“Is AI in the Classroom a Friend or Foe? Insights from an Educational Psychologist”
As the new school year commences, there are growing concerns and curiosity surrounding the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom. Drawing upon my experience as a former classroom teacher and a researcher in technology and learning at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education, I would like to offer insights and reassurances regarding AI’s role in education.
- Outsmarting AI is Possible: While AI can generate competent and knowledgeable written content on various subjects, it has its limitations. Understanding these limitations allows educators to design assignments where AI struggles or fails to perform. Large language models like ChatGPT lack genuine comprehension; they generate responses based on patterns in data rather than true understanding. They possess no critical thinking abilities, real-world context, or personal experiences.
Teachers can create assignments that necessitate skills AI lacks, such as critical thinking, personal reflection, or writing about lesser-known topics. By reducing tasks that AI can excel at, like defining terms or summarizing well-known texts, students are encouraged to think independently, reserving AI for tasks like information summarization or proofreading.
- AI’s Potential for Good:Shifting the focus away from tasks AI can accomplish has an added advantage of making lessons more thoughtful and engaging. Educators can harness AI to enhance the learning experience. For instance, ChatGPT can assist students in critiquing its responses, enabling them to explore complex subjects like religion and ethics.
AI can also reduce busywork, allowing students to concentrate on skills that have real-world significance. It can offer resources, sharpen writing skills, and answer questions teachers might not have time for. Innovators worldwide have harnessed AI for noble causes, such as predicting missile attacks or helping individuals with emotional awareness.
- The Importance of AI Literacy: Learning to effectively and ethically use AI is an essential life skill. In the words of philosopher Mortimer Adler, “Deep thinking is not just about finding answers; it’s about asking the right questions.” Obtaining meaningful responses from AI, like ChatGPT, can be challenging. Professionals are employed to craft effective prompts for AI responses.
While we may not need entire courses on AI interaction, teaching students how to work effectively and ethically with AI is vital for their future. As educators, we must consider how professionals and society at large utilize AI tools. Preparing students to employ AI to tackle complex societal, scientific, moral, and environmental challenges is a responsibility we should embrace.
In summary, AI in the classroom offers opportunities for students to engage with technology, foster critical thinking, and prepare for a future where AI plays an increasingly significant role. By understanding AI’s limitations and potential, educators can guide students toward becoming adept AI users, equipped to address the challenges of tomorrow.