Pubdate：2021.4.25. 15:15 Author：editorSource：Beijing Normal University
Currently, as emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, 5G, VR/AR/MR, and the Internet of Things, integrate with other technologies unprecedentedly, human society approaches a threshold of a new round of transformation. In this situation, smart society, as a more advanced social pattern in comparison with the agricultural society, industrial society, and information society, may arrive soon. This trend will fundamentally transform the way we live, work, and learn. Human-machine collaboration, cross-industry integration, as well as co-creation and sharing, may become a new series of characteristics embedded in people’s life.
The social transformation of the intelligence era generates new demands on future education. In response to these demands, major countries and international organizations all over the world are exploring new paths and approaches to accelerate the process of talent cultivation to adapt to the intelligence age. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2016) has put forward the idea of “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities (LLO) for all (SDG4)”. In 2019, UNESCO launched the Futures of Education Initiative. The plural form of “Futures” emphasizes on multiple dimensions to the future and appeal to reimagine how education and knowledge can shape the future of humanity in a context of complexity, uncertainty, and precarity. In 2019 and 2020, to better overcome the challenges of the intelligence age, UNESCO and the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China jointly organized two International Conferences on Artificial Intelligence and Education, discussing the future development of global education. It released the first international consensus on AI and Education, the Beijing Consensus, which provided useful suggestions for promoting the innovative integration of technologies and education as well as the implementation of SDG4.
The mission of education is to enlighten people’s cultivating innovative talents and supplying the country’s economic and social development with talent support and intellectual guarantee. In face of the new situation, a series of strategies and policies have been proposed by the Chinese government, including China’s Education Modernization 2035 plan, the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, the AI Innovation Action Plan for Institutions of Higher Education, Education Informatization 2.0 Action Plan, which emphasize the importance of developing Smart Education. In addition, the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 also stresses the need to build a high-quality educational system and further points out that Smart Education should be specifically employed in the application scenarios of the digital economy, which clarified the direction for educational innovation in the future. As a high-end form of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education, Smart Education is committed to setting up smart learning environments, exploring new models of teaching, and building a modern educational system. As of 2021, the Ministry of Education of China has selected 20 regions as Smart Education Pilot Zones, expecting to expedite the exploration of a new model, new method, and new path to transform education through intelligent technologies.
Beijing Normal University (BNU) is a comprehensive and research-intensive university which leads the way in the theoretical innovation and practical exploration of Smart Education. From 2016 to 2020, Beijing Normal University, together with international organizations and universities have held five Smart Education Conferences consecutively and released a series of smart-education-related reports. In 2020, BNU and its international partners also launched a Joint Project on Rethinking and Redesigning National Smart Education Strategy, generating enormous influences in the field of Smart Education globally. Especially during the pandemic, Smart Learning Institute (SLI) and National Engineering Laboratory for Cyberlearning and Intelligent Technology (CITlab) have been seeking educational solutions under special circumstances. Specifically, they worked with UNESCO, finalizing and publishing a series of handbooks which comprise Handbook on Facilitating Flexible Learning During Educational Disruption: The Chinese Experience in Maintaining Undisrupted Learning in COVID-19 Outbreak，Ensuring Effective Distance Learning under COVID-19 School Closures: Guidance for Teachers as well as AI and Education: Guidance for Policy-makers. A variety of learning strategies and practical experience adopted in China have been collected in these handbooks, which provided institutions with feasible recommendations in minimalizing disruption and ensuring continuity of course delivery during the pandemic. Furthermore, they also elaborated challenges in applying Artificial Intelligence to achieve SDG4 and supplied policymakers with practical advice to the formulation of regulations.
Technology empowers education, and education adds value to economic and social development in return. Smart Education, as an important part of the smart society, should be based on the current situation while also provides support for the new era. It means that education should be human-oriented and pay attention to the cultivation, rather than simply the materials and teaching process. With a focus on identifying the promise of futures of education, Beijing Normal University, with the approval from the Ministry of Education, will collaborate with international organizations and other higher education institutions to organize the 2021 Global Smart Education Conference on 18-20 August this year. The aims of the conference lie in three areas: 1) To further understand the latest achievements and development trends in Smart Education, facilitating the innovative integration of intelligent technologies and education. 2) To gather global resources and strength in Smart Education to provide recommendations for narrowing long-standing equity gaps and promoting personalized growth for all. 3) To set up international platforms for educational research, exchange, and cooperation and contribute to the establishment of a community with a shared future for mankind. With the theme of Smart Learning and Futures of Education, the conference sincerely invites policymakers, experts, scholars, researchers, teachers and students, business representatives and media to contribute to the development of Smart Education.