AI in Education: How Artificial Intelligence
is Impacting the Classroom

The well-documented and seemingly sudden emergence of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT has ignited a popular debate that often surrounds new technologies. Educators, students, and ICT providers all want to know: what will it mean for education?

There is an understandable concern that such a comprehensive wellspring of information—one that delivers accurate results, by and large, with lightning-quick efficiency will encourage plagiarism. While others predict that it will promote creativity among students and tackle a wide variety of educational and planning tasks for teachers. Opinions, it seems, are divided.   

The real-world illustrations of ChatGPT’s capabilities were showcased earlier in the year when it comfortably passed MBA and medical school exams, prompting many to believe that the AI tool could mean the end of traditional learning as we know it. 

Of course, ChatGPT, the language model developed by OpenAI, is just one of many artificial intelligence tools that have the ability to change the landscape of modern teaching and learning.  The appeal of AI-driven software to help students access valuable, subject-focused content has prompted a wave of investments from governments, private research groups, and large tech companies. 

In March, Google’s LaMDA-powered Bard was launched, which, in the words of Alphabet SEO, Sundai Pichar, aimed to ‘combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models’. An ambitious mission statement, but one which looks to have delivered with early reports of Bard being largely positive, with users benefiting from its ability to offer real-time responses based on research pulled from the internet. 

Compare that to ChatGPT whose initial training data was all compiled before September 2021, meaning its findings aren’t always up-to-date. Ask ChatGPT, for example, who the British Prime Minister is, and it will confidently tell you: Boris Johnson. 

A pile of old laptops

The potential uses of
AI in the classroom

Perhaps one of the primary benefits of students using ChatGPT is its ability to generate ideas and frameworks for essays—particularly helpful for those students who struggle with writer's block or those feeling creatively uninspired for an essay title. By feeding a prompt into the tool, ChatGPT can produce a list of potential topics or ideas for the student to work from.

Another potential benefit of using ChatGPT for essay writing is its ability to create coherent and grammatically accurate sentences. This can be hugely beneficial for students who struggle with grammar and sentence structure. ChatGPT can create the building blocks for the student, who can then edit and revise the generated text to suit their own writing style. Tools such as Grammarly and Google Docs’ Smart Compose already offer these education technology services and there are plenty of other real-world examples of AI-based EdTech tools that have entered the classroom.

As one might anticipate, there has been a race to implement AI detection tools which schools and universities can utilise to detect plagiarism. In the United States, a Princeton University graduate has created an app that can detect whether an essay has been written by ChatGPT.  

By analysing individual sentences for variance and complexity, GPTZero is able to determine whether a piece of writing is original content or bot-generated. Indeed, as AI tools become more sophisticated, so too will educators and ICT leads need to have the knowledge and training to meet these unique, ever-evolving challenges.

Moreover, as AI continues to play a larger role in education, it will be important for educators to strike a balance between utilizing technology to improve the learning experience and preserving the values of academic integrity and original thought.

How is AI currently
used in schools?

While the testing ground for tools like ChatGPT and Bard is still in its infancy, artificial intelligence tools in general have existed in the education technology space for some time, but the integration has relatively been slow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the global necessity for virtual learning forced the industry into change. 

At its core, AI can help streamline the student education process by providing access to courses, improving communication between students and teachers, and creating a flexible learning environment with universal 24/7 access to resources through a school’s cloud network. For educators, AI can be used for task automation, administrative work, analysing learning patterns, grading homework, responding to general queries, and a whole variety of other educational processes. Let’s take a look at some of those currently being used in the classroom:

Course creation

AI has the potential to significantly improve the course creation process; thereby reducing costs and freeing up time in a teacher’s overloaded schedule. Either by starting from scratch or using purpose-built templates, AI software can seamlessly introduce both traditional and interactive content for lessons. Meanwhile, through in-app comments from co-authors and reviewers, you can collaborate with your team to produce high-quality training material.

Personalized learning

Personalized learning has become an important feature within modern education, and AI can serve as a powerful tool to deliver custom experiences based on a student’s unique preferences and skill set. AI can adapt to each student's learning pace and personal targets—helping to maximize their outcomes. AI tools can analyze a student's learning history, identify areas for improvement, and recommend tailored courses to meet their specific needs.

Automation tasks

A teacher’s job is never done. Whether it’s managing classes, handling administrative and organizational tasks, marking homework and tests, paperwork, generating progress reports, organising teaching materials…there’s very little room for manoeuvre in the schedule of an educator. While those non-teaching activities can consume plenty of precious time, automation tools can help streamline manual processes and allow educators to focus their efforts on the delivery of high-quality education.

Smart content

Smart content encompasses a range of digital resources: guides, textbooks, videos, and instructional snippets—all of which can be used to create customized learning environments for schools and their individual goals and strategies. AI solutions can help identify areas where this technology can be applied. A school could develop an AR/VR-based learning environment, for instance, complemented by web-based lessons to facilitate immersive and interactive learning experiences.

AI for students with a disability

AI has already demonstrated its value as a resource for students with learning disabilities. New diagnostic systems are being developed that employ more effective testing methods to identify areas where students may require extra support. Once detected, AI can custom-build the student's learning experience to meet their specific needs. This could involve simplifying sentence structures, replacing complex words, or offering constant feedback to struggling students without disrupting the rest of the class. AI can also provide teachers with reliable progress updates on each student, allowing them to better support individual learning needs.

A pile of old laptops

The challenges of adopting
AI in schools

One of the biggest challenges facing the integration of AI technology into classrooms is the necessity for technical expertise. Teachers not familiar with artificial intelligence models may struggle to adopt them into their more traditional teaching practices—so a sufficient amount of support and ICT training will be required from the onset. Another all-too-familiar concern is funding. Many schools simply do not have the resources to acquire and maintain the technology needed to introduce AI into the classroom. 

For tools such as ChatGPT and Bard, the challenges are clear. As well as plagiarism, one of the major concerns is the potential for bias in the algorithms used to generate educational content, which could perpetuate existing inequalities in education. There are also issues of school data privacy and security that naturally arise when discussing AI tools in education.

Preparing for an AI future

So what next? By 2025, The World Economic Forum estimates that a large percentage of companies will have adopted machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies into their infrastructure. As a result of these forecasts, WEF encourages schools to focus on increasing the necessary skills linked to AI technologies—both within STEM subjects and through non-cognitive soft skills, in order to meet the imminent need.

Since many children are already confident using digital technology before starting school, the idea of students being asked to leverage constantly evolving ICT is perhaps a natural next step; equipping them with the necessary skills to succeed in the digital work environment that awaits.

How can Computeam help?

The question of whether AI will have a positive or negative impact on education is a complex one. While it will certainly streamline some of the processes—like grading, checking attendance, and planning—we can’t expect AI and software to completely replace traditional, classroom-based education.

Indeed, most of the key skills students develop are grounded in interactions with others—rather than the basic acquisition of knowledge. While technology can provide easier access to unlimited resources and the ability to interact with people remotely, it’s not enough in isolation.

There’s clearly huge potential when it comes to integrating AI into the classroom. With the ability to personalize learning experiences, provide real-time feedback, and automate administrative tasks, artificial intelligence tools have the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn. It is up to educators, policymakers, and technology providers to work together to ensure that the benefits of AI are realized while mitigating its potential risks. If you’d like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Children in school uniform looking at laptops

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Posted on April 4th 2023

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