Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a more prominent component of several global industries, including education. But in some industries, it has reached a point where workers are now concerned about whether or not their jobs are safe.
However, AI is unlikely to replace workers in the education industry due to its inability to recreate the traditional educational experience at the same scale as human teachers. Still, AI technology has shown great potential to change teachers’ roles in the classroom for the better by reducing their workload and making their instruction more efficient.
The potential applications of AI in the classroom
One of the main benefits of artificial intelligence in the classroom is its ability to offer more personalized instruction. With class sizes continuing to grow, teachers often have less time to spend with students one-on-one. This can result in students who need additional help instead falling behind their peers, or students with a better grasp of the material becoming disengaged. Integrating certain AI-based personalized learning activities for students could significantly affect information retention and graduation rates.
Artificial intelligence has also shown the potential to be used in reviews and assessments where, in a traditional educational setting, the teacher’s input is often limited. This level of personalized engagement enables AI-based review and assessment to improve student retention and prevents valuable review time from being wasted on covering topics they are already comfortable with.
Beyond the educational process, teachers have seen the potential applications of AI to help manage the more menial tasks of their jobs. While grading, scheduling, lesson planning, and other duties are necessary for the proper functioning of a classroom, these take away from a teacher’s primary purpose: to educate. With these responsibilities handled by artificial intelligence, teachers can spend more time focusing on the actual content.
Critics of using artificial intelligence in the classroom believe that AI will replace teachers, but this is simply not the case. AI technology has not developed — and likely never will — to a point where it can be a perfect replacement for human teachers. No matter how much data an AI processes about a student’s performance and preferences, nothing will make up for the ability of a human teacher to visually gauge and understand their students’ reactions and engage with their students on an emotional level.
Indeed, AI will best be applied as a supplemental tool to make teachers’ jobs easier. Some have asked whether artificial intelligence in the classroom is necessary. Yet, given that the use of AI as a supplemental tool has the clear benefit of improving student learning and teacher productivity, it is worth considering the use of this technology in a classroom setting.
Additionally, the purpose of education is to prepare students to experience the real world, and AI is becoming a dominant part of several industries. If we want students to be ready for success in their careers, we must prepare them to coexist with artificial intelligence in a meaningful, productive, and appropriate way. Otherwise, they will be unprepared to do so when they enter the workforce.
Overcoming the obstacles to embracing AI in the classroom
However, several barriers have hindered the adoption of artificial intelligence in the classroom, such as the high cost of entry. The need to purchase expensive hardware and software to kickstart an AI-powered classroom can cost thousands of dollars or a significant amount of the time of teachers and administrators to make sure such software is applicable, which is impractical for educational systems that are already overworked and underfunded.
Moreover, much of the AI technology currently available to educators was not initially designed for schools but for the corporate sector. As such, many educational institutions are hesitant to make such a significant upfront investment of time and/or money in technology that may or may not serve their needs.
Educators must remember that adopting any new technology in the classroom comes with growing pains. We’ve seen it with everything from smart boards to dedicated laptops for students — tools that are now as ubiquitous as the internet. Given the limited resources available within the education system, schools are understandably hesitant to invest in technology that does not boast consistently tangible, verifiable benefits for students and teachers.
Protecting teachers using AI in the classroom
The job of teacher’s unions is to advocate for teachers’ rights, meaning that unions must advocate for the rights of teachers to implement these tools properly in the classroom. Unions could play a pivotal role in informing the public and school officials about the proper use of AI in the classroom so that it may be integrated seamlessly into educational operations. Working hand-in-hand with unions will ensure that schools implement this technology to benefit both teachers and students.
However, if teachers and administrators are trained to properly integrate AI technology into their classrooms and schools, the transition to AI-supported education can be nearly seamless. For teachers to effectively use artificial intelligence as a classroom aid, they must understand not only how it works but also the shortcomings that must be addressed to prevent students’ learning from being affected.
For example, one of the main consequences that could result from the use of AI in classrooms is the creation of learning gaps. An artificial intelligence tool will only provide students with the answer — not the process by which that answer was found. It then becomes the teacher’s responsibility to bridge the gap between the information provided by the AI and what the student needs to know. Some have argued that this creates just as much work for the teacher as they effectively have to go behind the AI to “clean up” the educational process after it. Still, others say that the increased efficiency AI provides to the educational process is substantial.
Some are understandably concerned that implementing AI in the classroom could unintentionally result in the loss of humanity from the educational process. But those fears will not come to fruition should artificial intelligence be applied as it is intended: as a supplemental tool to help make their jobs easier. Like any other technology that has made the classroom experience better for students and teachers, AI can be a powerful tool as it continues to develop.
About the author
Aaron Rafferty is the CEO of StandardDAO and Co-Founder of BattlePACs, a subsidiary of Standard DAO. Aaron unlocks value for individuals, institutions, and companies leveraging technologies like Blockchain, AI, cloud, social media. Aaron's main focus is to build products that enhance engagement and productivity for college students.