Let’s Embrace the Potential of AI Tools in K-12 Education

Oct 20, 2023
AI Potential

Imagine a world before smartphones, electric vehicles or the internet itself … yet, it wasn’t that long ago that these were all breakthrough, disruptive technologies upending their respective industry sectors and popular only among a select few. As we’ve learned with many emerging technologies such as these, the technology adoption lifecycle follows a bell curve in which early adopters eagerly embrace new innovations before the early majority (which tends to be more risk-averse) gain acceptance to help drive the market.

What we’re seeing in Generative Artificial Intelligence tools is similar – an incredible rate of innovation coupled with enthusiastic early adopters, promising disruptive changes across countless industries and career fields. This disruptive change is driving equal parts optimism and concern, especially as generative AI is on an accelerated adoption curve even relative to other disrupters. In fact, OpenAI’s ChatGPT was the first consumer internet app to reach more than 100 million active users just two months after its launch.

Despite only becoming widely available to the public at the end of 2022, generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing, Google Bard, and hundreds of others, have demonstrated the potential to change how we create content, gather information, and work more efficiently in ways we have yet to fully understand. The rapid availability and even faster evolution of these AI tools stands to significantly change the way we live, work and learn.

They also pose unique challenges in education. While generative AI has the potential to transform the way educators teach and students learn, it also raises concerns about academic integrity and cheating. Much of the immediate conversation – and concern – among educators has been focused on the potential disruption these new AI tools might bring to the classroom. Because this technology is still new and rapidly evolving, there aren’t clear policies or guidelines to help define best practices. However, it’s important that we recognize that generative AI, in some form, is likely here to stay. We believe that while we need to acknowledge and understand the risks, we should also embrace the creative and productive possibilities AI tools can open for both educators and students.

We also believe educators have a responsibility to help students understand, critique, and leverage this disruptive technology, rather than ignoring, vilifying, or even banning these tools. To do otherwise risks contributing to educational inequities.

Among the possibilities for how generative AI may enhance the classroom experience include:

Through Research & Information Gathering

Not unlike many internet search engines, generative AI can be leveraged as a research and information gathering tool. Students can find relevant sources, learn more about different topics, and get answers to specific questions. This can be particularly helpful to students working on a research-based assignment or to help find sources for a particular project.

With Brainstorming & Inspiration

Emerging AI tools also can be helpful collaborators to brainstorm, provide inspiration or help problem solve. They also can help shift the learning paradigm from fact memorization to higher order critical-thinking skills. Students can use AI tools to brainstorm concepts for their projects and assignments, which can help them come up with fresh and innovative ideas. This approach can support students who may struggle with independent idea generation.

As Educator Supports & Resources

Generative AI also can provide additional support and resources for educators. In fact, a majority of teachers are already using these tools for lesson planning, creative ideas and background information, according to a recent survey. Educators can create personalized learning experiences to meet student needs and interests to help engage and motivate them. Even focusing on the technology itself can be a valuable lesson by helping students understand the impact of this new innovation, how it works and the application potential (or limitations).

It’s also important to recognize the impact of artificial intelligence in the education field extends beyond the application of generative AI such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and similar creative tools in the classroom. Tools like these, and other AI applications, are already shaping and transforming a wide variety of roles, inside educational institutions and across the learning and education technology industry.

From drafting communications to gathering relevant academic standards for lessons and generating more personalized learning experiences for students – the possibilities are as endless as the range of experimentation happening even as you read this.

Ultimately, the key to leveraging generative AI tools in education is to balance the benefits while addressing potentially negative implications. Educators (and education providers) have a responsibility to help students understand, critique and leverage this technology in a positive, creative, ethical and productive way. By addressing the potential for academic dishonesty and embracing the benefits of responsible use, educators can create a more engaging and effective learning environment – and serve as role models for embracing innovative new technology.

Integrating AI into education can be transformative if approached thoughtfully. Learn how Nanjing International School (NIS) has successfully integrated AI into their curriculum, along with insights and advice for other schools looking to do the same.

A portion of this article was sourced using generative AI tools.

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