Jared Bloom is superintendent of the Franklin Square Union Free School District in New York and a member of the Institute for Education Innovation, a national school superintendent think tank.
Though still in its infancy, artificial intelligence is already influencing many aspects of our lives. Voice assistants, auto correct, driving assistance systems, and predictive text and television program recommendations are all common tools we use everyday.
However, conversations around incorporating AI in the classroom can sometimes spark fear and concern of the unknown. A recent survey found that nearly half of the educators who responded said AI would have a negative or very negative impact on teaching and learning in the next five years.
If leveraged correctly, AI holds the potential to serve as a truly transformative tool, allowing educators and administrators to be more adaptive to students’ needs by delivering personalized and engaging learning experiences. Additionally, introducing students to AI allows them to develop an understanding of 21st century technology by preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.
A revolution in the classroom
Teachers have long struggled with the challenge of students learning at different paces, a problem drastically exacerbated by the pandemic. AI allows educators to become more adaptive in the classroom, allowing for differentiated and individualized learning for students, and ultimately freeing time for teachers to provide more one-on-one support.
For example, teachers can use AI software to quickly create reading passages and math problems tailored to each student’s individual learning level. Additionally, educational content can be customized based on a student’s personal interests, promoting further connection to the classroom material.
By learning each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, AI can deliver personalized education plans to meet their needs. AI software delivers instantaneous feedback and continuous student support — it can even provide cognitive tutors and intelligent tutoring systems when needed, allowing students to immediately make corrections and learn at their own pace. All the while, their performance is being tracked, helping teachers develop dynamic, flexible learning plans that lead to better student outcomes.
Optimizing data analysis for real time application
AI can allow administrators to develop and easily track indicators of student progress beyond our current system of standardized test scores and other arduous methods of data collection. This has the potential to revolutionize assessment by providing immediate formative assessment feedback and allowing for course correction in real-time.
Currently, it can take weeks (or more) for administrators to delve into the wealth of data and interpret patterns. AI synthesizes data in minutes, empowering educators to quickly and efficiently identify students who require intervention as well as develop predictive models to address their future learning challenges. However, this information is only as good as the goals districts are able to articulate and the support programs they have in place.
Strategies for effectively implementing AI in the classroom
The process of implementing AI (or any new educational software) can be overwhelming, so start small and work your way up, rather than trying to implement it across the entire curriculum. This will allow both teachers and students to gain experience, and teachers to refine their practices over time. Find places where technology will ease the burden of the day-to-day or where automated tasks can be easily done.
As every district is unique, tap into your professional learning community or create a think tank to discuss your specific procedures and policies. In our district, we brought together teachers, principals, and administrators to identify priorities, set guidelines and develop a customized launch plan to best serve our students.
And finally, prior to introducing any new tool or software in the classroom, teachers should review their district policies and have several conversations with students about using technology responsibly. Just like with all things digital, remind them that everything is permanent once it’s published, that confidential information (last name, address, phone number, etc.) should never be shared on the internet, and to make sure they understand the consequences of irresponsible technology use.
Even as educational technology becomes more essential, the art of teaching will always be with the teacher. While some educators and administrators see AI as a threat to their jobs, its role should be to assist them in their work, maximizing their potential for developing enhanced learning opportunities.
By responsibly leveraging AI, we have the opportunity to revolutionize education, ensuring our students are well-prepared to navigate the digital world that lies ahead of them.