AI in education under examination


It’s yet another tech that teachers must quickly get on top of, but is artificial intelligence, or AI in education here to stay? And can it work to the advantage of time-poor teachers and work as an assistive tool or is it just a smarter way to cheat the system? This week, the Australian government announced a probe into the use of AI in schools. So what might it mean for you as a teacher?

The Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training launched the review on Wednesday 24 May, the first governmental inquiry into AI. Also this week, educators from round Australia met at the AI in Education conference in Sydney, and Careers with STEM was there.

David de Carvalho, CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), said that students need to be empowered to use AI wisely, and acknowledged that tech advances like AI mean that we are increasingly unable to predict the future of work, and need to prepare for improving society.

READ MORE: If you’re wondering what this future of work might look like, read our Machine Learning Job Kit.

Cameron Paterson, Director of Learning Wesley College, says the use of Chat GPT to write essays is already rife, but that AI in education offers opportunities also.

“This generation will learn to work with AI and robots. For educators, AI means better teaching, less work, better lesson plans, and scaffolds for those plans that will need support.”

Education has quickly become the battleground for many of us to even understand how AI will impact society. This week, CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, the creators of Chat GPT, said AI could be smarter than “experts” in 10 years. Many schools this year quickly blocked Chat GPT, some have since re-thought the ban.

READ MORE: The Bragg Student Science Writing competition is a great way to cover AI in education, with students writing 800w on the topic: AI in Science. Read more here.

Speaking at the conference this week, Michael Rafe, Acting Head of History at Loreto Normanhurst school in Sydney, who uses AI in education, emphasised that AI in itself is not a creative tool.

“AI is not creative, but it’s a powerful research tool. For example, it’s effective at summarising complex articles, and good for consolidating knowledge and information.

“It’s great at instantaneous feedback for students (put in a paragraph and ask for targeted feedback, for example, and it can identify strengths and weaknesses and focus on the thesis statement or linking paragraphs, and whether students are analysing the evidence).”

Ali Kadri, CEO of The Islamic College of Brisbane, agrees that schools need to accept that AI will be a big part of education, and that we need to equip students for the future.

“Students have grown up with smart phones – they are very comfortable with tech.
This technology is so new even the experts aren’t experts.”

READ MORE: See what seven careers in AI look like.

Dr Tara Smith, an early career academic from the University of Sydney, says that it’s important to focus students on the ethics of AI.

“One piece of advice for teachers: play with it and look at its capabilities. Be aware that it’s changing very fast. Have conversations about ethics.”

Prof Matt Bower, Interim Dean School of Education, Macquarie University, added: “AI is poised to have a transformative impact on the education field”.

“Teachers won’t be replaced but the role of a teacher will change.”

WATCH: What is Artificial Intelligence?

Prof Rose Luckin, from University College London, told the conference that for years, she’s been enthusiastic about AI in education, but in the last six months this has changed.

“We need to be strategic, rather than tactical, and value human intelligence. At the moment, a small number of wealthy people are directing us. I used to think AI in Education was a force for good, but I now worry that the power is in the hands of the wrong people.

“Data is the power behind AI but it is unrefined. Data can also be the power behind human intelligence, and human intelligence is so much richer than AI.

“ChatGPT doesn’t understand, it just collates words together. Are we endowering AI with more intelligence than they have?”

“Using AI in Education means tackling some of the big educational challenges. We need to educate people about AI: what AI is good at and how to use AI effectively and responsibly.”

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