The integration of AI in education is a polarizing topic with strong arguments on both sides. Parents and teachers can be skeptical of this “science fiction solution.” Are AI-powered tools the best option for students? In what contexts is it most useful to integrate AI for elementary students? How can modern technology help solve the challenges facing our schools?
They’re tough questions and they’ve been brought to light in an unexpected way. The COVID-19 pandemic’s virtual learning initiatives coincided with a whole new tech revolution: Artificial Intelligence met the public market. Suddenly, AI wasn’t a tool of the elite; it was for everybody, and the implications are astounding.
One of the most interesting ways we’re using AI technology is to support our public school systems.
Schools continue to recover from the devastating impacts on learning that occurred as a result of the pandemic. The March 2020 shift to remote classrooms raised new concerns about the obstacles students and teachers face every day.
Across the board, American K12 teachers and students are experiencing unprecedented workloads, class sizes, and lack of staff support. The pandemic’s only part of it.
According to guidelines set by UNESCO, funding for public schools in the US sits 3.4% below the international benchmark. While global standards dictate that 15% of public spending should be distributed to schools, the US allocates just 11.6%.
This lack of public funding hits lower-income public schools the hardest. We’re working with comparatively few resources while trying to ensure the highest quality education possible. We want to help our students secure future success in a changing landscape. And to do so, school districts have to support teachers and prevent burnout—all on a limited budget.
It’s clear that there’s a significant disconnect between learning needs and the realities of the public school system. That’s where AI comes in.
Simply put, AI is useful as a complement to in-person and virtual teaching. As it’s a technology designed to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of a human mind, the possibilities are endless. Combined with the tech integration used to facilitate virtual classroom setups, AI is a natural extension to an existing solution.
As a learning companion, one of AI’s greatest strengths is that it can customize the educational experience for individual students. Digital tools like Adaptive Learning observe students’ unique struggles and learning patterns. The tool works to create tailored pathways to help them achieve comprehension and accomplish their goals.
For students who need more support, AI can generate “smart content” like flash cards, quizzes, and practice tests. AI-based tutoring is also revolutionary: now, every student in the world can have a personalized tutor. As AI becomes more sophisticated, its ability to engage in complex dialogue encourages students to find their own (correct) answers.
This does open an area for growth: helping students focus. It’s a huge hurdle for excited learners: how do you stay on task when your mind’s full of ideas? An AI tutor should be able to recognize when a student’s losing sight of their goal and help them redirect. For this to be effective, the AI would need to recognize and interpret an individual’s emotional signals through text. Modern AI hasn’t yet been able to achieve that level of subtlety and psychological comprehension, but may be able to down the road.
AI can provide more than straight studying: one of its most useful applications is as a supplementary counselor. Guidance counselors are as overwhelmed as teachers, with hundreds of students on their rosters. It’s unreasonable to expect that every student has access to them whenever they have a question or concern.
AI can help bridge that gap, too. Talking through a problem isn’t only useful for helping a stuck student solve an equation. It’s also a great way to help students think about their future. AI conversation allows them to bounce ideas off a neutral source without judgment.
AI can help students identify personal and educational goals as well as the steps to achieve them. It doesn’t provide answers; it provides possibilities: launching points for discussion. Through a meaningful, personalized dialogue, a student can prepare for an in-person meeting with their counselor.
This saves time and resources. After the student decides on their objective, counselors are free to help them achieve their desired outcome. Everyone is fully supported by a hybrid network: AI, human counselors, and students working together.
In a study published by The Telegraph, educators say that only 43% of their time is spent teaching. In contrast, 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 easily performs tasks like providing auto-responses to students' common questions. It’s useful in grading test portions that are multiple-choice or Y/N based. AI can create personalized activities for the classroom, suggest projects and themes tailored to students’ interests, and organize lesson plans.
AI can also provide feedback for teachers based on student performance. For example, it sometimes happens that several students in a class struggle with the same kind of question. AI can suggest that the instructor revisit the lesson and help them brainstorm new ways to teach the material.
When faced with any new technology, it’s natural to be hesitant. This is especially true when we’re considering integrating that tech into our children’s lives and schooling. However, the disadvantages of AI in education must be balanced with the potential for growth, learning, and innovation.
One of the most common fears associated with AI is that schools may try to use it to replace teachers altogether. However, AI is fallible. There are times when it slips up or makes mistakes. AI isn’t sentient and can’t provide personal care or attention to students. It doesn’t have common sense and sometimes it lacks the necessary context to make a good decision. In order to properly use AI in a classroom, it must support educators instead of replacing them.
The time has never been better for software developers to bring their expertise to improving student outcomes. AI technology has the potential to impact education in ways we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.
In fact, McGraw Hill was able to grow their engineering team by 13% in under a year while saving up to 50% in hiring costs, and you can too. Book a call to get started today!]
The education industry is brimming with potential for new projects and startups specializing in machine learning. How will you contribute to helping students succeed?
Donna Kmetz is a business writer with a background in Healthcare, Education, and Linguistics. Her work has included SEO optimization for diverse industries, specialty course creation, and RFP/grant development. Donna is currently the Staff Writer at Jobsity, where she creates compelling content to educate readers and drive the company brand.