AI In The Classroom
It has been three years, and eight months since a global wide pandemic was declared, and since then, a lot has changed in the education sector.
During COVID-19, the lecture halls became eerily silent. There were no students running late for their lessons because they were sent home to learn remotely. After the lockdowns, there was a study conducted by Times Higher Education, which found that 76%of academics worldwide have seen a lower number of students attending classes. Many students are now very accustomed to online lectures and using AI technology to help with their study, whether that’s for better self-motivation or to help them understand complex academic texts.
Since the launch of ChatGPT in 2022, there has been debate among educators about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on students’ acquisition and application of knowledge. Technology is often designed to disrupt the status quo in the quest for advancement and increased productivity, however the preservation of academic integrity has always been a priority for universities. Educators worry in particular about the potential for AI-generated content to be either misleading, or worse, incorrect.
According to Houman Harouni, a Lecturer onEducation at the Harvard Graduate School, “Technology creates a shock. The shock is sometimes of a magnitude that we cannot even understand it, in the same way that we still haven’t absorbed the sharp shock of the mobile phone.”
Harouni believes that having students engage both in higher education and the virtual world is essential. He asserts that educators cannot afford to ignore the growing popularity and adoption of AI technology.
Transformation of Teaching Practises
Even High School teachers are changing the way they approach key practices, such as setting homework. Vicky Davis is an IT Director with Sherwood Christian Academy in Georgia and believes there are good and bad ways of using AI to help students apply the knowledge they’ve acquired, such as essay-writing.
“It feels like we’re in some sort of lab experimenting with our kids because it’s changing so rapidly,” Davis told The Guardian. “If you had asked me about any of this last fall, I couldn’t have told you any of it because ChatGPT didn’t exist.”
One of the critical questions for educators is whether AI facilitates cheating. Are students genuinely learning, or are they becoming over-reliant on AI for short term gain?
I have observed students using generative AI for various academic tasks, from coding to essay writing and have seen it solve the ‘blank page problem’ first-hand. Yet, this technology is not flawless. It cannot replicate the engagement and active learning that occurs in a classroom. To be of value to a student, education requires focus and sustained participation to acquire, interpret and apply knowledge from lectures and academic texts.
Educators around the world are navigating this new AI landscape with varying approaches. Ms. Betty Cheng, a Vice Principal in Hong Kong, remarks, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give ChatGPT a score of 6: AI has provided a good start for us, but we need to rely on ourselves to reach full marks.” She sees AI as a tool that lowers technical barriers and offers opportunities for personalized learning, yet she stresses the importance of educators guiding the use of AI.
Similarly, Massimo Soranzio, an educator in Italy, has adapted his teaching methods in response to the emergence of AI. “As a teacher,” said Soranzio, “AI can rapidly give me new material to work on, but as an educator proper, I am more interested in making my students understand how not to turn it into the 'new frontier' of cheating.” He has stopped assigning certain tasks that AI can easily replicate, using AI instead to foster critical thinking and creativity in the classroom.
In universities and colleges across the world, educators need to consider the role of AI in the classroom and how it can enhance how students learn rather than replace learning.
Educators like Sonjie Kennington in Spain believe that AI will transform education in unimaginable ways. She points out how AI tools like ChatGPT can aid language learning by offering immediate feedback and simplifying complex definitions. This perspective suggests a future where AI not only supports but significantly enhances the learning experience.