AI in Education

Ever since ChatGPT went viral educators have been divided on whether they should be enamored by the potential of artificial intelligence or afraid of its risks. It is too early to know whether ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence networks will stay relevant long enough to be a fad or prove useful – though the recent movement shows a lot of promise.

Better Understanding The Potential Of Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT, Bard, Bing.AI And Others?

The early introductions of artificial intelligence are just platforms. Their usefulness will largely depend on their ability to connect to existing systems and what people build on top of them. To illustrate the notion of a platform, imagine the cellphone without all of the apps, the internet without websites and search engines, blockchain without digital currencies, learning to read without books or content in your language, television without shows and movies, the metaverse without a metaverse platform and virtual real estate. The usefulness of all of those advances in technology were less about their introduction and more about what people built on them and connected them too. We already know the power of artificial intelligence is significantly enhanced when it has access to real-time information and search engines.

Dr. Daphne VanDorn, a middle school principal in Queens, NY, shared with us how some of her educators are thinking about AI. A math teacher in Dr. VanDorn’s school says: “AI is here to stay. It is still in the early stages of its application and thus it can be harnessed to maximize its benefits for students. We as teachers have to develop strategies and adapt ourselves to incorporate AI in our teaching for the betterment of our students. This adaptation requires us to determine what is important to teach and expect in our classrooms. An example: If the focus is on having students take math notes in their notebooks or use technology and math fonts, Grammarly, etc. to take notes. This leads to the next question, with everything readily available on the internet, is it really important for students to take notes, or is it more important for them to learn how to find the information and use it productively. I firmly believe that we need to teach our students how to use AI not only for their personal growth but also for the growth of the society as a whole.”

Are The Dream Scenarios Real?

Idealists, like Sal Khan, are imagining a world where every child has an individual tutor and every teacher has a teaching assistant. If you have sat through enough low-income classrooms and visited enough schools, you know that is nearly impossible. Until we enable artificial intelligence to understand elementary school students and provide guided visual prompts it is currently not accessible to children who are in the first third of their educational journey. That estimate does not even include children with learning differences and special needs. To be sure, seeing voice recognition and guided prompts is not off the table. However, a personal teaching assistant is an unrealistic stretch. Many low-income, inner-city schools are staffed with inexperienced teachers. While lesson personalization and planning is a challenge, the largest challenge is classroom and behavior management. Unfortunately, the machine learning algorithms on the computer will not be jumping out of the screens to help teachers with that any time soon.

How Fearful Should We Be As Educators?

It depends on who you are and how comfortable you were with the evolution of the internet. Of all of the early comparisons, that one is the most apt for how fearful we should be and how we should respond to artificial intelligence’s introduction and application to education. In Dr. VanDorn’s school some teachers are concerned about academic integrity, the lack of individualism and creativity and the lack of human interaction. Some also believe that AI will be a powerful tool for educators to increase efficiency such as creating quizzes, brainstorming ideas, writing recommendation letters, as well as the analysis of learning gaps and creating differentiated learning and instruction accessibility for students. There will undoubtedly be children who will use sites like ChatGPT to do their entire homework and avoid having to think on their own. If it’s frowned upon and treated in the same way we treated the child who copy and pasted what they found on the internet without the proper citations or attribution, we’ll be ok. To be sure, the greatest risk posed by artificial intelligence is misinformation risk. It is difficult to unteach something that someone believes is true.

Looking Ahead with Artificial Intelligence

Imagine you have discovered a new species that you are forced to cohabitate with, how would you handle that? Depending on the species, the place in the world, and the frequency of its proximity, we learn to live with it. Living with a new species might mean learning its language, it might mean learning to train it like we do with domesticated animals and in zoos. Practically speaking, we have an opportunity to revise educational standards to reflect the acknowledgement of artificial intelligence, teach children how to ask better questions and create prompts and sequences that generate accurate outcomes, and expect accelerated learning and project outcomes now that children have access to the tools. We never expected someone to cover 100 miles in an hour before planes, which go over 500 miles per hour. Dr. VanDorn.