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In science fiction movies, artificial intelligence is made to be something we should fear. It’s painted as something that could replace human beings. 

In action, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to help people overcome obstacles. One area studies have shown this to be effective is in tutoring. 

An important thing to understand about artificial intelligence is that its key advantage over other forms of software is that AI adapts. You may have seen memes floating around social media where someone forced an AI software to “watch” a few hundred hours of a television program and then write a script for the show. What is happening here is the software is learning the things the program talks about and the general tone of the conversations in the scripts. It then takes that information to create its own unique version. This is cognitive software adapting and learning.

While art is arguably not the most effective use of artificial intelligence, studies have shown learning software can be a powerful use of this technology. 

Students who’ve practiced using cognitive tutor software for an hour twice a week to learn algebra have performed eight percentage points higher than students without this advantage. Eight percentage points is roughly moving up one grade, so a C- student becomes a C+ student.

The software has already learned where thousands of other students commonly make mistakes while learning algebra. As a student progresses, the artificial intelligence notices where the student is having trouble and is then able to focus the following problems on this trouble area for the student so they can better understand the material.

In a classroom setting where there are 30 students to one teacher, the teacher isn’t going to be able to notice where one student isn’t understanding the material, let alone tailor the rest of a lesson to diving deeper into that issue. 

Better yet, when a classroom full of students is engaged with cognitive software, a teacher is free to walk around the classroom and assist where they are most needed. 

At this point, we are still in the early stages of seeing what artificial intelligence software will be capable of accomplishing in a learning environment. Studies so far have hinted at hopes of more individualized attention for students and a deeper understanding of the material in less time.