Conference on natural language processing in education results in white paper
In May 2023, academics, edtech entrepreneurs, and funders gathered on the Stanford University campus to discuss how natural language processing technologies — and research–practice–industry partnerships that advance them — can positively impact education. Now the discussions that unfolded at that conference, “Empowering Educators via Language Technology,” have been assembled into a white paper by the same name.
“I want to emphasize that this is a first step to many future conversations,” said Dora Demszky, assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, one of the conference’s organizers and the lead author on the paper. When it comes to applying emerging language technologies in classrooms, she believes that the involvement of K-12 educators will be crucial.
The white paper lays out guiding principles for those contributing to research-practice-industry partnerships in the natural language processing field. Those principles include beginning with equity, centering teacher needs, promoting high-quality instruction, and building and informing educational theory. At the same time, the paper suggests several strategic directions that could be productive for researchers to pursue: supporting routine teacher tasks, enhancing professional learning, facilitating adaptive lesson planning, and enriching formative assessment.
The paper aims to provide, as well, a clear-eyed look at some of the challenges that collaborations between researchers and industry can pose. It gives examples of potential roadblocks and tensions that can exist even when all participants are aligned on goals such as creating high-quality datasets, building effective tools for classrooms, and cultivating research–edtech partnerships.
Demszky’s “Empowering Educators via Language Technology” co-authors include several from Stanford, including Isabelle Hau, executive director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning; Susanna Loeb, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE); Bethanie Maples, doctoral student at the GSE; and two from Stanford Digital Education — Matthew Rascoff, vice provost for digital education, and Jenny Robinson, digital community and social media specialist. Others are based at California Education Partners; Harvard University; University of California, Irvine; University of Colorado Boulder; University of Maryland, College Park; and University of Texas at Austin. The publication was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Stanford Digital Education.