AI in Education: A New Era of Learning and Teaching
For the first time in human history, we share the world with a new and advanced form of intelligence. It’s as if we’re living alongside an alien entity, one that could soon surpass our own cognitive abilities. We’re not only competing with other humans, but also Artificial Intelligence (AI). We need to take this seriously and prepare.
With AI predicted to take over an increasing number of jobs, professionals across industries are feeling the pressure. Tools like Midjourney can produce intricate graphics much faster than a human graphic designer. ChatGPT’s writing is improving all the time, and this is only set to continue – and jeopardise those who rely on writing for a living. Many call centres are already using AI chatbots. This rapid evolution prompts us to question the future of such professions.
Education, a sector intrinsically linked to intelligence and information, stands at the forefront of this AI revolution. The implications of AI on education are profound, and disregarding it as hype would be the worst thing we can do right now.
Traditional Education in the Face of AI
AI has already started to make us understand that teachers need to teach students a different set of skills. The skills taught to students for the past 250 years are becoming irrelevant, as AI can execute many of these tasks more efficiently and at a lower cost. Why should we continue teaching students skills that AI can perform better? AI started to manage skills like rote memorisation and lower-order thinking more efficiently and effectively.
What should we teach our students? While there is not yet a definitive answer, it is evident that we should focus on skills that AI can’t replicate. We need to emphasise the qualities that make us profoundly human: compassion, resilience, collaboration, and other emotional, right-brained, and limbic system attributes. As AI takes over more tasks, it should operate largely in the background, supporting rather than replacing human endeavours.
The Need for AI in Schools
We need AI to help us solve so many educational challenges. One of the most pressing is the shortage of teachers. A recent report shows that, in the US alone, there are at least 36,000 vacant teaching positions, along with at least 163,000 positions being held by underqualified teachers. As the demand for teachers continues to outpace supply, many schools struggle to maintain a consistent, high-quality teaching force. This shortage is further exacerbated by a systematic failure to modernise classrooms. Despite rapid technological advancements and societal changes, many educational environments remain stagnant, sticking to outdated methods and infrastructures.
This static nature of the traditional classroom often leads to boredom and disengagement among students. The conventional “teacher-centric” style, where information flows largely from the teacher to the student, is increasingly obsolete. This monotony isn’t just affecting students; teachers, too, are feeling the strain, leading to higher quit rates. The need for personalised learning has never been more urgent. By tailoring educational experiences to individual student’s needs and preferences, we can reignite their passion for learning and reduce the attrition rate among teachers.
Furthermore, as the nature of jobs evolves, there is a growing realisation that teachers need to transition from being subject experts to facilitators. Students now have so many resources at their fingertips, from search engines to online courses on any imaginable topic. The real value lies not in accessing information but in synthesising it, problem-solving, and managing projects. Essentially, the emphasis should shift from information gathering to execution. The teacher’s role, therefore, changes from the person at the front of the classroom delivering the learning to the expert guide and curator supporting students in becoming autonomous in their learning journey.
Benefits of AI in Education
The potential of AI in education is vast, offering transformative solutions for both teachers and learners. For teachers, one of the most significant advantages of AI is the time-saving aspect. With the assistance of AI, tasks that once took days or even weeks can now be accomplished in a fraction of the time. Teachers can efficiently craft lesson plans, develop educational materials, formulate questions, and design assessments faster than ever.
With an impressive background in both education and AI, Darren Coxon, Senior Consultant at CLC & Partners, has consistently championed the integration of advanced technologies in pedagogical practices and helped numerous established institutions integrate AI into their curriculum. As a testament to AI’s efficiency, Coxon managed to conceptualise an entirely new school, encompassing elements like curriculum, staffing, building design, technological integration, mission, vision, and values, all within just 90 minutes in one of his presentations. This was previously unthinkable without the aid of advanced AI tools.
For students, the benefits of AI are equally profound. They can avail themselves of personalised AI support tailored to their unique learning profiles. This new AI companion, designed to understand each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests, offers more than just information. It guides students through their unique learning journey, providing insights and assistance tailored to their individual needs. Ever-present and always attentive, it ensures that students not only absorb information but also deeply understand and apply it in various real-world contexts, making learning a truly enriching experience.
The Evolving Role of Teachers with AI
Historically, when we think of a classroom setting, we picture a teacher standing at the front and delivering information to the students. This model, where the teacher possesses the knowledge and the students are there to receive it, hasn’t changed at all for over 250 years.
