Artificial intelligence, or AI, is becoming a bigger part of everyday tasks in K-12 education. Lately, the education community has been buzzing about the rise of ChatGPT, an AI tool that can mimic human writing.
Much of the conversation about ChatGPT has been centered around how students might use it to cheat. As a precaution, some districts, including New York City schools, have banned the tool on district-provided devices.
But some education experts say AI tools, such as ChatGPT, can also be used to change the nature of teachers’ jobs and to create better outcomes for education. For example, AI could help teachers engage kids in playful activities to develop creative and cognitive skills, according to panelists at a SXSW EDU session on March 6.
The “traditional testing paradigm” might not always work well for some students, especially younger learners, said Elizabeth Mokyr Horner, the senior program officer in early learning for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
If a teacher has a multiple-choice question for students, younger learners might not respond to it directly, Mokyr Horner said.
“They may respond to your question with another question, or with a totally unrelated response, and that’s actually developmentally appropriate,” she said. What AI can do is allow teachers to “capture a wider variety of skills while making the experience much more positive” for students.
Using AI-powered tools can also “contextualize” students’ learning history and make learning more personalized, said Chris Purifoy, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Learning Economy Foundation.
AI tools can help students figure out what their “learning superpower” is, or how they best learn, and then educators can use that data to facilitate students’ learning, Purifoy said.
AI assessment tools can also be fun, by focusing on what students are good at and asking them to demonstrate their learning through those skills, said Bo Stjerne Thomsen, chair of Learning through Play for the LEGO Foundation.
AI tools have lots of room for improvement
But AI tools still need a lot of work, according to the panelists.
The data collected by AI tools need to be private and owned by the students, Purifoy said. The tech industry and schools need to ensure that these tools are safe and not exploitative.
In addition, there also needs to be more partnerships with the communities that are using these tools. AI tools need to be “co-designed” by the children, families, and educators who will use the data gathered by the tools, Mokyr Horner said.
More teacher training on AI and how to equip the data they receive from AI tools is also needed, she added.