Sitting in the first year of my Teacher Training program over twenty years ago, I distinctly remember sitting in front of an orangey-yellow monochromatic screen learning what all the function buttons do in Microsoft Word, because “this is going to be the next big thing in and the classroom.” My mind was blown. Three years later, my cohort was forced back into the computer lab, because the university had just purchased fancy new computers and we needed to learn about this thing called “the internet.” The only difference when the instructor said that “this is going to be the next big thing in your classroom,” is that the instructor was an 18 year old freshman, and the professor was on the computer sitting beside me, learning the program at the same time I was.
Today, technology like Google Classroom and Brightspace/D2L provides me the opportunity to prioritize the time I have with the students in my classroom, while downloading things like information dissemination and group conversations to the online collaborative platforms that are readily available and easy to maneuver. I do not see technology in the classroom as “The Great Disruptor,” but as a way to further prepare students for the future they will have beyond the cinder block walls of my room. The emerging field of AI has incredible potential to further push the field of Education away from the monotonous platforms of information memorization and regurgitation, into the areas of thought construction and passion pursuits.
I have been told on countless occasions that I am a chimera; A mythical creature who should not exist. I am an English teacher who is Dyslexic and loathes reading for long periods of time. I understand that reading is a skill which I need to be successful, but why should I spend weeks forcing students to memorizing the nuances of a monologue from a play, or to regurgitate a list of literary devices without context or purpose? My classroom mantra is: I am not an English Teacher; I am a teacher of thought and the medium I use is The English Classroom. If I am to prepare my students for a world that does not yet exist, I need to “move on from a knowledge-based curriculum that could soon become automatable through artificial intelligence and focus, instead, on the things machines can't teach” (Rose, 2018). Technology is changing the modern classroom, and we can change how we prepare our students for that future.
The use of AI in the classroom should be embraced as a way to offload the rote tasks that currently take place in the classroom, which then allows me more time to use sound pedagogical practices to allow my students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning. Modern classrooms will incorporate technological tools which are handpicked and carefully implemented by teachers to maximize benefits. This hybrid teaching style will lend itself to an adaptive learning ecosystem that responds to the individual progress of each student and accordingly personalizes the experience for every child. Teachers will act as mentors who guide children through their educational journey, armed with AI tools that empower them to administer education in the most personalized manner possible so each student responds fully (Nodia, 2018).
AI is already used in the classroom at both the high school and post-secondary level. Anytime an essay is sent to a site like Turnitin an AI searches for possible plagiarism and provides results based on a static algorithm. Drawing upon this static use of AI as a “Content Expert” could provide students in collaborative settings information for learning that greatly reduce the need for a teacher as an information disseminator. Using Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) and adaptive scripting methods to facilitate collaboration processes and individual learning, students will receive the individual support they need for their own growth while simultaneously supporting the collective knowledge growth of the team.
An AI that can support learning is great, but an AI that can learn along with the student would be even more beneficial. An AI script is termed adaptive when an intelligent computer or tutoring system is available that reliably assesses learners’ performance on the fly and adjusts the collaboration script based on the level at which the group is currently collaborating. This is achieved by building a model of optimal collaboration and comparing it to a constantly updated user model that captures the quality of the collaborative process (Diziol et al. 2010). Research continually shows that the sooner students receive feedback on their work, the greater the impact it has on their learning. When playing video games players can repeatedly try a difficult task over and over again until the desired outcome is achieved. If players are stuck the game provides guidance to support the completion of the task. What if this technology could be applied in the digital classroom environment? Students would receive continued and ongoing support as they work to craft and create their posts and responses, while an AI works with the student to identify strengths and gaps in the information provided. The end result is a creation that is completely original, and the best example of learning the student can provide. Then, the classroom teacher can support deeper and more meaningful thinking, knowing that the students have reached the desired outcome at a pace and rate that meets the students’ individual learning requirements.
The question I always come back to is how am I preparing students for a world that does not exist yet? I know for a fact that more and more students are failed by a system created hundreds of years ago for a world that is rapidly growing and changing. Unless there is a dramatic shift in the way education teaches and reaches these kids, more and more will miss out on reaching their full potential. All I can hope is that my contribution to the field of education can push us, as a collective, towards a system that truly prepares kids for life beyond the classroom.
AI is all set to make education easier. (2018, 12). Digital Learning, Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2150182221?accountid=46087
Diziol, D., Walker, E., Rummel, N., & Koedinger, K. R. (2010). Using intelligent tutor technology to implement adaptive support for student collaboration. Educational Psychology Review, 22(1), 89–102.
Luckin, R. (2018). AI is coming: Use it or lose to it. The Times Educational Supplement, (5306) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2064293840?accountid=46087