This didactic approach, rooted in the premise of “I have the knowledge, and you need it,” has been the cornerstone of education. Students would sit silently, take notes, read their books, and then be tested on what they have learned. However, this model has been obsolete for a while now and is getting clearer.
The way we deliver education is changing, and it has to change. According to Darren Coxon, the days of individual lessons in English, Maths, History, and Biology, each taught by a different teacher, might soon be behind us. AI is already capable of delivering much of this information, and its efficiency is only set to improve.
The shift is towards moving away from this subject-based approach. Instead, the focus will be on equipping students with the tools to solve real-world problems. The traditional “fan” model of teaching, where one teacher imparts knowledge to many students, is evolving into a “hub and spoke” model. Here, the student is at the centre, drawing insights and knowledge from various nodes, or sources, including their teachers, peers, AI, industry experts, and more. It will become a collaborative approach, including project-based learning and solving real-world problems.
The reason for this shift is clear: teachers possess a unique set of skills that AI simply cannot replicate. While students will undoubtedly use AI to help brainstorm, structure their thoughts, prepare presentations, and draft plans, they must remain the primary drivers of their learning journey. This approach not only addresses concerns about cheating but also ensures that students are the architects of the process, applying both critical and creative thinking to their projects.
Redefining Assessment in the Age of AI
We don’t need to kid ourselves. Today’s younger generations are tech-savvy, and it is no surprise that many students are using AI tools like ChatGPT to assist with their essays. This evolving dynamic forces us to reconsider the nature of assessment in education.
The current educational system, particularly at the secondary level, is heavily influenced by university requirements. Schools often find themselves in a position where they must prepare students to excel in end-of-school exams because universities rely heavily on these scores for admissions decisions. This dynamic places undue emphasis on a single exam, which may not holistically represent a student’s abilities, especially in a project-based learning environment.
As we move away from traditional teaching methods, universities must evolve. The challenge lies in determining how to assess whether students are adequately prepared for higher education and future careers. The answer lies in continuous assessment through portfolios.
Portfolios offer a comprehensive view of a student’s journey, showcasing not only the end result but also the process, the challenges faced, and the solutions devised. By reviewing a student’s portfolio, teachers can gain a deeper understanding of the student’s critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and collaboration skills.
Moreover, portfolios allow students to reflect on their learning experiences, understand their growth areas, and demonstrate their capabilities more authentically than traditional exams. It is time for assessment methods to evolve as well, ensuring they capture the depth of a student’s learning experience.
Universities Are at Risk
The concept of higher education is facing challenges. Many believe that a formal university education isn’t the only path to learning anymore. Today, an 18-year-old can step into the workforce and, with the aid of an AI mentor or tutor, embark on a journey of work-based learning. This personalised approach, fine-tuned to the individual’s needs, can, within a span of 2-3 years, equip them with a degree’s worth of knowledge or skills that employers can quickly recognise and value.
Moreover, the primary role of schools in providing childcare while parents work puts universities in a more vulnerable position than schools. While certain fields like medicine might remain insulated for the time being, most university degrees are at risk. The prestige of a university is becoming less of a concern for employers unless it is among the top few. Often, the value of these top institutions isn’t just in the education they provide but also in the networks they offer.
Using AI over the traditional university model offers a more targeted and tailored approach. With AI, students can bypass courses that don’t add value or are taken just for easy credits. Instead, they can focus on gaining real-world experience. Ideally, they can start working in their chosen fields earlier, building their resumes while their peers still attend university lectures.
The high costs of university education make the situation even worse. Compared to the potential of AI-driven education, the traditional university model, with its high fees, started to seem less appealing to students.
The Path Forward for Universities
Universities must recognise this shift and even embrace it. Integrating AI might not just be a strategic move but a necessary one for survival. The education landscape is set for a significant revision in terms of how we structure our education system, assessment methods, and even the physical infrastructure of educational institutions.
In essence, the traditional university model is at a crossroads. To remain relevant and continue to serve future generations, universities must evolve, integrating modern tools and approaches into their core structure.
The Roadmap for Teachers to Embrace AI
“This is the single biggest opportunity teachers have and will ever have in their careers.” – Darren Coxon.
For teachers, AI isn’t just a tool; it is an opportunity. Many teachers have already experienced significant career advancements simply by embracing AI. By grasping the potential of AI, showcasing their expertise, and implementing it in their classrooms, they have quickly gained traction, both within their institutions and online. This rapid rise in influence and recognition has opened doors to opportunities in larger, more prestigious institutions.
