Years ago, I took a Statistics course. This was required as part of my major. It was difficult, yet at the same time, I found it engaging. I was exposed to formulas, that were grand puzzles to figure out. As much as I struggled, I was able to pass the class. Years later my children took statistics courses at their colleges. They had these incredible calculators that did many of the formulas for them. At first, I wondered if that was cheating.
But the more I thought about it, an idea emerged. What if writers years ago thought the dictionary was cheating, or using typewriters kept students from learning penmanship, or back when pencils were introduced was there a concern that people would remember less because they could now write everything down. Were they wrong with any of these ideas?
Technology will continue.
So, I found myself wondering how we as educators can continue to embrace and use these powerful tools in our classrooms.
Artificial intelligence has been around for quite some time. One of the early examples of AI in education was the development of ELIZA, a computer program designed to simulate conversation with a human, which was used as a tool for teaching natural language processing. The first AI-based educational software specifically designed for students was most likely “Computer Curriculum Corporation.” They were founded in the late 1960s and developed many of the first AI-based educational software programs.
In 1986 I walked into our college student store and was introduced to an Apple computer. This tool changed my academic career. I could spell check. My papers went from barely passing to passing. I have dyslexia which makes it difficult to check my work because it looks correct. Spell check and now Grammar check did not set me up for failure or cause me to cheat. Instead, it gave me a tool to write. I still had to come up with a depth of insight to put down on my paper. The question I pondered was ‘am I cheating?’ No, I was privileged to have the ability to get a computer. A professor could not read my work, which made it difficult to see my depth of insight. The course was on the depth of insight produced, not a spelling course. Yet I was getting penalized for the spelling. The miracle in my life of spell check changed the trajectory of my education and future. Crazy for me to think about now, but it’s true.
So, let’s talk about what I found. The cons of AI, the fears, first:
- Cheating. Students will want to have AI write their papers for them. There is no doubt that this will happen. Canva Magic Write is not available for educational accounts. I’m guessing for this purpose. Students have always been quick to find an easier way to get a job done. Cliff notes, calculators, pay for writers to write their papers, and more.
- Students will trust that AI is the answer. AI lacks a depth of insight. Answers are simple and not always correct. Critical thinking will not be present if a student tries to rely on AI. This will be a disadvantage for students who need to grow their writing and depth of insight skills.
- This takes us to what I feel is the biggest con: preventing students from developing their critical thinking skills.
- Its information can be outdated. It only knows what it has been taught.
Now let’s talk about the pros, of the exciting new world of AI:
- AI can be an incredible learning tool. Great for students who need a tutor or assistance. All you need is the internet. It reminds me of the early days with Google. Not all of the questions were answered correctly or made sense, but it was a powerful tool even then for information. The longer AI is around, the more correct the information will become.
- AI can provide practice problems to students. Students who want to grow in their ability can ask to have practice problems created.
- Give personalized assistance to students who are struggling. Use it to ask for feedback on your project or paper.
- Help with writer’s block. Everyone, every now and then, needs prompts to assist with getting the essay, email, or project going.
- The biggest pro I see is teaching students to work with the new technology will prepare them for the workforce.
Using new technology in the classroom is important. Yet, it takes time to understand the nuances and tricks around the technology. AI is with us. Let’s pull together and find ways for it to enhance our students. We are smarter than machines. We can use this tool in the classroom to challenge students to think deeper, critically, and thoughtfully.
AI can be used to revolutionize education if we continue to challenge students, draw out of them insight, and continue to have classroom discussions. The more Socratic seminars, debates, and classroom discussions are had, the better off students will be. Just giving writing assignments is not what helps students become better writers. Discussion, engagement with the student, and time spent together is the most effective way to grow our student’s minds.
And remember, always teach digital citizenship. Teach students how to use technology. Teach students how to live ethically and develop their own lifelong learning excitement.