Kelly Mekdeci, EdD | Sr. Vice-President for Professional Growth

Several days ago, I had the eerie experience of watching an AI-generated version of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and being unable to distinguish the fabricated version from the real person. It’s not unusual for emerging technologies to evoke similar feelings of unease. Yet, before we know it, these innovations become regular aspects of our lives that seem indispensable. Reflecting on past technological introductions, from computers to the internet and smartphones in K-12 education, it’s evident how quickly they’ve become integral parts of learning. At PLS Classes, we have been contemplating AI’s role in education. The ever-increasing presence of AI and its potential for supporting learners is evident. Unsurprisingly, Sal Khan is at the forefront, making this TED Talk a compelling topic of conversation. In some ways, these are challenging times to be an educator, but in other ways, it’s incredibly exciting. Read on to see what some of our faculty members and course developers have to say. 

For our instructors and course developers, this video shows forty AI apps to use in the classroom. Amazing tools!

Our instructors share some thoughts on Embracing AI in the classroom…

Jen Stowe, PhD | Director of Educational Content Development 

The thing that really struck me about this video was Kahn’s conclusion that AI is HERE, and that we have to learn to work with it in education.  It’s a tool, and like any tool, it is suited for some things and not others.  And, like any tool, the ethics of the user determines how it will be used.  AI is only as smart we make it and only as ethical as the user.  

Socrates believed that writing would ruin us, but it didn’t. Even after the advent of the written word, memorizing facts used to be the primary goal of history class. However, in recent years, having the internet in our pockets has made memorization less important.  Math teachers everywhere tried to fend off the calculator because they thought students wouldn’t learn math.  Now, graphing calculators are accepted on most assessments.  Someday soon, AI will likely be accepted on assessments. It seems just as likely that future assessments will be designed to test how effectively students use AI.    In short, what we emphasize in education is always evolving. The one constant is that students and teachers need to think critically and use the tools available in ways that enrich us intellectually and socially. 

Freire is one of my favorite theorists.  In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he says that our ontological vocation is to become more fully human.  I think that one of the things AI will do is make us really dig into what it means to be human. It’s important to remember that AI seems thinking and sentient, but it’s not. Instead, AI is mimicking thinking through the use of an enormous data set and sophisticated algorithms. So, what can AI teach us about who we are and what is important to us as educators?  

I think it reminds us of what we already know: we need to focus on teaching our students to pay attention to the world around them, ask questions, and treat others with empathy.  There are definitely more questions than answers right now, but I’m trying to be optimistic and center humanity as I ponder them. 

Becky Grube, M.Ed., MS.Ed. | Online Instructor 

For some reason, some educators seem reluctant to embrace some of the very tools and changes that would enhance the educational process. An example of this is simply the general use of technology in education. It took a pandemic to “force” the use of technology on many educators who were and are still averse to change, especially to using technology in teaching. This is unfortunate because the world around our educational systems has been way ahead of educational systems for years in the many, many ways technology is used in businesses and in other areas of our lives. Yet, there are still schools and school systems that resist allowing students to use their personal devices (cell phones) in the classroom for educational purposes. I know the argument is that students misuse them, and it is difficult to monitor their use. 

However, my thinking is that if students misuse them, it is up to us to find ways to monitor phone use and to set up expectations and guidelines for their use in the classroom. If it would benefit students in the long run to be able to use a variety of technologies, the arguments against phone use need to be solved. Why is it that some educators are so reluctant to engage in changes that would enhance the education of the students they are teaching? I have struggled with this question from the time that I came into our profession many, many years ago. 

AI is here to stay. It is not going to go anywhere simply because educators don’t want to use it or integrate it into what they do with their students. After viewing the videos, I think we have an opportunity to lead in this area! I hope the educational community will take that lead! It seems, from the videos, some of our colleagues already are leading and thinking about ways AI can be used to “do what is best for our students.” Why wouldn’t we want to embrace these processes and tools? I will definitely explore the Magic School Tools in the coming weeks for myself!  

