This School Year, AI Shouldn’t be Just Another Item on Teachers’ To-do Lists

With these principles in place, schools can incorporate artificial intelligence while ensuring that its productivity gains are not nullified by the overhead of its adoption.

GUEST COLUMN | by Arman Jaffer


Teachers have one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world. They are tasked with igniting minds and nurturing curiosity, supporting learning and growth, and guiding the success of future generations of young people. As if this wasn’t hard enough, educators are underpaid, overstretched, and constantly bombarded with fleeting educational trends. So when ChatGPT was released last November, many educators chose to (or had to) ignore it, despite the excitement of early adopters who experimented with AI applications to support learning.

‘…educators are underpaid, overstretched, and constantly bombarded with fleeting educational trends. So when ChatGPT was released …’

This back-to-school season, teachers won’t have a choice. Between students using tools like chatGPT and administrators pushing initiatives and guardrails around the newly accessible technology in classrooms, teachers will have to once again adapt to the ever-changing landscape of teaching and learning. But rather than forcing educators to “deal” with the impact of this new technology on their own, the field needs to use this powerful tool to make teachers’ lives easier.

Making Teaching More Human and Sustainable

Generative AI has the capability to make teaching more human and sustainable. The art of teaching is a complex process that involves many tasks. On a daily basis, teachers provide direct instruction, facilitate classroom activities, and provide students with positive reinforcement, feedback, and coaching that support their development. But educators are also responsible for many invisible tasks: they plan lessons, communicate with parents, and grade student work. These tasks today are interconnected, spanning many tools and requiring context gathered over time. While these crucial activities go unnoticed, they take up a large share of a teacher’s time and energy that could otherwise go toward connecting with their students. Or quite frankly, that could go into getting some rest.

It’s with these crucial and time-intensive tasks unrelated to direct instruction where generative AI holds the greatest potential. And it couldn’t come at a better time. A teacher shortage of 300,000 is already overwhelming already underpaid teaching staff, causing classroom sizes to swell and leading more to leave the profession. On top of this, the vast disparities in learning loss and increased classroom management challenges prompted by the teaching challenges during the pandemic have diminished the already limited capacity of teachers.

Mistakes of the Past

While full of promise, the implementation of AI in classrooms runs the risk of repeating mistakes of the past. As with earlier technology shifts, AI has the potential to actually add more to teachers’ plates. To avoid this, educators, schools, and technologists must be bold, creative, and patient. They must avoid the trap of “tacking on AI” as yet another set of point solutions and take the time to re-imagine what AI-infused teaching can look like.

I saw first-hand how an accumulation of well-meaning teacher-point solutions can have the opposite of their intended effect. At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, I co-founded Notebooks, a word-processing tool that makes it easier for teachers to provide high-quality feedback to learners. Despite the positive reception by teachers, we often found that our users were juggling too many similar tools to reap their full benefit. While independently valuable, taken together these tools could be overwhelming. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic, when districts flush with federal stimulus, procured three times the number of teacher tools, often without a coherent theory about how they would improve student outcomes or teacher experience.

Coherent AI Solutions

Teachers deserve coherence. Education systems have an opportunity to empower educators to automate time-intensive tasks that would take them hours to complete. Coherent AI solutions that are integrated closely within the tools that teachers already use on a day-to-day basis deliver on the true value in AI. 

These solutions have the potential to:

  • Answer parent and student questions about topics that range from classroom activities to attendance. 
  • Generate curriculum that’s differentiated to learners’ interests, skills, and knowledge, all while upholding their administration’s expectations for rigor. 
  • Monitor student growth in a formative way by generating content-aligned adaptive challenges for learners.
  • Provide unlimited formative feedback opportunities for learners that are personalized to a teacher’s style and school standards.


However, these solutions can’t be realized incrementally. In order to truly leverage AI to improve educator productivity and student achievement, school leaders should work with their teachers to review their technology choices with an eye for the following:

  • The routine tasks that educators complete on their devices and how they might be accelerated with breakthrough AI capabilities.
  • The existing tools that teachers must continue to use as they incorporate AI into their practices and how AI tools fit within teachers’ existing workflows.
  • The student data and teacher context currently housed in siloed applications and how such information can be leveraged to increase coherence while decreasing the teacher capacity required to leverage this technology in the classroom.
  • The risks associated with using AI in the classroom, including the potential misuse of student data and the potential for hallucinations to negatively impact learning and assessment.


With these principles in place, schools can incorporate artificial intelligence while ensuring that its productivity gains are not nullified by the overhead of its adoption.

Schools Should Listen to Their Teachers

As the founder of an AI tool for teachers, I’ve talked to several hundred educators about their hopes and fears related to AI. If one thing is certain, educators understand that AI isn’t just hype. At the same time, their responses to AI have varied greatly. Some incorporated chatGPT into student activities the week it was released. Others scrambled to figure out how to validate the authenticity of student work. Our usage data suggests that teachers’ attitudes are shifting in real-time. Those who were eager to combat student use of AI were quick to start using AI to rewrite news articles at different reading levels. 

Rather than mandating a specific approach to AI in the classroom, schools should listen to their teachers and help them achieve coherence with their practices and tools. Doing this well will decrease burnout and allow teachers to focus on what matters most.

Arman Jaffer is the founder of Brisk Teaching, a committed team of technologists and educators working to make teaching more sustainable. Across their team, they have parents, engineers, business school graduates, and decades of collective experience creating education tools that serve teachers and students. Connect with Arman on LinkedIn. 


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