AI.  What parents and educators need to know. 

AI. What parents and educators need to know.

By Lisa Johnson

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like Open AI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing’s Chat and Google’s Bard, have recently taken the world by storm. The speed at which this technology is advancing is unlike anything we have ever seen before and there’s no doubt that AI will change our world in almost unimaginable ways. Education is no exception. Some school districts across the country have blocked and banned the use of these AI tools over fears of cheating and the potential negative effects they might have on teaching students to think and write critically. While these are legitimate concerns, AI also has massive potential to enhance the learning experience. There are no easy answers for schools and parents to help navigate AI and it’s affects on education. But it is imperative that parents and educators stay informed so that they can help their students embrace helpful uses of AI technology without compromising their education or ethics. 

If you haven’t tried it out yet, you definitely should. Experimenting with AI will help you understand how it can benefit both you and your students. It will also give you insight into ways that it can be problematic. They are easy to use. On Microsoft’s Bing you can simply click on “Chat” at the top of the page. For Google Bard just enter “Google Bard” into your browser.  For ChatGPT, type: into your browser and sign up for a free Open AI account. Now you can type in any question or prompt, press enter and within seconds you will have a written answer.  

How AI can benefit education?

There are many ways that AI will help make our education system better. It will make the job easier and better for teachers and it will level the playing field and enhance the learning experience for students. AI should be cautiously embraced as a tool to improve the learning experience in the following ways. 

  • Personalized learning – AI can give students a customized learning approach. It can be used as a personal tutor to help walk students through a course, project or assignment. This can help all students but especially those who struggle with learning disabilities or language barriers. Teachers will be able to use AI to create hyper-personalization of their teaching approaches, making it suitable for the needs of each student. Parents will be able to use it to help students study and complete assignments. Students will be able to use it in many ways to improve their learning experience. 
  • Making education globally available – AI tools can make educational classrooms globally available to all students, even those with hearing, visual or other impairments. 
  • Automation of mundane teacher tasks – AI can automate tasks such as grading and attendance, freeing up educators’ time. 
  • Assessing examinations and analyzing data – AI can help teachers assess examinations and analyze traditional learning data allowing them to provide better feedback in less time. 
  • Creating courses and lesson plans – AI can help create learning courses and lesson plans and make sure they are always teaching with the most up to date information. 
  • Analyzing and interpreting data – AI can be used to analyze and interpret data, enabling teachers and administrators to make better informed decisions.  


Potential threats to education:

There are many concerns about how AI might threaten education. Will it compromise students’ ability to learn independently, solve problems creatively, or think critically? Will it be used as a crutch rather than a tool? These are all possibilities, which is why we need to understand these potential downsides and what can be done to mitigate them. 

  • Cheating – Some students will undoubtedly use AI to cheat. It can be as easy as typing in a math problem, essay or test question and turning in the AI generated answers. Students should be made aware that the AI answers are not always correct and that there is still a significant chance of getting caught. Schools need to put systems in place to prevent, identify and have meaningful consequences for cheating.  
  • Inhibit thinking and creativity – An over reliance on AI may limit critical thinking skills and discourage problem solving and creativity. Teachers will need to prioritize these areas of learning in new and creative ways. 
  • Unreliable Data – AL may not always provide accurate or reliable information, as it is trained on large data sets and can be influenced by biases present in those data sets. 
  • Privacy issues – AI systems collect and process vast amounts of data which have the potential to track and identify individuals which could put students at risk of exploitation or abuse.  
  • Loss of human interaction – As students and schools embrace AI technologies it is imperative that a priority be placed on human interaction. While the personalized learning capabilities that AI presents will enhance learning, there is no more important aspect to learning than the interaction that students have with teachers and other students. 


What can schools do to address AI?

AI is here to stay and will continue to progress at lightening speed. Schools need to continually assess how they can best use AI to improve learning and prevent harm to their students in the following ways. 

  • Design cheating-proof assignments – Creating assessments that are difficult to cheat on is one the most effective ways to prevent AI-assisted cheating. This can be done by using open-ended questions that require critical thinking, creativity and allowing for personalized answers. 
  • Integrity policies – Schools should teach students about academic integrity, have the tools in place to identify cheating, and enforce strict consequences.  
  • Plagiarism detection tools – Schools should continue to use and other plagiarism detection tools. They can often identify when AI was used for writing assignments.  
  • In-class assignments – Teachers should consider incorporating handwritten, in-class assignments to ensure students are not overly reliant on AI and other technologies.  
  • Prioritize critical thinking skills – Memorization of rote facts is less important than it once was. Teaching should emphasize critical thinking and creativity so that students are able to connect the dots.  
  • Teach students to be critical of AI -Just because a machine is making decisions doesn’t mean that those decisions are always correct. It’s important that students learn to be critical of the decisions made by AI systems, and to question their accuracy and reliability. Teachers can encourage critical thinking by asking students to analyze AI-generated results, identify potential biases, and compare them to human-generated results. This will help students develop their own critical thinking skills and prevent them from blindly accepting the decisions made by AI. 
  • Teach students to use AI as a tool – Think of AI like a calculator, spell check, or Grammarly. In early elementary school it’s important that students learn basic math, spelling and grammar but by upper levels they are encouraged to use these tools and they need to know how to use them. Students should learn how to use AI to best enhance their learning experience. 
  • AI Transparency in the classroom – It’s essential that students understand how the technology works, and how it can be used to help them. Teachers should take the time to explain how AI algorithms work, what data is being used to train them, and how the technology is being used to evaluate student work. This will help students understand the limitations of AI and avoid being overly reliant on it. 
  • Ensure Privacy – AI technology often involves collecting and analyzing large amounts of data, which can be a cause for concern when it comes to student privacy. Parents and teachers should ensure that any data collected by AI systems is kept secure and used only for educational purposes. They should also be transparent with students about the data being collected and how it’s being used. Additionally, schools and educators should ensure that AI technology complies with relevant data protection laws and regulations. 

AI technology has the potential to revolutionize education, but it’s important that parents and teachers take a cautious approach to its implementation. By using AI as a tool to enhance learning, ensuring transparency and critical thinking, and protecting student privacy, educators can create a safe and effective learning environment that fosters independent thinking and critical analysis. 

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