Is AI the Solution to School Challenges?
It’s no secret that American schools are struggling. Today’s K12 teachers face overwhelming workloads, large class sizes, and not enough staff support. And students are having a hard time, too. The COVID-19 pandemic has had negative effects on student success and wellbeing across the board.
With these impacts on academic development, it has become harder to set students up for success in the long-term. University professors report that their recent freshmen classes have been completely unfamiliar with basic concepts they need in order to thrive in a college setting. This isn’t the educational experience we want for our communities.
Instead, we envision everyone, of all backgrounds, receiving an excellent education, where they’re shepherded through the learning process with personal care and attention. This type of learning experience would lead to improved grades and academic success across the board, with students succeeding in all K12 fundamentals.
And of course, we want our teachers to have reasonable workloads, so that they can bring their best, healthiest selves to the classroom. If their energy is protected and they don't feel exhausted, the quality of their teaching will also improve.
Modern tech advancements have given us innovative solutions for things like communication and transportation. Is there anything we can do to improve our learning environments? How can we make the ideal educational experience a reality? Artificial intelligence is a possible solution.
Learning & Teaching Better with AI
While digital learning can be viewed as a downgrade from in-person learning, modern technology can complement and improve in-person teaching. According to IBM, Artificial intelligence (AI) is a type of technology that can “mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.” Given the increase in remote learning and digital education tools, schools may be more open to using AI now than they were before the pandemic. How can AI help us learn and teach better?
As a learning companion, one of AI’s greatest strengths is that it can customize the educational experience to each individual student. Digital tools like Adaptive Learning observe students’ unique struggles and learning patterns. Then it adapts to create custom, targeted teaching strategies for each student.
For students who need greater support, AI can generate “smart content” like flash cards, quizzes, and practice tests. AI can also serve as a personal tutor that dialogues with students.
AI can also assist with teaching workloads. To help teachers get back to the most important aspect of their job—providing personal guidance for students’ learning journeys—AI programs can automate the more mundane, routine aspects of teachers' jobs.
In a study published by The Telegraph, educators say that only 43% of their time is spent teaching, while more than 30% is used for things like administrative work and lesson planning. AI can free up this time for teachers, so they can focus on the most important functions of their work.
Ai could perform tasks like providing auto-responses to students' common questions, or grading test portions that are multiple-choice or Y/N based. AI could also provide feedback for teachers based on observations of student performance. For example, if most students struggle with the same type of question, AI could tell the instructor to revisit the lesson and brainstorm new ways to teach it.
The modern advances of AI also make educational content more broadly accessible. For example, by auto-generating translated captions, a lecture originally presented in English could be made available to interested people who speak other languages.
The Limitations of AI in the Classroom
If there are so many potential benefits of using AI for education, are there any drawbacks? The biggest potential concern is that schools may try to use AI to replace teachers altogether. But this would definitely backfire, since AI cannot replace a human’s personal attention and care for students. We still require human teachers!
AI is also fallible. There are times when it slips up or makes mistakes. AI doesn’t have common sense, and sometimes it lacks the necessary context to make a good decision. So in order to use AI the best way in a classroom, it should support educators, instead of replacing educators altogether.
Innovations in technology can improve all aspects of our lives, if done well. Artificial intelligence has the potential to provide custom tutoring exercises to students, make teachers’ workloads more reasonable, and make learning materials accessible to broader audiences. A better school experience for everyone!
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