Depending on who you ask, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the classroom stirs either fear or excitement.
Fear because AI applications such as OpenAI’s text-generating chatbot are lately breaking the internet. ChatGPT reached 1 million users in just 5 days. Students can use it to create impeccable summaries and essays in a fraction of the time, getting unexpected, yet-to-be-understood assistance for their homeworks and assessments.
Excitement because, if used right, AI has the potential to improve the educational experience for both students and teachers, supplementing traditional teaching methods.
Fear or excitement, one thing seems certain: of all sectors, education has among the highest chances to be disrupted by the latest AI developments. The market for AI in education is expected to reach $30 billion by 2032.
Today, we look into the benefits and challenges of incorporating AI into the classroom, following a discussion with English teacher Raluca Bolocan and Alex Malureanu, co-founder and CMO of Ascendia, an e-learning platform listed on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The company plans to integrate OpenAI technology into its e-learning course development tool LIVRESQ starting Q2 2023, to “help teachers and e-learning specialists create relevant and useful content much faster and of an increased quality,” Alex tells us.
“It’s easy to think that students will stop doing their homework or performing tasks on their own, but I think there are benefits that far outweigh this. It’s clear that we need to adapt and change our approach,” Raluca Bolocan begins. In doing so, she points out the potential of AI to disrupt the current approach to education. With the introduction of such tools, teachers may need to reassess how they assess students or how they prepare for the classroom.
3 key benefits of AI in education for students
The most frequently cited benefit of using AI in the classroom is its ability to personalize learning experiences based on a student’s learning styles, abilities, and needs, amplifying the same effort by the teachers. AI algorithms can gather and analyze data about each student, use predictive analytics to estimate a path of development, and provide a tailored learning journey.
Alex Malureanu further explains how AI can enhance personalization for students from the teacher’s perspective: “A crucial benefit here is enhanced personalization of the content, so you can better tailor whatever educational material you are creating for your audience. That means that the AI systems can help you with suggestions depending on your exact needs.”
Keeping up with the digital age
Incorporating AI into the classroom can also be seen from the perspective of helping students gain experience with and develop a critical perspective on 21st century technology. This in turn will help strengthen their skill set for the digital age. From this point of view, fear of AI is misplaced if it leads teachers to neglect equipping students with competitive knowledge and skills for the careers of the future.
“I believe that as educators we have to realize early on that we are training future professionals who will use these tools on a daily basis, and this requires honing new skills. In the case of English, for instance, apart from teaching students how to speak and write, which will remain crucially important abilities, we should perhaps focus more than ever before on developing critical thinking, editing skills, structuring arguments and efficient communication,” Raluca mentions.
Finally, when it comes to large language models, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) praises the potential of ChatGPT to serve as a creative launchpad for students who are struggling with the creative process. A creative block may cause students to stare at a blank page or screen for a long time. Through conversation, tools such as ChatGPT can provide a nudge, suggestions, or a place to start.
2 key benefits of AI in education for teachers
Saving and repurposing time
One way in which teachers can use AI tools such as ChatGPT is to save time by automating repetitive tasks and spending it on more creative and value-adding activities.
“In the classroom, teachers can already use AI to save a lot of time in terms of bureaucracy and lesson prep. This is an opportunity to create engaging materials, tailored to the needs of students, that would have otherwise taken days or weeks to prepare,” Raluca shares.
She also adds that using AI can allow teachers to focus more on developing methods to enhance skills such as critical thinking and analysis, by trying to figure out ways to integrate AI tools into the tasks they give to students.
Assisting in the research journey
Alex Malureanu further points to how AI can assist teachers in their research journey: “It is not like with a traditional search engine where you provide the keywords and then you have to look for the answers in the provided links. With AI tools you are able to have an intensive conversation on a particular topic. So, if you want to explore a certain part of the answer in detail, after the system has responded, you can do that with AI.”
This may be particularly useful for teachers who are not normally connected to technology, because they will be able to get their answers as if from a conversation with a real person, Alex says, adding: “imagine having a debate partner when creating educational content, at any hour and on your very specific topic”.
3 key risks of using AI in education and how to overcome them
Cheating and plagiarism
There is no question that asking ChatGPT to write your essay and turn it into your own work is counterproductive and plainly wrong. There is a line between using AI to the benefit of the student and cheating and plagiarizing – but the line is not fully drawn yet. Fearing such implications of using ChatGPT, some schools and universities have already prohibited it.
“I believe the biggest downside and the one that has been talked about the most is plagiarism. There are already a lot of universities that have banned access to ChatGPT, but this doesn’t really seem like an efficient long-term solution. One way to address this is through the improvement of plagiarism detection. There are already tools that can detect whether a text has been written with the help of AI, and in time, I think they will become better,” Raluca Bolocan shares.
It’s worth noting though that some teachers even demand students to use ChatGPT in the assessment writing process. In such cases, it seems teachers take a proactive approach to using but also controlling the use of AI, by creating guidelines for use, which also include limitations.
The threat of misinformation is another risk with the use of large language models such as ChatGPT to generate answers. Such tools are trained via complex and multi-step processes and massive amounts of data, yet the system is not foolproof. The chatbot may not necessarily base its answers on the most credible sources. To trust it fully would be foolish.
ISTE recommends two ways to surpass such limitations of large language models for teachers. One is to require students to critically review the stories they write with AI, pointing to where a human might have put things differently. Secondly, teachers can require students to find corroborating evidence for the answers provided by AI from other sources.
Ethical and privacy concerns
Finally, the use of AI, in different aspects of our lives, raises ethical concerns. There is a high risk to individual privacy and other human rights when it comes to AI technologies processing our personal data, such as data repurposing and spillovers. If these models become more sophisticated, but regulation such as privacy protection does not keep up, ethical concerns will continue to grow.
With this in mind, we circle back to the beginning, when we suggested that a fear-based, reactionary approach to AI can only deter us from understanding and controlling the true potential of this technology. Instead, the more proactive actors encourage teachers to cultivate an attitude of curiosity in themselves and the classroom towards new tools such as ChatGPT.