With the ongoing needs of New Jersey students for intensive tutoring and the Murphy Administration’s failure to deploy a promised 5,000 tutors (only 400 have signed up), perhaps it’s time to look at a scalable solution: using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create adaptive and personalized tools for students to recover from COVID learning loss.
Scared off by AI in the classroom? You’re too late: a recent survey found just that just two months after the newest version of ChatGPT was released, 51% of K-12 teachers were using it, 40% at least once a week, with the majority expecting to use it more and more, primarily to generate lesson plans, test questions, and emails, giving teachers more time to focus on students. The National Education Association says, “ChatGPT can simplify and improve educators’ everyday lives.” Kevin Roose says a high school teacher told him he “used it to evaluate a few of his students’ papers, and that the app had provided more detailed and useful feedback on them than he would have, in a tiny fraction of the time.”
Now let’s get back to New Jersey where the state Department of Education, unlike Tennessee and Arkansas, seems incapable of leading a statewide tutoring effort. But maybe it doesn’t need to. Salman Khan of the Khan Academy has a new product, currently in beta form, called Khanmigo, an AI-powered assistant that functions as both a virtual tutor and as a classroom assistant for teachers. (Yes, it has guardrails for cheating.) He told the Washington Post the goal of the program is “to lead kids to answers,” like “a thoughtful tutor that’s actually going to move you forward in your work.”
Here is Khanmigo working with a student on a math problem:
Here is Khanmigo working with a student on a writing assignment:
The director of engineering at Khan Academy, Shawn Jansepar, said “we see this technology as a potential way to accelerate our roadmap of building more tutor-like abilities into our platform within the next few years, while also providing capabilities we had only dreamed of before.”
Currently Khanmigo is in a pilot program with 2,000 students but Khan says he expects to roll it out widely in mid-June for about $10 a student, less for those in need, not just in the U.S. but also, he told the Wall Street Journal, in “villages and other places with little or no teachers or tools. We can give everyone a tutor, everyone a writing coach. That’s when education and society will really change.”
But he’s selling a product. Let’s find some third-party feedback. Here’s Robin Lake on the benefits of AI in the classroom and how it could increase educational equity:
I believe AI can make the teaching profession much more effective and sustainable. It can also put an end to the ridiculous notion that one teacher must be wholly responsible for addressing every student’s learning level and individual needs. AI…could finally allow teachers to start working in subjects they’re most suited to. Instead of fretting about the lack of high-dosage, daily tutoring, which is the best way to address learning gaps, districts and families could see an army of AI tutors available for all students across the U.S. Parents who have been frustrated with the lack of attention to their children’s needs could set up an AI tutor at home.
The NJ DOE might be more successful in supporting students if leaders put their energy into the future instead of the past.