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Embracing Artificial Intelligence in Education

"It is difficult to predict exactly how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact K-12 education, as it is still a rapidly developing technology. However, it is likely that AI will be used in a variety of ways to improve and enhance the education experience for students. For example, AI can be used to personalize learning and provide customized educational content to individual students, based on their unique needs and abilities. AI can also be used to automate grading and other administrative tasks, freeing up teachers to spend more time working with students. Additionally, AI can be used to create engaging and interactive learning experiences, such as virtual reality environments and educational games. Ultimately, the impact of AI on K-12 education will depend on how it is adopted and integrated into the educational system.

You probably already know where this is going.

We didn’t write that opening paragraph. Nor did we do a web or literature search to find that text. Instead, we put the question into ChatGPT. The answer above showed up in less than ten seconds.

When ChatGPT swept into the collective consciousness of educators starting in late 2022, the initial reaction was often concern and confusion. The concern was most often based on the observation that artificial intelligence — including not only ChatGPT but other AI engines—could be used by students in ways that would make essays and other writing obsolete, especially as a form of assessment. In addition, AI was supercharging search engines, increasing teacher and school leader concerns that it was becoming near-impossible to ensure that students were really learning anything — and raising the specter that teachers might be replaced by technology. These concerns led to several school districts restricting or banning ChatGPT, including New York City

But it turns out that such banning may have been an initial overreaction, and indeed New York City later reversed its decision. At the very least, more and more educators in the digital learning community are discovering and discussing the many ways in which AI — and not just ChatGPT — can support schools and teachers.

Writing on the Digital Learning Collaborative blog (StrongMind is a DLC founding member), Justin Bruno of Michigan Virtual wrote that

“…online/hybrid teachers and instructional designers could certainly see some immediate effects of ChatGPT’s use. Unit and lesson outlines, learning activities, and assessment criteria can all be produced with ChatGPT… especially when using specific content and learning standards within the prompts…It could also be used to streamline personalized learning efforts, as teachers and instructional designers could theoretically more quickly produce content and assessments that could better align with students’ interests or strengths.”

The potential of truly transformative personalized learning may be the most enticing element of AI in education. Advocates have talked about individualized, adaptive instruction using online content and platforms for many years. The reality, however, has usually fallen short, because the technology was not yet well enough developed, and content creation costs were too high.

These constraints will melt away in the coming years — with the only question being whether the timeline is a few years or a few decades. At some point, teachers will be able to easily select content that matches student reading levels, math knowledge, English language ability, etc., while also addressing specific learning disabilities. In addition, smarter assessments will be able to automatically determine which of these attributes a student demonstrates and adapt the digital content to them.

Does this sound like a world where teachers are no longer needed? In fact, the opposite will be true. Teachers’ roles as caring adults guiding learning and assessing skills and knowledge will be more important than ever. It will look different, more like a coach or counselor than a lecturer during the teaching phase, and more like a dissertation defense during key assessments. But the importance of teachers and other professional adults will not fade.

We're not there yet, of course, and we may still be many years away from that vision. But ChatGPT, image generators, and other forms of AI are here now. If you haven’t already tried some of these systems, we recommend that you do so, whether to draft a lesson, plan a birthday party, or start a travel itinerary. Once you start down this path, you’ll recognize AI for what it is — a tool that you can use to make your work a little easier, allowing you to focus on students and relationships. As Jon Fila, a teacher from Minnesota, said on a recent Digital Learning Collaborative webinar, AI is actually helping him and other teachers “reconnect with our humanity” because of the time it saves, allowing teachers to focus on other, more important tasks — and on students.

StrongMind makes it easy to equip your teachers with the resources they need to be successful, including high-quality digital curriculum, real-time insights into student performance, and rich Teacher Resource Guides (TRGs) to support a blend of both personalized, self-paced, and synchronous learning in a variety of learning models — blended, online, credit recovery, alternative ed, and hybrid learning.