Primary school denies using AI to monitor students

By Cao Siqi and Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/25 21:08:40

A primary school in Shanghai has denied reports that it used AI-powered systems to monitor students' behavior on campus, including whether they were paying attention in class or greeting teachers.

A teacher at the school who requested anonymity told the Global Times on September 4 that the report was "false" because "what the report said about how the school is using the system is not consistent with the facts." 

The school never had nor would they monitor students' behavior or violate their privacy, the teacher said, noting that the school is only using AI technologies to enhance security, provide teachers with better teaching materials and teach students aerobics.  

The report, released by Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper, has been deleted as of press time after the school complained to the media.

It said that the school planned to use facial recognition, big data and sensor technology to recognize, collect and assess students' behavior in detail, including their sitting posture, whether they yawn in class or greet teachers on campus, and if they actively raise hands to answer teachers' questions in class.

Following the report, many netizens expressed concern that the system would violate students' privacy and even negatively impact them psychologically.

"The school is very cautious about using AI technology… as they always serve the students based on the principles of growing healthily," the teacher said.

Although the system has some of the functions that The Paper reported, the school never uses these functions to monitor students, the teacher said. 

Instead, the system is mainly used in three aspects: aerobics teaching, security systems and teacher training systems.

The system can also help in purifying the air and adjusting the light in classrooms according to data from its environment testing. It can also send warnings if it estimates that corridors in the teaching buildings are getting too crowded with students.

The use of AI technology in teaching is not new, Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Shanghai-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times. 

However, such technology, if used to monitor students, would not only invade privacy, but also distort the teacher-student relationship and normal classroom teaching, Xiong noted.

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