Classroom Technology

How Schools Can Harness AI for Learning: Advice From the Khan Academy

By Lauraine Langreo — May 25, 2023 3 min read
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The emergence of ChatGPT, an artificial-intelligence-powered tool that mimics human writing, and concerns about students using it to cheat, has put AI front and center in schools over the past few months.

K-12 educators across the United States are pondering whether to use ChatGPT and other AI-powered technologies in the classroom and what those implementations should look like. At the same time, advancements in AI are happening so quickly that educators are struggling to keep up.

So what steps should schools take to use AI-powered technologies to improve instruction? Here’s a summary of what Kristen DiCerbo, the chief learning officer for the nonprofit Khan Academy, told school and district leaders during the Education Week Leadership Symposium this month. (Video of her full presentation is available here.)

‘What is the learning problem that we need to solve?’

Whenever there’s any new technology, school and district leaders should always start with this question: “What is the learning problem that we need to solve?” DiCerbo said.

There is a lot of research that shows how students learn best, she said. Students need to be actively engaged in the material they’re learning; they learn best when they’re working on material that’s at the edge of what they can do when provided with a little support; they need immediate feedback on their responses to new material being learned; and they need to see the value in what they’re learning.

When looking at new technologies, educators need to know how a new tool can help them teach in a way that maximizes student learning, DiCerbo said.

With that in mind, artificial intelligence “has a lot of promise,” she said. These tools, if implemented well, can help teachers engage students, give immediate feedback and support, and provide more individualized interactions with students, she said.

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How can schools incorporate AI?

Instead of banning ChatGPT and other AI technologies, educators can guard against cheating by creating assignments that are impossible to complete with these tools or have students complete assignments in class under the supervision of a teacher, DiCerbo said.

Teachers can also allow the use of ChatGPT but require students to acknowledge and document how it was used, she said. For example, a student who used ChatGPT to get feedback on a draft essay can explain which of the tool’s suggestions she agreed with and which ones she didn’t. By using this approach, students can learn how to use the tool as a partner, instead of having it do all the work for them. It could also build on students’ ability to evaluate and analyze writing, DiCerbo said.

Schools need to update their academic integrity policies

One of the main qualms some educators have about ChatGPT and other AI-technologies is that they could make it easier for students to cheat on assignments. It’s time for school and district leaders to talk to students, parents, and teachers about how the use of AI should be included in academic integrity policies, DiCerbo said.

“The first thing is you need to have a clear policy,” she said. “You need to set out what you expect before you can hold anyone to those expectations.”

After setting clear policies, educators need to engage students in an open discussion about those expectations so they’re aware of what they can and cannot do with AI tools, she said.

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Don’t forget about data privacy

Before implementing any AI technology, education leaders should think about how they can keep the data from their students and staff safe while using the tool. DiCerbo suggested asking these questions:

  • What measures have been undertaken to understand the risks related to student use of AI and what steps have been taken to mitigate these risks?
  • What happens to the records of interactions students and teachers have with the AI-powered tool?
  • How can adults understand the interactions students are having with the tool?

More From Education Week's Leadership Symposium

On May 10-12, 2023, Education Week brought educators and experts together for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration.
Below is a selection of sessions from the symposium that are available on-demand. Access the entire event here.
Featured Speaker: A Leader’s Agenda: Cultivating Joy, Resilience, and Learning at School
Featured Speaker: ChatGPT, A.I., and How Schools Should Be Thinking About Digital Learning
Panel Discussion: Successful Responses to the Student Mental Health Crisis
Panel Discussion: Getting New Teachers Off to a Strong Start
Leadership Interview: Best Practices for Supporting Students in Gifted and Special Education
Leadership Interview: How to Build a Bench of Diverse Educator Talent

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