Professionals Urge Parents to Consider Dyslexia Testing To Lower Student Dropout RateSeptember 20, 2023
Princeton’s HiTOPS and District Schools Push Back After Divisive VideoSeptember 20, 2023
Joel Kupperstein is Senior Vice President of Product Strategy, Learning A-Z. He has more than 25 years of leadership experience in curriculum and edtech product development after beginning his career as an elementary school teacher.
Teachers play the biggest role in meeting students’ educational needs and providing support. But teachers need support, too, and technology — including AI — is a valuable tool humans use to make their work more efficient and effective.
It can automate — even replace — work once completed manually. But it doesn’t have the ability to think or “know.” It merely uses algorithms to assemble content based on what the algorithm indicates will best align with what the prompt wants.
AI has great potential to positively impact classroom instruction. Technology can provide real-time individualized feedback about student learning and work products, taking some of the weight off teachers. Think of it as a complement to human interaction — a tool to personalize learning with efficiency and precision.
The field of education is beginning to use AI in different ways. For example, large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT-3 and ChatGPT-4 use massive data sets to generate content based on user-provided prompts. LLMs help teachers create prompts and more, but they require well-constructed input to generate accurate responses and need human input and review for effective functioning.
For all of AI’s wonders, it can’t understand human context or the nuances of student struggles. It’s limited in replicating a real human connection and practicing empathy. Let’s face it. High-quality teaching by human educators is irreplaceable.
While AI can’t replace humans, it can enhance educational outcomes, especially when used to automate manual tasks traditionally performed by teachers. And that’s a win for everyone! After all, tech has influenced and assisted instructional delivery for many years. From calculators and the internet to mobile devices and smart boards, teachers have had access to tools that helped accelerate, automate and create — but these instruments require humans for ideation and conceptualization.
When used strategically, technology gives teachers have more time to focus on human-centric tasks, like planning and designing curriculum, teaching lessons and identifying where to pivot to address student needs and guide their learning.
The educational value of AI
While today’s tools can support teachers’ efforts — and nearly 50% of teachers recognize technology’s power to increase the efficiency of planning and presenting lessons — 54% worry that students may take advantage of AI, using it to complete assignments.
What if, instead of fearing that their students might use AI to cheat, teachers instead thought differently about how to approach the way they design and assign work?
Since AI has become a permanent fixture, educators must change their mindset to accept and welcome AI as a valuable educational tool, embracing it as part of the ongoing technological evolution in schools. This concern about a new tool is nothing new, either. Initially, teachers were leery about calculators. Now, however, they’re accepted accessories in math and science classes.
Teachers and administrators should consider how to harness and maximize AI’s educational potential — not ban its use in the classroom. AI is like a calculator, providing a shortcut to an end goal. But it’s up to teachers to decide when it’s appropriate — and when it isn’t.
Harnessing the power of AI in the classroom
Various case studies show how implementing AI enhances instruction and drives students to achieve academic excellence. Consider these uses:
- Clarifying texts. AI helps students understand more complex passages in stories and textbooks, especially at the middle, high school and college levels.
- Creating writing models. LLMs help all learners plan and organize their writing, generate samples for students to critique, emulate, evaluate and read, and help teachers create examples to show writing’s form and function.
- Debating. Generative AI can participate in debates, making a case for or against a topic and asking students to create and share their counterarguments.
- Strengthening lessons. AI helps teachers identify existing gaps in course content, makes suggestions and offers resources to help fill in those blanks.
A caveat: Teachers must be mindful of AI’s limitations
When left to its own devices, it has the potential to generate inaccurate statements. Teachers must substantiate facts and statistics and verify the output from prompts they feed an LLM like ChatGPT accomplishes the intended goal.
While a current shortcoming of AI, the technology offers “teachable moments” for educators to show in real time, even to their youngest students, the importance of fact-checking. This fact-checking is essentially a quality assurance process that too many people bypass because they assume the AI will naturally do what they want. But failing to verify output can lead to unintended consequences.
Remember garbage-in, garbage-out? It’s essential for teachers to provide clear, unambiguous prompts to yield the AI output they desire. They should also model this procedure for students so they can understand the importance and replicate the practice.
We should stop trying to compare AI to humans. After all, it lacks and was never intended to have the same kind of personality or creativity generated by human writing (both students and teachers alike). AI was, however, designed as a tool to help with efficiency and effectiveness: to start the writing process by creating outlines, organizing and generating ideas. Consider these steps, which guide how we develop things — including writing:
- Identifying a need or desire to create something.
- Determining the goals and requirements for the “thing.”
- Developing the “thing.”
- Evaluating how successfully the draft meets the original goals and requirements.
- Deploying and supporting the “thing.”
AI can help us with step three. But the other steps require human involvement.
Integrating AI into teaching and learning means instructing students on how to responsibly and critically use AI tools. Teachers and students must understand that AI is a supportive educational tool, not a replacement for creativity and human interactions. Educators should always think carefully about how they use that technology and verify it delivers what they expected.
Technology holds great potential as a kind of teaching assistant, enabling teachers to do their jobs better by improving efficiency and precision and facilitating personalization. AI can help teachers track progress, plan lessons and even grade assessments — but not without human oversight. Teachers’ empathy and originality hold the key to motivating and empowering their students to embrace learning, a critical task no machine can ever achieve alone.