I went to the BETT conference this week and vendors did not disappoint with their claims of AI. They just throw this around as if everyone knows what it is and knows why they want it. What the Heck is AI? When an EdTech tool says “Uses AI,” what does that mean? It is important to know what the heck AI is so you can intelligently ask questions to see if this tool is right for your classroom.
What the Heck is AI
Perhaps you’ve heard of ChatGPT. This is ONE of many products that uses AI. Since this post is about “what is AI” I thought I would first start with asking ChatGPT what it thinks it is.
🤖According to ChatGPT What the heck is AI?
🤖Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would usually require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, understanding natural language, speech recognition, and visual perception. Artificial Intelligence has become an essential part of many industries, including education, and is now being integrated into various EdTech (educational technology) products.
AI can manifest in teaching and learning in several ways:
- Personalized learning: AI can analyze students’ performance, learning styles, and preferences to create tailored learning experiences. By adapting to each student’s unique needs, AI can help them grasp concepts more effectively and at their own pace.
- Intelligent tutoring systems: These AI-powered systems can provide real-time feedback to students and guide them through problems and exercises, offering explanations and hints when necessary. This allows for a more interactive learning experience and can help fill the gaps where a teacher’s attention may be limited.
- Automating administrative tasks: AI can help teachers save time by automating tasks such as grading, attendance tracking, and scheduling. This allows teachers to focus more on their students and the actual teaching process.
- Virtual teaching assistants: AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants can help answer students’ questions, provide additional resources, and even conduct quizzes. They can serve as an extension of the teacher and offer support outside of class hours.
- Advanced analytics: AI can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and trends, helping teachers better understand students’ progress and areas of difficulty. This information can be used to refine teaching strategies and improve overall learning outcomes.
AI is integrated into many edtech products these days because it has the potential to significantly enhance the learning experience, making it more engaging, efficient, and personalized. Additionally, AI-driven tools can help reduce the workload for teachers, allowing them to focus on more critical aspects of teaching.
In summary, AI can be a valuable asset for both teachers and students by personalizing learning experiences, providing real-time feedback, automating administrative tasks, and offering additional support through virtual teaching assistants. The integration of AI into edtech products aims to create a more effective and enjoyable learning environment for all.
🤖How is ChatGPT AI?
I asked ChatGPT “Explain to a 4th grader how ChatGPT uses AI”
🤖ChatGPT is a cool computer program that uses something called Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short. AI helps computers think and learn, kind of like how our brains do. So, with AI, ChatGPT can understand what you’re saying and respond to you, just like talking to a friend!
The smart people who made ChatGPT taught it lots and lots of things by showing it lots of books, websites, and other stuff that people have written. This way, ChatGPT learned about many topics, like animals, space, and even your favorite games!
When you ask ChatGPT a question or tell it something, it uses its AI brain to understand what you mean. Then, it thinks about what it knows and tries to give you the best answer or response it can come up with.
So, ChatGPT is like a helpful computer buddy that can chat with you, answer your questions, and help you learn new things. And it’s all thanks to AI!
A Chatbot is Not All of AI
ChatGPT is getting a lot of news these days. Google has their own version called Bard. This is just ONE type of tool that uses AI. ChatGPT and Bard are chatbots, meaning you can chat with them like you’re talking to a person. Ask it in normal language anything you want an assistant to do for you. If you don’t like the output keep chatting with the ChatBot until it refines it’s output to be what you want.
AI is not just chatbots.
🤖What Types of EdTech Tools Might Use AI?
🤖There are several types of EdTech (educational technology) tools that use AI to make learning more fun and effective. Here are some examples:
- Personalized learning platforms: These tools use AI to understand each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences. They create customized learning paths to help students learn at their own pace and improve in areas they find challenging.
- Intelligent tutoring systems: These AI-powered systems act like virtual tutors, guiding students through problems and exercises. They provide real-time feedback, hints, and explanations, making learning more interactive and engaging.
