The introduction of technology and the internet to the classroom in the last few decades was a major shift in education. The next paradigm shift is happening: artificial intelligence.
As AI — voluntarily or involuntarily — makes its way into classrooms worldwide, a growing chorus worries about its potential to derail the education system.
But by approaching this transformation with intelligence and care and adopting new frameworks for using this technology, AI could lead to a much-needed revolution in education.
The first and perhaps most important step for educators is understanding and staying abreast of AI developments.
Large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s GPT-4 are exceptional at understanding and generating human language.
The possibilities are enormous, but what exactly does this mean for our classrooms?
GPT-4 can perform to about the 90th percentile on a host of standardized tests, from the SAT to AP US History to the bar exam — this only stands to improve. It’s not unreasonable to assume that most knowledge or skills imparted at a high school level will be completely automated by AI soon.
The education function in high school largely serves (with the exception of factors such as signaling to employers and socioemotional development) to impart knowledge, facts, information and skills.
Once vital skills such as understanding outdated scientific theories, recalling historical dates, or operating physical reference books have become obsolete in the past.
We should think carefully about phasing out such redundant knowledge and utilizing AI to aid in the acquisition and comprehension of critical foundational knowledge, like problem solving and basic communication.
What skills or knowledge embedded in our curriculum could be on the chopping block?
Writing with clarity, language translation, basic coding and knowledge of the periodic table, historical timelines or capitals could be skills in the educational system that stand to change.
Within the current system, AI can already augment our learning environment, making it more personalized, dynamic and interactive.
In fact, AI has the potential to solve educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom’s 2 sigma problem that states the average student tutored one-to-one performs about two standard deviations better than those in a typical classroom environment
However, we have no current pathways to tutor all students or implement similarly effective methods.
AI can be the solution here, as Khan Academy’s new beta tool, Khanmigo, harnesses GPT-4 to assist teachers and individually tutor students.
In the not so far future, AI could serve as the ideal academic companion, providing immediate feedback, assisting with procedural tasks and even engaging in deeper, thought-provoking discussions.
AI can transform the administrative side of education by relieving the education system’s most overworked resource: teachers.
Teachers are the backbone of our school, dedicating countless hours to lesson planning, grading and providing feedback.
AI can shoulder some of these burdens, automating administrative tasks and returning energy to teachers for personalized interactions.
However, we must remember, these tools are not infallible. Sometimes, they may give incorrect information or create “hallucinations,” where they cite false facts or nonexistent resources.
It’s important to view AI as a tool, not an oracle. The responsibility of verification and critical thinking remains with us.
We also cannot ignore the ethical considerations. AI tools are powerful, and like any powerful tool, they need to be used responsibly.
What are the implications then, for academic honesty? This is an important question to answer even with the current state of LLMs.
Clear policies and open discussions about academic integrity come in.
Given that a core principle of academic honesty is to present proper authorship of work, there are a number of paths that emerge:
We can forbid AI from education entirely. Sounds simple enough, but then you have to reliably deduce when AI models are being used. Detection technologies won’t be able to keep up with newer models (or clever students) for long.
AI could be permitted, students should be required to acknowledge or cite their use, making the process transparent.
We can design assignments that are difficult or impossible to use AI on: for example, in-class discussions or having students solely complete assignments in class where you can police its use.
At Country Day, the right path is clear. We should cultivate an environment where the use of AI is transparent and students are encouraged to acknowledge when and how they’ve used these tools.
The International Baccalaureate program is employed in over 5,000 schools, including local ones such as Mira Loma High School and Granite Bay High School, will not ban the use of AI software. It explains its policy:
“The simplest reason is that it is an ineffective way to deal with innovation. However, the use of AI tools should be in line with the IB’s academic integrity policy. We expect all our schools to discuss the various types of academic misconduct with their students.”
The IB states that artificial intelligence technology will become part of our everyday lives — like spell checkers, translation software and calculators.
Bringing AI into our classrooms isn’t just about easing the learning process; it’s about preparing us for the future. In the real world, AI is everywhere — from personal assistants like Siri to autonomous vehicles. By integrating AI into our education, we’re getting a head start, understanding the nuances of this technology and preparing ourselves for the future.
For administrators: small schools, like Country Day with its ability to adapt quickly, should lead the way in integrating AI into education and researching how we can best utilize this technology. Let it be another one of the things that makes Country Day stand out: we prepare students for the next generation.
For students: ask yourselves the same questions and try out the technology. Stand by the rules, yes, but also push the boundaries. The only way to avoid being swept up in the coming AI revolution of education will be to stay ahead of it.