Embracing the use of AI in education
Long before it was reduced to an uppercase two-letter acronym, artificial intelligence (AI) was already present in education with early systems focused on using simple algorithms to automate certain educational tasks. In the 1970s, the emergence of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) was designed to provide personalized instruction based on individual student needs, more commonly known today as Individual Educational Plans. These days, OpenAI dominates the conversation and headlines.
“AI has been in education in some iteration for decades now,” says Denise Dugan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Special Education and Elementary Education. “The danger of AI these days is that current students have too much reliance on it, rather than simply using it as another available resource.”
In an op-ed to the “Chicago Tribune,” Chaminade Provost Lance Askildson opines that recent advances in artificial intelligence have given rise to hyperbolic predictions of the decline of many human roles and professions.
“In fact, purported AI platforms such as ChatGPT will never be meaningful replacements for writers, educators or people in general,” Askildson writes. “To understand why this is true, it is critical to remind ourselves of what ChatGPT is and how its architecture and capabilities relate to the science of human learning and the arts of writing and teaching, respectively.”
The conversation around AI didn’t just begin in 2023. The U.S. Department of Education initiated a project exploring the use of generative AI in 2020, partnering with Digital Promise to collect information and insights. Recently, the outcomes of that work were released by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. Titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations,” the new report addresses the clear need for sharing knowledge, engaging educators, and refining technology plans and policies for artificial intelligence (AI) use in education.
The report further describes AI as a rapidly-advancing set of technologies for recognizing patterns in data and automating actions, and guides educators in understanding what these emerging technologies can do to advance educational goals—while evaluating and limiting key risks. This paper also explains AI in education and gives a pros-and-cons summary, and suggests districts develop a policy defining parameters for AI use in education.
During an educator workshop hosted by Hawaii Education Association, Dugan and Chaminade students Abigail Eli ’23 Gabe Zapata-Berrios ’24 were among the attendees who discussed not only the ethical dimensions of AI, but also its legal ramifications.
“I can see how AI is having an impact on educators and students,” says Eli, who is pursuing her master’s in counseling psychology at Chaminade and is one of three Community Homeless Concerns liaisons with the Hawaii Department of Education in the Nanakuli-Waianae Complex Area. “I think it could be beneficial for our Waianae students who struggle with the concept of writing. I think they can learn from seeing something that’s well written.”
Starting his student teaching in Kailua, Zapata-Berrios has experimented with AI in his own studies, using it, for example, to create lesson plans, which typically take a lot of time.
“AI will write a complete lesson plan in less than 10 seconds,” Zapata-Berrios says. “This lesson plan is typically pretty good as a first draft. If I want I can ask the AI to revise it for me or I can just take that draft and revise it myself. I would always recommend revising it yourself because AI is not perfect.”
While academic dishonesty tops the list of educators’ concerns about AI in education, teachers also worry that increased use of AI may mean learners receive less human contact. It’s a valid point that Askildson succinctly affirms in his letter to the editor, noting that “the science of human learning has shown us that students learn not only through their abilities of reasoning, interpretation and creative expression—which ChatGPT lacks— but also with the help of teachers who engage them in a two-way dialogue accompanied by feedback that is adjusted to their understanding and overall needs.”
From a student’s perspective, the use of AI in education comes with both benefits and potential pitfalls. Some view AI-powered tools as a way to provide additional support to students with diverse learning abilities, making education more inclusive. It can then assist in addressing specific challenges students may face.
Others are skeptical about its accuracy and its susceptibility to spread misinformation and disinformation. It’s also biased since AI can only be as smart or effective as the quality of data it is provided, and algorithms can be manipulated and skewed.
“Some of the teachers we heard from said they wanted to stay away from AI all together, that it was too controversial,” Dugan says. “They were afraid of plagiarism and cheating, and not being able to detect it. But I say AI is here to stay; it’s not going to go away and it will only progress.”
“AI is going to keep growing and infiltrating more parts of our lives,” adds Zapata-Berrios. “It’s already all over the place and constantly analyzing and improving. It will become more prevalent in classrooms, however, I don’t think it will become something that the students use to outsource their thinking. I think it’ll be present without the students knowing it’s there.”