- Virtual teaching assistants: AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants can answer students’ questions, provide additional resources, and even conduct quizzes. They offer support outside of class hours and can help students with homework and other assignments.
- Automated grading and feedback: AI can help teachers save time by automatically grading assignments, quizzes, and tests. Some tools can even provide personalized feedback to students, helping them understand their mistakes and improve their performance.
- Adaptive testing: AI can create adaptive tests that adjust the difficulty level based on a student’s performance. This helps to accurately measure a student’s knowledge and understanding of a subject.
- Language learning apps: AI-powered language learning apps can help students practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing in a new language. They can provide personalized lessons and give instant feedback on pronunciation and grammar.
- Advanced analytics: AI can analyze large amounts of data to identify patterns and trends in students’ learning. Teachers can use this information to refine their teaching strategies and provide targeted support to students who need it.
These are just a few examples of the many EdTech tools that use AI to enhance the learning experience. By incorporating AI, these tools aim to create more engaging, efficient, and personalized learning environments for students.
Faster Worksheets? No Thanks.
Sadly there are many EdTech companies who are using the power of AI to simply make faster worksheets. Faster worksheets will not improve education. Faster worksheets will not make better human beings. Using AI to recreate paper tasks is low hanging fruit and an easy way for EdTech companies to claim they are using AI.
AI should allow for more humanization and interaction.
What is the Innovation?
Be wary of companies claiming to have AI. SO WHAT! AI is not a savor. It’s a marketing ploy. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to do cool things to help innovate teaching and learning. However, after walking around the conference looking at a lot of products that claim “uses AI” I am seriously underwhelmed.
Powerful technology should allow for innovation.
If the tool is using AI to do the same old thing faster… do not be impressed.
Student Centered Learning and Relationships
Unless we think teachers are going to be replaced by robots, we need to use tools that help us to be more human. Not more robotic. Some people asked me what I came to the conference to see. My answer was not “AI.” No, my answer was “student centered solutions.”
Questions to Ask When Evaluating an AI Tool
- How does this tool provide students choice?
- Does this tool allow student interest to be included in their learning?
- Are students able to do different tasks or is it just self paced?
- How does this tool provide students with personalized context?
- What is the critical thinking (DOK) level of the tasks students complete?
- Does this tool help students to feel more empowered in their learning?
- How can I better interact with students in a personal way because of this tool?
- How does the AI in this tool adapt to the individual learning needs and interests of each student?
- Can the AI recognize and respond to students’ emotional states, such as frustration or confusion, to provide appropriate support?
- How does the AI ensure the privacy and security of student data?
- What kind of data does the AI use to make its recommendations or personalize the learning experience, and how is this data collected and processed?
- How does the AI promote collaboration and communication among students, both in and outside of the classroom?
- Is the AI transparent in its decision-making process, and can teachers and students understand how and why it makes certain recommendations?
- Can the AI be customized or modified by teachers to align with their specific curriculum or teaching goals?
- How does the AI facilitate differentiation in the classroom, allowing teachers to address the diverse needs of their students?
- In what ways does the AI encourage students to reflect on their learning and set goals for improvement?
- How does the AI integrate with other tools and resources that the teacher may already be using in their classroom?
- How does the AI support the development of essential skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration?
- What kind of professional development or training resources does the company offer to help teachers effectively implement the AI in their classrooms?
- How does the AI account for cultural and linguistic diversity among students, ensuring inclusive and equitable learning experiences?
- Can the AI be used effectively for both remote and in-person learning environments, and how does it support a seamless transition between the two?
- How does the AI help teachers monitor student progress over time and adjust their instruction accordingly?
- What evidence, such as research or case studies, supports the effectiveness of the AI in improving student outcomes and engagement?
- Are there any built-in accessibility features that ensure the AI is usable by all students, including those with disabilities or special needs?
- How does the AI support project-based or experiential learning, allowing students to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world contexts?
