How teachers, school leaders can embrace use of AI tools in the classroom
October 15, 2023 | 6:12pm
HONG KONG, People’s Republic of China — Students’ unhampered access to popular generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help create their outputs has ushered in what teachers and experts believe to be a black swan moment for education.
But discussions on AI tools in education should not just be confined to student outputs, school leaders and advocates of education technology said, as educators now have the prime opportunity to learn how AI can help free up their administrative workload to give them more time — and energy — in the classroom.
Hong Kong and Asian educators part of a panel discussion in this year’s EdTech Month Summit said that AI tools are both revered and feared for their potential to radically shake up the education sector — and for good reason.
While there has been a lot of hand-wringing among educators on the use of AI in class, teachers can also tap into existing AI tools “to revamp their traditional ways of assessing students’ work,” said Joseph South, Chief Learning Officer at the International Society for Technology in Education.
Traditional assessment methods — like scoring students’ quizzes or grading submitted outputs — have remained largely unchanged since the 19th century, South said, which makes it high time for AI to speed along the process of allowing educators to “create assessments that are not only relevant but also personalized to each student’s learning journey.”
But an AI tool doesn’t just allow for faster ways of scoring students’ tests but also a more effective approach to “personalizing” lessons, the panelists said.
“We (educators) usually like to advocate for a student-centered learning model. With AI, you can truly hyperpersonalize,” South said during the panel discussion on Thursday.
“Think of a child learning French – you can tailor vocabulary lessons to his hobbies, like football, and other things they care about. With AI, teachers can also better support students with disabilities by providing targeted one-on-one assistance,” he added.
But teachers should also not depend on AI to establish relationships with students, Benjamin Sheridan of 407 learning said, adding that educators must ensure that AI enhances, rather than replaces, the role of the teacher in education.
Sheridan also cautioned against the notion that building an algorithm could replace the complex and nuanced human aspects of teaching and learning. “Tech should instead be designed to encourage and support meaningful relationships and authentic learning experiences.”
The panelists also concurred that with the rise of AI tools, teachers could also experience a form of “tech fatigue” from the use and availability of various programs for teaching and learning.
Jason Prohaska of The English Schools Foundation noted that the sudden and widespread adoption of technology during the pandemic had led to a sense of exhaustion among both educators and students.
Prohaska said: “The introduction of AI into education can either alleviate or exacerbate this fatigue, depending on its implementation.”
Philip Law emphasized the importance of school culture in fostering innovation and combating tech fatigue.
“Schools with a culture that supports experimentation and creative ideas have a better chance of successfully integrating AI,” Law said.
Pilot tests needed
South said that schools interested in purchasing AI products should conduct a comprehensive pilot test before making it part of the curriculum.
“It’s not enough to just look at an AI product on a shelf and think of its possibilities. You have to let your teachers try and pilot it, and be open to the idea that not every tool could be a good fit,” South added.
The panelists also added that, often, schools do not gather sufficient data during the testing phase, and when they do, they may not agree on the criteria for evaluation.
“Schools piloting an AI program should not treat it as a soft launch that will just become permanent anyway. Feedback cycles and testing are important. Ask good questions and bring multiple people in who could be affected by the product,” Sheridan said.
“When you have that data, you can answer the question: does this AI tool help us get closer to where we want our teachers and students to be?” he added.
In the Philippines, state university University of the Philippines was the first to come out with a general policy on the use of AI in the classroom.
UP cited 10 principles to promote the “responsible” use of AI, none of which reference an outright ban on student use of AI-powered technologies.
UP mentioned the need for AI to be primarily for the “public good” and to benefit Filipinos by “fostering inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, political empowerment and enhanced well-being.”
Among the other principles it listed is the need for “meaningful human control,” saying that AI should be used to “advance human autonomy and agency.”
In basic education, Education Secretary Sara Duterte has acknowledged the potential for AI to usher in a “paradigm shift” in education but cautioned that there should still be checks and balances on its use.
Disclosure: Reporting for this story was made possible with support from the Hong Kong Government’s Information Services Department (ISD). This article was produced following editorial guidelines and ISD did not have input on how the story would be written.