Unless you’ve been impressively absorbed in whatever occupies your time over the last year, you’ll have heard about ChatGPT and the increasing advancements of AI. It’s had so much attention drawn to it that it’s easy to forget that AI tools have already been a part of our lives for a long time now. If you’ve ever used an app on your phone to find out what a song is, or to learn a language, you’ve been using AI. But the capabilities of newer AI tools are definitely getting impressive in terms of what they’re capable of producing with minimal input from you. And that makes sense, after all, one of the main motivations for developing AI tools is for the purposes of labour-saving.
And that’s a key point to keep in mind when we turn to the subject of artificial intelligence in education. Because it’s important to consider who is having their labour saved before we consider whether it’s a good thing. Because many students will be very keen to make use of AI to make things easier for themselves. However, while this will need to be addressed, it’s probably not as worrying as some people are suggesting. Pocket calculators, the internet and smartphones all provided new ways for students to cheat, and methods for dealing with them were developed.
So, rather than worrying about the downsides of AI in education, let’s consider the positives. Because, if anyone has plenty of labour which needs saving, it would be teachers. Because actively teaching your lessons during the school day is just the tip of the iceberg. Planning the lessons, finding, or preparing, resources, marking work and writing reports will all eat into the limited amount of time each day provides. Fortunately, the current level of AI is already providing numerous ways to assist, or automate, some of the time-consuming busywork.
Now, to be clear, ‘AI’ is an umbrella category for a broad range of related disciplines, and not all of them will have much application for the average classroom. So the AI used in robotics can be put to one side as we instead look at ‘Natural Language Processing’. This type of AI focuses on the interaction between human language and computers, meaning that it has many applications for teachers. For example, do you need to put together a certain topic for a certain age group? With the right AI tool, you can have it ready in a matter of moments.
Not that AI tools can only help you when it comes to admin and preparing resources. As natural language processing software has become more advanced, you can even make use of it in interactive ways as part of your lessons.
As often tends to be the case during these big bursts of media excitement, it can be easy to get the wrong impression when it comes to AI. After all, AI existed in fiction since long before it existed in real life. In spite of the big burst of excitement we’re currently experiencing, we’re still a long way off from the genuinely self-aware robots and programmes we see in fiction. Instead, we currently have some very useful tools which you can use to make your days as teachers and educators, just that little bit easier.