For those new to AI, the journey begins with exploration and understanding:
Play with It: Initially, teachers should approach AI with a sense of curiosity. It’s essential to strike a balance between scepticism and blind faith. Play with the technology, test its limits, and understand its capabilities.
Start Small: Platforms like ChatGPT offer free accounts that allow users to send prompts and interact with the system. Familiarising oneself with the interface and the nature of AI-generated content is one of the first steps.
Expand Horizons: Once comfortable with basic AI platforms, teachers can delve deeper by experimenting with advanced models like GPT-4 and Claude. This exploration will provide insights into the diverse capabilities of different AI systems.
Identify Personal Use Cases: After gaining a solid understanding, teachers should brainstorm potential use cases to alleviate their workload and save time. Whether it is automating administrative tasks, crafting lesson plans, or generating content, the possibilities are endless.
Integrate into the Classroom: The final step is the practical application of AI in the classroom. This doesn’t mean replacing human interaction but enhancing it. AI can handle repetitive tasks, allowing teachers to focus on fostering creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence in their students.
Integrating AI in education isn’t a distant future; it is happening now. Teachers who embrace this change, understand its nuances, and implement it wisely will not only enhance their teaching methods but also position themselves as pioneers in a rapidly evolving landscape. Surprisingly, the momentum is being generated by classroom teachers and academic leads, such as deputy heads responsible for academics. This grassroots movement is both refreshing and promising.
Can AI Bridge the Quality Gap in Education?
The promise of AI in education isn’t just about enhancing the learning experience for students in developed countries. It holds the potential to bridge the educational quality gap that exists between developed and developing countries. But how feasible is this vision, and what challenges lie ahead?
Democratising Education with AI
AI, in its essence, is a democratising force. Unlike traditional educational resources, which can vary in quality and accessibility, AI offers a consistent experience. Whether a student is in New York or Nairobi, the AI model they access is the same. This uniformity ensures that every student, regardless of their geographical location, has the potential to receive the same high-quality guidance and information.
However, the key word here is “potential.” While AI itself is democratic, access to it isn’t universally guaranteed.
Challenges in Developing Countries
The primary challenge in many developing countries is infrastructure. While AI doesn’t demand high-end devices, it does require a basic smartphone or computer and, crucially, a stable internet connection. Unfortunately, many regions still lack consistent internet access. Projects like Starlink, which aims to provide global internet coverage, could be game-changers in this regard.
Another challenge is the availability of affordable devices. While AI doesn’t require the latest high-end devices, students still need a basic smartphone or computer. Efforts should aim to make these devices more accessible to students in low-income regions.
The Bright Future Ahead
Once we address these challenges, the educational landscape in developing countries could undergo a radical transformation. With AI, students in these regions won’t just be passive consumers of information; they’ll have the tools to engage in active, personalised learning. They can ask questions, seek guidance, and delve deep into subjects they are passionate about with the support of AI.
Moreover, the hunger for knowledge and innovation in these regions is appreciable. Given the right tools and opportunities, students in developing countries could drive the next wave of global innovation. We could see the next Silicon Valley emerging in places previously overlooked by the tech industry.
By addressing infrastructural issues and ensuring access to basic devices and the internet, we can unlock a world where every student, regardless of their location or background, has access to high-quality education. The future of education isn’t just digital; it is equitable, and AI could be the key to realising this vision.
Balancing Cultural Sensitivity with Universal AI Standards
The beauty of AI lies in its adaptability. While we can tailor AI to resonate with specific cultural nuances, we can also design it to uphold universal values and principles. The challenge is to ensure that while AI is customised for specific cultures, it doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes or biases and instead promotes understanding and unity among diverse populations.
The diverse data sources that AI models utilise can make neutrality challenging. Models like ChatGPT may exhibit biases, especially when handling content sensitive to particular religions. As we approach the era of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), the urgency for a cohesive global framework intensifies. Without such a framework, unchecked AI advancements could lead us into uncharted domains, emphasising the need for global collaboration and governance.
While a global standardised framework is essential, countries desiring to infuse their unique values into AI can do so. Tailoring AI to align with specific cultural or religious values is achievable. Although we can’t call it biased, UAE developed its open-source Falcon 40B model. UAE’s success suggests countries can create their own AI models to harmonise with a nation’s unique identity.