- How does the company stay up-to-date with the latest AI advancements and educational best practices, and how does this inform the ongoing development of the tool?
- What kind of ongoing support does the company provide for troubleshooting, updates, and addressing any technical or pedagogical issues that may arise?
- How does the AI integrate feedback from teachers and students to continually improve and refine its features and capabilities?
- What are the minimum system requirements for using the AI-powered tool, and is it compatible with various devices and platforms commonly used in classrooms?
- How user-friendly is the AI tool for both teachers and students, and what kind of onboarding resources are available to help them become comfortable using it?
- Can the AI accommodate different learning environments, such as individual, small group, or whole-class instruction?
- How does the AI promote student autonomy and self-regulation, encouraging them to take charge of their learning?
- Can the AI be integrated with other EdTech tools, learning management systems, or student information systems that the teacher or school is currently using?
- How does the company address potential ethical concerns related to the use of AI in education, such as algorithmic bias, transparency, and fairness?
- What kind of community or network does the company offer for educators using the AI tool, allowing them to share best practices, resources, and ideas?
- How does the AI help teachers facilitate meaningful connections between different subject areas, promoting interdisciplinary learning and a deeper understanding of concepts?
Mental Health Matters – How Can AI Help
Especially post pandemic, we need to care about students mental health. Grinding students through low critical thinking, low creativity tasks without concern for their mental wellbeing is a mistake. I asked ChatGPT for some tips on how AI can be used to allow teachers to be concerned about mental health and not just shoving content into student brains.
🤖AI can play a significant role in supporting teachers and students in addressing mental health concerns. By leveraging AI-powered tools and technologies, teachers can focus on promoting emotional well-being, creating a supportive learning environment, and prioritizing their own mental health. Here’s how AI can help:
- Early detection and intervention: AI can analyze data from students’ online interactions, performance, and engagement to identify patterns that may indicate mental health issues or stress. Teachers can use these insights to provide timely support, referrals, or accommodations as needed.
- Social-emotional learning (SEL) support: AI-driven tools can help teachers integrate SEL into their curriculum, teaching students essential skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and emotion regulation. This can create a more emotionally supportive classroom and promote overall mental well-being.
- Reducing teacher workload: AI can automate administrative tasks, such as grading and attendance tracking, allowing teachers to focus on their students and devote more time to self-care and stress management. A reduced workload can help alleviate teacher burnout and improve overall mental health.
- Personalized stress management resources: AI-powered tools can offer tailored resources and strategies for managing stress and anxiety, both for teachers and students. By understanding individual needs and preferences, these tools can provide targeted support for maintaining mental well-being.
- Virtual support systems: AI-driven chatbots or virtual assistants can offer support and resources related to mental health, both for teachers and students. This can provide an accessible, non-judgmental space to seek help and advice when needed.
- Facilitating communication: AI can help teachers stay connected with students and parents, allowing them to share updates on student progress, discuss any concerns, and collaborate on strategies to support mental well-being.
- Monitoring classroom dynamics: AI can analyze classroom interactions and provide insights into the social and emotional climate. Teachers can use this information to address any issues, such as bullying or social exclusion, and promote a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.
- Professional development and self-care: AI can help teachers identify resources and opportunities for professional development related to mental health, self-care, and stress management. By investing in their own well-being, teachers can better support their students’ mental health.
By utilizing AI, teachers can proactively address mental health concerns in the classroom and prioritize their own well-being. This can lead to a more supportive learning environment and improved outcomes for both teachers and students.
Be on the Lookout for Snake Oil
A healthy dose of skepticism is always in order when deciding on tools to use with students. EdTech companies will promise you the moon and slap an “AI” sticker on the product. However, just because it uses AI does not make the product magical or good for students.
Go deep, ask lots of questions about student engagement, student creativity and collaboration, interactions, humanization, privacy concerns, concerns about potential bias, and how it truly makes for better PEOPLE instead of faster worksheet filler outers.
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