View my upcoming classes

Lisa Ciampi M.S.Ed. | Instructor 

My doctoral research is on how some districts sustain innovative practices. There are many reasons educators are resistant to change: initiative fatigue, lack of time/resources/training, administrative turnover, comfort/skill levels, etc. As Rebecca notes, many districts do not allow students to have their cell phones; however, I cannot think of one college or university where students do not always have their phones with them (usually).  

If we truly want to prepare students for our unpredictable and evolving world, we must ensure our instructional practices reflect those changes to better prepare students to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and good human beings. The field of education has always been slow to change, but I have witnessed the benefits of school districts evolving with the world around them. 

Thanks to Rebecca for highlighting this very real issue in education! 

View my upcoming classes

Darlene Volchansky, M.Ed | Online Instructor 

The second video is an absolute gold mine, both for us and for our participants. I plan to spend some time exploring those tools. 

The examples provided in “How AI Could Save (Not Destroy) Education” are exciting, to say the least. It’s such a challenge for teachers to reach all students and provide the necessary support on an ongoing basis. When I taught at the secondary level, I would strive to meet all their needs each and every day; but, sadly, I often felt that those efforts fell short for some of my students. The type of capabilities illustrated in the video would be godsends for students and teachers alike.  

One thought that crossed my mind is that some students hesitate to approach a teacher or a guidance counselor. Those same students may be far more comfortable with this type of support. In addition, in onsite classroom settings, the conversations (e.g. literary discussions) are sometimes dominated by a few students. With AI, all students would have the opportunity to reflect and think critically, as they receive questions and feedback that are specifically geared to expand their individual thinking. Also, as a former language arts teacher, I can see that the writing collaboration would be both enjoyable for students and very helpful in tapping into their creativity. 

I, agree with Jen that his conclusion is extremely powerful; it truly resonated with me. AI is here to stay, and we are all key players who must do the work to ensure AI is used responsibly, necessary regulations are in place, and the focus is on expanding human potential. 

View my upcoming classes

Here is what ChatGPT has to say: 

The future of AI in the classroom and education holds great promise, with the potential to transform various aspects of the learning experience. Here are some key considerations and potential developments: 

  1. Personalized Learning: AI can analyze individual learning patterns and adapt educational content to suit each student’s pace and style. This enables a more personalized and effective learning experience, addressing the diverse needs of students.  
  1. Automation and Administrative Support: AI can automate administrative tasks, such as grading, scheduling, and data management, freeing up educators to focus more on teaching and student engagement. 
  1. Enhanced Teaching Tools: AI-powered tools can assist teachers in creating engaging and interactive lessons. Virtual tutors and educational chatbots can provide additional support to students, answering questions and offering explanations outside of regular class hours. 
  1. Data-Driven Decision-Making: AI can analyze large sets of educational data to identify trends, assess student performance, and provide insights for improving teaching methods and curriculum design. This data-driven approach can contribute to more informed decision-making at both individual and institutional levels. 
  1. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AI can enhance immersive learning experiences through AR and VR technologies. This can be especially valuable in subjects that benefit from hands-on practice, such as science and engineering. 
  1. Adaptive Assessments: AI can create adaptive assessments that evolve based on a student’s responses, providing a more accurate measure of their understanding and learning progress. 
  1. Language Learning and Translation: AI-powered language learning tools can assist students in acquiring new languages, offering personalized feedback and practice opportunities. AI translation tools can also facilitate communication between students who speak different languages. 
  1. Inclusivity and Accessibility: AI can help address learning barriers by providing customized resources for students with diverse learning needs. For example, it can generate text-to-speech, speech-to-text, or visual aids to support students with disabilities. 

While the potential benefits of AI in education are substantial, there are also challenges and ethical considerations. These include issues related to data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the potential for widening educational inequalities. Striking a balance between embracing technological advancements and maintaining a human touch in education is crucial. 

The successful integration of AI in the classroom requires thoughtful implementation, ongoing teacher training, and a commitment to addressing ethical concerns. When used responsibly, AI has the potential to significantly enhance the educational experience for both students and educators. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding AI. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comments will be held for approval and posted shortly! Thanks for your feedback!