The Need for Expert Guidance in AI Integration into Education
The integration of AI into education is a complex endeavour, and the primary challenge lies in selecting the right tool for the task at hand. For instance, while ChatGPT offers a plethora of capabilities, it may not be the most suitable for classroom settings, especially for younger students. The platform requires users to log in using an email and phone number, and many young students may not have a phone number. Additionally, the recommended age for ChatGPT is 13 and above. While there are alternatives like Perplexity AI, there are thousands of AI tools available, each designed for specific tasks ranging from image creation to presentations, which can be overwhelming.
Furthermore, successfully integrating AI into the curriculum demands a deep understanding of the technology. One can easily glorify AI as simply a search engine. If educational institutions aim to integrate AI into their curriculum rather than the other way around, they must grasp the full potential of AI in the educational realm. Acquiring this knowledge can be time-consuming, and having guidance from someone experienced in the field can save significant time and resources. Without expert input, institutions risk a trial-and-error approach that can be both costly and inefficient.
Both teachers and students need to comprehend the intricacies of AI, especially the concept of prompting. While a teacher might grasp how to utilise AI tools, ensuring that students also understand is crucial. Learning to prompt an AI system effectively is similar to acquiring a new language. We call it AI literacy. Thus, there is a pressing need to educate all stakeholders about AI, and experts in this intersection are best positioned to do this both effectively and efficiently.
Without proper guidance, there is also a risk that teachers and students might become disenchanted due to a lack of understanding, leading to negative preconceptions about AI. This could result in a complete disregard for the technology.
AI literacy should commence with the teaching staff. Along with that, it is essential to raise students’ awareness. While many university students might already be familiar with AI, some might be unaware or have misconceptions. Addressing this gap is crucial, and it can be approached with a touch of humour, especially when discussing potential pitfalls like cheating.
Parents, often an overlooked group, also play an important role. They need to understand the technological landscape their children are navigating. While some might harbour negative perceptions of AI, schools can help these concerns by explaining the rationale behind AI integration.
To foster hands-on experience, students should be assigned project-based tasks involving AI. Initially, the focus should be on exploration rather than rigorous assessment, gradually increasing the stakes over time.
The intersection of AI and education is intricate, with numerous stakeholders and considerations. Guidance from experts such as Darren Coxon isn’t just beneficial but essential.
3 Practical Tips to Use AI in the Classroom
Brainstorming & Planning: Teachers can leverage AI for initial brainstorming when devising a new scheme of work. By copying and pasting the syllabus, exam requirements, and assessment objectives into tools like ChatGPT, teachers can get a comprehensive ten-week scheme of work. This top-down approach can then be narrowed further by prompting the AI to generate detailed lesson plans, starting with the first three lessons. This method allows teachers to start with a broad perspective and then refine it to specific details.
Introduce AI to Students: Rather than just using traditional search engines, teachers can introduce students to AI tools for their project work. Encouraging students to play with AI, ask questions, and explore its capabilities can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the technology. This hands-on approach enhances their learning experience and boosts their AI literacy.
Visual Learning with AI: Text-to-image generative AI tools, such as Midjourney, DALL-E, or Bing Chat, can be invaluable in the classroom. While text-based content can sometimes be abstract or hard to grasp, visual representations can make concepts more tangible. Teachers can demonstrate using these tools and change their prompts to achieve better outputs. This interactive approach can help students understand the nuances of prompting and how to refine their inputs to get the desired outcomes.
Bonus Tip: Teachers must approach the detection of AI-generated content with caution. Relying solely on AI content detectors to label students’ work as AI-written can be problematic. These detectors can sometimes be unreliable, and mislabeling a student’s genuine work can lead to mistrust and a potential lawsuit. Instead, teachers should focus on understanding the workings of AI, which will naturally equip them to spot AI-generated content. However, the ultimate goal should be to foster an environment where using AI is seen as a tool for enhancement, not a means of deception.
The dawn of AI in education is reshaping how we teach and learn today. From personalising learning experiences to bridging educational gaps globally, the potential is immense. Yet, navigating this new landscape requires more than just tools; it demands understanding, strategy, and expertise. As education evolves in this AI-driven era, the need for expert guidance becomes paramount.
If you want to integrate AI into your educational framework seamlessly, seek expert consultation. As CLC & Partners, we guide institutions and teachers every step of the way. Contact us today and ensure your institution is at the forefront of this transformative journey.