Do you remember H.A.L. 9000 – the treacherous AI who causes the chilling plot-twist in 2001 Space Odyssey?
How about Agent Smith and the green walls of code in The Matrix?
For a lot of us, these are the images that come to mind when we think of AI – which can feel like a scary amount of the “future.” Even scarier? The idea of letting AI become part of young peoples’ learning experiences.
But before we decide whether AI emerging into classrooms is going to be revolutionary or the next step toward robots controlling the world, let’s gather some of the facts. How much is AI already involved in education, what are the potential benefits, and what are the potential harms?
Let’s roll . . . I mean dive in.
What is AI?
AI stands for artificial intelligence. It is the capability of machines and digital algorithms to learn from human-compiled data, then handle tasks that typically are assigned to intelligent beings.
The term AI is often imagined in its most extreme scenarios (do I need to mention H.A.L. again?) But the truth is, nearly all of us in modern society use AI in some way each day. If you ever scroll on Instagram, input a Google search, or pop onto Netflix at the end of a long day, you have engaged with AI.
Artificial intelligence is not a self-thinking entity at its core. It is an adaptable system that learns based on human programming and data.
How comfortable are we, though, introducing AI to younger generations in a school setting?
How AI is Being Used in Education
Each school and college is handling the growing advent of AI within the classroom differently. But the reality is that AI has already been implemented in school settings in many software solutions. And other applications are gaining ground.
This is an application that lends support to teachers by providing specialized grading. Students upload homework to the platform after which AI then sorts, groups, and grades the work including personalized analysis of student performance.
“For students. By students.” This is the motto of Brainly, a peer-to-peer learning and messaging platform where students can work together to study and get homework help. The site includes an AI moderator which assesses incorrect answers and can provide feedback.
Content Technologies, Inc (CTI)
This AI-powered research and development company specializes in customizing learning resources. The company software analyzes various textbooks and syllabi to distill the information and create study guides and tests. CTI also utilizes AI to analyze textbooks and break them down into easy-to-study flashcards and practice tests.
Benefits of AI in Education
A big benefit of introducing AI into the classroom is supporting teachers. The burnout rate for educators has reached an all-time high and, while we may be tempted to blame this on COVID, the pandemic really exposed what was already a fragile system. Teachers are overwhelmed.
AI can assist teachers with basic, time-consuming tasks like grading. Certain applications can assist in lesson-planning, test-writing, and synthesizing of information. Including higher-tech AI such as a myViewBoard Sens gives teachers insight into how students are responding to information, allowing them to change their teaching approach in real time – which increases student engagement.
In short, AI can simplify tedious processes while giving insight into effective teaching strategies and student response.
One of the biggest challenges in education is understanding how to communicate a lesson to a student in a way that clicks for them. We now understand that there is no “right brain” – each student takes in information differently based on their mental structure and experiences.
This is where AI can help. Adaptive learning systems gain insight from both a student’s responses and questions, then provide answers in a way that is specific to that student’s understanding. These systems do not simply generate one-dimensional resources. They learn from the student and generate personalized resources, tests, quizzes, and study materials.
Timely responses to questions
Encouraging curiosity is the best way to help students engage in their education. A big way to cultivate a sense of curiosity is to ask questions and receive answers. And time is a huge factor in this! If a student has a question pop into their mind regarding something they’re learning about, the ability to immediately ask a question and be sure they will receive a quick response encourages them to ask in the first place. This is where AI tutors can be immensely helpful, providing data-backed answers in a timely way.
Risks of AI in Education
Decreased emotional connection
There is a reason AI is called “artificial intelligence” – it never can replace human connection.While AI may be able to provide researched and adaptive responses to questions, it is incapable of providing the emotional connection students really need to thrive and learn deeply. There is a concern that increased AI involvement will diminish the amount of human contact students receive in their educational journey – which will ultimately be detrimental to them as people and as learners.
AI learns and pulls from existing datasets. These datasets are created by humans which means they carry human traits – a big one of which is bias. We know that data is often skewed to favor certain demographics. Hence, there is a real fear that AI will enforce more bias and a lack of diversity in information and perspective. This is especially concerning for students of a young age as diversity and visibility are crucial to impress during formative years.
Discouraged critical thinking
Any reliance on technology holds the threat of disengagement from critical thinking. The involvement of AI in a learning environment holds the potential to diminish student engagement, creativity, and critical thought as they may rely too heavily on AI to provide the thought processes for them.
This is a particular concern with the advent of generative AI like ChatGPT and Google Bard. Teachers and parents worry that if ChatGPT is allowed in the classroom, students’ hard-won engagement will atrophy even further. If a bot can automate essays and papers, what’s to stop students from using this resource to opt out of real work and learning?
To put AI in the classroom, to not? This is a tough question that demands a lot of conversation from everyone – because we are all affected by the future of education.
We want to hear from you! What do you think of this issue? Let us know in the comments or DM us on Facebook / Instagram! Let’s get involved in the conversation.
At NJIN, we are passionate about helping young people discover their earth-purpose. Our programs are designed to offer structured curriculum and real-world experiences within a space that encourages students to roam freely in nature, growing their innovation, self-exploration, and experimentation. Join us!