical way. We are working closely with government and academia to ensure all students are protected from the risks that unethical use of AI in education could pose.
How is CENTURY’s programme in Lebanon helping refugees access quality education?
Last year, the Lebanese Ministry of Education invited us to help improve the education received by the large numbers of Syrian refugees their schools have welcomed. CENTURY’s agile nature is a great fit for tackling problems like this – we were able to set up rapidly in the schools, with minimal equipment, training or time needed to allow students to begin learning.
The results were impressive – despite all the hurdles these children face, from lacking support structures to having undergone incredibly stressful lives – their schools’ usage of CENTURY is comparable to that of UK state schools. This work has inspired us to begin working with more in-need communities across the world.
What policies should be put in place to counter the digital divide, the gender divide and learning inequalities in general?
One of the greatest benefits of using technology in schools is that it helps to break down barriers that may have previously prevented students from fulfilling their potential.
It can help to level the playing field for children who face additional hurdles to overcome, such as children with special educational needs and disabilities, children in difficult environments and those who struggle to learn with a traditional classroom approach.
As CENTURY allows students to learn at their own pace and without broadcasting their progress to other children in the class, it can be especially of benefit to girls learning STEM subjects, who may feel like they cannot contribute as much as the boys in certain subjects – and vice versa, with boys in subjects like English or languages.