Just doing a little wondering this morning as I post this.
One of the biggest challenges in education is communication between home and school. There are all kinds of solutions like sending notes home, making calls home, sending emails to parents, using social media to parents, sending notes to the teacher, sending emails to the teacher, using social media to schools, parent/teacher nights, etc. Add you favourite or least favourite to the list.
The biggest factor in all this, it seems to me, is the time lag between sending and receiving the message. (if at all) After all, most parents are working during school hours and teachers are busy anyway. Then, in the evening, real life takes over and teachers are busy being parents or lesson planning or relaxing and not in a position to take calls.
In a perfect world, instant communication would be the best of all solutions. Right now, it takes good planning, dumb luck and the alignment of the planets to get teachers and parents together.
Perhaps a better way is on the horizon.
I’m fascinated by the concept of Artificial Intelligence. In this case, the chatbot. I wrote earlier about going to a Ford dealer website and having a conversation with a chatbot indicating that I was looking for a Camaro …
With the growing sophistication of chatbots, how long before we see them on school or district websites? Imagine an all-knowing AI tool on the other end that can give answers immediately.
Now, I’m not talking Clippy here. I’m talking about an entity that absolutely knows the school or district policies letter for letter. This entity knows what fundraisers are happening, the bus routes, the weather, and all the goodies that a school or school district knows and you could get from the right person if they were only available the instant that you want it. 24/7
It seems to me that the market is wide open for the first company that can come up with a solution that is educationally sound and functional. Imagine a world of perfect communication. How many of our current attempts be replaced?
CHATBOT: Hello, how may I help you?
PARENT: I’m new to the town and want to register my child for kindergarten.
CHATBOT: Are you at home now?
CHATBOT: It looks to me like your address is 1234 North Street. Correct?
CHATBOT: Your child would go to our XXXX School.
Let me tell you a little about it. The website is here <link>, they’re on Twitter here <link>, and Facebook here <link>. Your bus pickup time would be at ##:## and returned home at ##:##. We also have an intranet site that you’ll be added to once registration is done.
Your school won the skipping challenge last year, finished second in the district Track and Field Meet, and the girls’ Basketball team won the championship again. There’s so much more. The “Meet the Teacher” night is September 12 at 6:30. We have a BBQ set to go for the event.
The school has improved EQAO scores for the past four years. At the school, we also have an excellent Latchkey program if you need it.
Can I book an appointment for you with the principal?
CHATBOT: How does next Tuesday morning at 9:15 look?
CHATBOT: Thanks for checking in with us. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Too far out there? Remember that there was a time that something like VoiceMail was deemed to be impersonal and not desirable. Now, it’s the way we do things.
Heck, even a chatbot that knows how to quickly find things in the monstrosity of a website that many schools districts have would be a welcome being!
What do you think? Impossible, or on the horizon?