3 ways teachers can use artificial intelligence

3 ways teachers can use artificial intelligence

It is often difficult to pinpoint major developments in technology at a specific time or place, but this is not the case for artificial intelligence. Although AI has been around in various forms for decades — including Microsoft’s Clippy feature and Google’s autofill feature for online searches — its recent development has made it impossible to ignore.

“When we talk about AI today, what we’re really talking about is post-November. October 30: Generative AI launches, with ChatGPT first out of the gate,” says Mark Schneider, director of the Education Ministry’s Institute for Education Sciences today, what we’re really talking about.

After the rollout, K-12 leaders and IT experts found themselves divided over how to use generative AI and whether or not it should be allowed. Some teachers have encouraged the use of ChatGPT in the classroom, while others have tried to ban the technology.

Today, about 33% of K-12 teachers, staff and administrators use generative AI in classroom assignments, but only 15% feel prepared to oversee its use in the classroom, according to an Imagine Learning report.

Learn more: Generative AI is getting dangerously smart in education.

However, some organizations are working to make technology more accessible and appropriate for K-12 education. Merlyn Mind released its first large language model for education this summer. Schneider points out that school districts cannot afford to miss this popular technology.

“Is it even possible to say no? “How can you say, no, you can’t put ChatGPT on your school’s Chromebook, but when students go home, it’s there at home,” he says.

He adds that to avoid widening the digital divide in students’ access to AI, schools must embrace this technology. He shared three methods that can be used to improve teaching and learning.

1. Personalize teaching with AI for affordable tutoring

One-on-one tutoring is one of the best ways teachers can use generative AI tools in their classrooms, Schneider says.

“I want to be clear, this is not individual education, this is individual education,” he says. “Individualized instruction is feedback, tutoring, and mentoring, all tailored to the needs of that individual student.”

Using AI for one-to-one instruction can help students learn in ways that work best for them and at their own pace while still working with others in the classroom. It can also help reduce the cost of private lessons. “We know that tutoring works,” Schneider says. “We also know that it works because it’s individual. But right now, it’s mostly human, and it’s very expensive.

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Schneider adds that tutoring and other uses of generative AI in the classroom still require supplemental human supervision and guidance.

“There will always be humans in the loop,” he says. “We cannot give up our human control, intervention and input.”

2. Providing better accommodation for students with disabilities

Among teachers, staff and administrators surveyed in the Imagine Learning report, 90 percent said generative AI would make education easier. One way this may manifest is through AI screenings for students with disabilities.

“Most of the time, special needs screening is not in-depth enough,” Schneider says. “For example, we don’t have enough speech-language pathologists to evaluate everyone in-depth.”

Generative AI tools can solve this problem, helping to identify students who need additional support or accommodations through comprehensive screening. “Then, based on that information and always collaboratively with teachers, we develop a treatment plan based on the best evidence,” Schneider says.

90%

Percentage of teachers, staff, and administrators who believe AI will make education easier

Source: Imagine Learning, “2023 Educator AI Report: Perceptions, Practices, and Potential,” September 2023

3. Automate assignments and lesson plans to reduce teachers’ workloads

As schools continue to look for ways to alleviate staffing shortages, they may find help from generative AI. Teachers are increasingly turning to this technology to automate manual and repetitive tasks.

Earlier this year, 37% of teachers planning to leave their jobs cited unsustainable job expectations as the reason in a McKinsey survey. Meanwhile, the Imagine Learning report found that 44% of teachers surveyed believed that using generative AI made their jobs easier.

“Teachers have been using online resources for lesson plans for a long time,” Schneider says. “Because AI is built on what one finds online, teachers can transform it into something that works for them and their students without having to start from square zero.”

Deep dive: Create an AI policy in your K-12 schools.

He notes that generative AI can also help teachers manage repetitive tasks, such as filling out forms or finding evidence-based materials to teach online.

“We’re approaching our investments in AI in classrooms to make teachers’ lives easier and free them up to do the things only teachers can do — be human.”

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