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Pubdate:2022.4.28. 8:08 Author:editorSource:Beijing Normal University

Intelligent technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and VR/AR/MR, are important driving forces leading a new round of scientific and technological revolution. These technologies are profoundly changing the way we live, work, think, and even accelerating social transformation and deepening educational reform.

Historically, humanity has always responded by improving education in answer to each technological revolution. Affected by the ongoing pandemic wave, global education is becoming more uncertain and fragile than ever. In order to face the challenges brought by COVID-19, while also seizing future development opportunities, many countries and international organizations around the world have rolled out digital development strategies at the national level to promote a comprehensive digital transformation in education. To further facilitate the implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda, UNESCO released the Beijing Consensus at the first edition of the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Education. The Beijing Consensus recommends making appropriate policies that aim at systematic integration of AI and education to innovate education, teaching and learning. According to the report of Digital strategies in education across OECD countries, a total of 17 member countries released digital education-related strategies between 2015 and 2019. Furthermore, the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) issued by the European Union emphasizes two priority areas, namely, “Fostering the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem” and “Enhancing digital skills and competences for the digital transformation”.

Over recent years, the Chinese government proposed a series of strategies and policies aimed at further promoting the systematic integration of intelligent technology and education. These include China’s Education Modernization 2035Plan, The New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, Education Informatization 2.0 Action Plan. In addition, the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China also stressed the importance of implementing the strategic action of education digitalization as well as accelerating the process of digital transformation and intelligent upgrade of education.

Digital transformation in the domain of education is based on digitization and digitalization, and is committed to 1) consolidating digital foundation; 2) building smart learning environments; 3) promoting co-creation and co-sharing of quality digital educational resources; 4) exploring personalized models for cultivating students and training teachers; 5) improving the digital literacy and digital skills of teachers and students; and 6) enhancing digital awareness, thinking and capabilities at digital transformation stage. Smart education can be considered as the educational behaviours provided by schools, regions, or governments, with the characteristics of high learning experience, learning content adaptation, and teaching efficiency. In smart education, modern science and technologies are used to provide diversified supports and on-demand services for students, teachers and parents, etc., the data of participants and learning and teaching processes are recorded and used to promote the quality and equity of education. From this perspective, smart education shall have great potential to be a breakthrough that integrates intelligent technologies with education for the future.

Beijing Normal University (BNU) is a comprehensive and research-intensive university with its strength in teacher education, educational science, and basic disciplines of liberal arts and sciences. BNU has taken the lead in the theoretical innovation and practical exploration of smart education. It has put forward policy suggestions on developing smart education and promoting the reform of the education system. It also undertakes the work of the secretariat of the expert group of the Smart Education Pilot Zones. During the pandemic, the Smart Learning Institute (SLI) and the National Engineering Research Centre of 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 for minimalizing disruption and ensuring continuity of course delivery during the pandemic.

Since 2016, BNU, in conjunction with international organizations and universities worldwide, has held four consecutive US-China Smart Education Conferences (UCSEC) and two Global Smart Education (GSE) Conferences. Thousands of experts and scholars in the field of education and technology from more than 50 countries and international organizations, including UNESCO and OECD attended the meeting. These conferences held discussions on frontier fields and hot issues such as K-12 Education, Higher Education, Vocational Education, Transforming Education through Intelligent Technology, AI and Future Education, Smart Learning and Futures of Education. At the conferences, a series of projects and research results such as the Horizon Project Regional Report, the White Paper on Smart Education Pilot Zones Construction, the Joint Project of Rethinking and Redesigning National Smart Education Strategy, as well as the project of e-Library for Teachers were released. The Global Competition on Design for Future Education also had a launch session at the conferences.