Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has been impacting the education sector for several years, and its importance has only increased in the post-pandemic world. While A.I. has the potential to revolutionise K12 education by improving student outcomes through a more personalised approach while also reducing teacher workloads, significant concerns about its use in the classroom still remain.
One exciting potential benefit of A.I. is the creation of personalised learning opportunities through the analysis of student data to create individualised learning plans with specific resources based on student’s learning styles and interests.
Furthermore, Intelligent Tutoring Systems (I.T.S.) are computer programmes that use A.I. to provide personalised feedback and guidance to learners by analysing student responses to questions and providing real-time feedback. I.T.S. can adjust the difficulty of questions based on the student’s performance and thus ensuring an adequate level of challenge. In theory, automated grading by A.I. can also reduce the potential for teacher bias in grading – its algorithms ensure that work is graded objectively and fairly. This immediate feedback can help students to be engaged and focused on their studies.
While these arguments in favour of the potential of A.I. in the classroom are very powerful, significant concerns around the privacy and security of student data are prevalent. A.I. requires large amounts of data, including personal information as well as academic performance statistics, to be effective. Detractors of A.I. fear that there is a risk that this data could be accessed or misused by unauthorised individuals for third-party data-sharing or for targeted advertising. Concerns have also been raised with regard to the potential for bias of A.I. systems with regard to data on race, gender or income that could lead to inequitable decisions being made.
To address this concern, schools must ensure that they have comprehensive data and privacy policies and procedures in place, along with training for teachers, students and the community on the safe use of technology. Parents and students must be informed of data collection and be provided with opt-out options where appropriate. The algorithms designed for A.I. must be transparent and explainable so that users can understand how decisions are being made.
Another significant concern is that using A.I. could lead to an over-reliance on technology. If students are able to generate research and investigate through programmes such as ChatGPT, what will become of important skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking as well as basic skills such as reading comprehension and writing? A.I. tools must be included as one part of a broad educational strategy, ensuring that students have access to technology and non-technology-based learning experiences.
An essential strategy in ensuring that A.I. technology and tools are used effectively to enhance learning is to provide adequate teacher training in order to be able to analyse and interpret data generated through A.I. along with support in how to use this data to inform instruction. Essential to ensuring positive student outcomes, teachers must continue to monitor student engagement, academic progress and social-emotional development while in the classroom.
Students must also be trained in how to use A.I. while also following school policies on academic honesty and plagiarism. This will require educational institutions to consider the impact of A.I. on expectations in a way that is open to the potential of this tool but puts in place clear expectations for students to mitigate against plagiarism.
In conclusion, A.I. has the potential to transform K12 education; however, there are significant concerns about its use that must be addressed; schools must be aware of these concerns and take steps to mitigate them. A.I. is a tool that is not going away any time soon, and schools cannot be blind to its potential and the challenges it brings. While A.I. is not a panacea for all educational challenges, by being cognisant of its benefits and problematic elements, A.I. can be used in a way that can bring huge benefits to students that could greatly enhance their learning experience.
Teachers will continue to play a central role in the education sector, and A.I. tools can, when used properly and with the correct safeguarding measures in place, help them to provide more of a personalised learning experience for their students.
About the Author
Jack Little is the Academic Vice Principal of Winpenny School in Mexico City.