Understaffed, burnt out, under-resourced? Here is a different vision for the classroom.
GUEST COLUMN | by Bill Salak
Public outcries on AI’s negative impacts on the classroom are rampant.
Naturally, some teachers are apprehensive, fearing AI will put them at risk, replacing them in some capacity. Others are dismissive of AI, not believing its promise of helping them, having repeatedly been assured that the latest and greatest program they must integrate into their classroom learning techniques will take them to the promised land.
‘What is coming down the pike is a better experience and outcome for students and their teachers.’
I have a different vision for AI in the classroom. I see AI as the ultimate productivity tool that can improve the lives of teachers – who are understaffed, burnt out, and under-resourced – by automating manual, repetitive tasks to focus on more value-added instructional activities.
At its core, whether in teaching, marketing, or accounting, AI can help us do things faster and more efficiently — essentially, an ideal assistant that can take on a myriad of tasks effortlessly. You tell it what you want it to do, and it helps you.
Remember when calculators became ubiquitous in every high school math class, replacing the need for math teachers?
Similarly, AI will not cause teachers to have a diminished role in the classroom. What do we see as changing? Teachers won’t have to spend hours every Sunday drawing up lessons for the coming week during the school year. More personalized learning for every student without taxing the educator’s time or resources. Better outcomes for students and an enhanced classroom experience for teachers and students.
Adapt AI to fit your teaching style
The AI revolution can empower teachers, enabling them to configure AI according to their teaching style and the content they want to teach. Instead of teachers battling personalized learning paths that AI predetermines and not being given the tools to help students, teachers will be able to direct the AI-generated lesson plans using their signature teaching techniques honed by years of experience.
Educators will gain control of this new version of AI as they would a teaching assistant. They will configure their AI so that every student gets, in effect, their own personal teaching assistant – one that’s been vetted and configured by the teacher – for one-on-one individualized instruction.
Teachers would love to tailor their lessons for individualized instruction to meet their students’ challenges. But what they’re forced to do, because they’re outnumbered, often by 30 to one, is play to the general pace and progression of most of the class. And even within that majority, there are differences in what they understand and how deep. Playing to the majority ends up with very uneven results across the classroom.
What is coming down the pike is a better experience and outcome for students and their teachers.
Research shows that students want to use AI in the classroom and believe doing so will benefit them. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t want to replace human teachers with AI; instead they seek increased teacher involvement while using AI technology in the classroom. We can harness AI to align with how and what the teachers are teaching, so students aren’t using ChatGPT or Google for random searches about a topic, resulting in poor or generic information that may not support classroom learning.
Also, while younger students are typically more engaged with classroom learning, middle and high school students often disengage. As students mature into their antsy teenage years, they don’t necessarily want someone “handling” them; there’s a push-pull with authority. They want to feel independent. This is a way to give them that independence, but instead of throwing them in the wild, letting them explore topics in a structured environment directed by the teacher.
It keeps the teacher in control of the classroom while delivering high-quality information to students.
Harnessing the data-rich environment
Soon, we can use AI to gather real-time data on student struggles and provide feedback to teachers so they can adapt their lessons accordingly.
Teachers already have rich information from test results and performance assessments. But assessments are a lagging indicator of what the student has learned about the subject. Quizzes are a great assessment form, but they test the student’s knowledge about last week’s lessons. You’re already moving forward from the test’s questions.
AI can give a real-time assessment of what’s happening in the moment in your classroom. Using your AI platform, you can look at a chart and see where students are asking questions as they do their homework and what topics they are struggling to understand.
‘AI can give a real-time assessment of what’s happening in the moment in your classroom.’
The collected data is no different from what teachers get now from their weekly quizzes or standardized tests – but it is more valuable. This kind of feedback loop will be a game-changer for teachers. With this level of insight into student behaviors, AI can give recommendations to teachers to create better student outcomes.
AI can also help teachers and students build collaborative relationships. Our current system often pits students against teachers, which is unfortunate because kids love to learn – especially younger kids – and most teachers genuinely love teaching and educating young people. Because of overcrowded classrooms and time constraints, teachers often cannot give their students the help they need. Leveraging AI, there’s an opportunity to redefine that teacher-student relationship to focus on better outcomes for both groups.
We are on the cusp of facilitating a new era in teaching using AI – one that will harness the technology’s strengths to create an education system that benefits teachers, students and parents. We need to embrace this next-world-order productivity tool, not hide from it.
Bill Salak has more than 20 years of experience overseeing large-scale development projects and has more than 24 years of experience in web application architecture and development. Bill founded and served as CTO of multiple Internet and web development companies, leading technology projects for companies including Age of Learning, AOL, Educational Testing Systems, Film LA, Hasbro, HBO, Highlights for Children, NBC-Universal, and the U.S. Army. Bill currently serves as the CTO of Brainly, the world’s leading learning platform worldwide with the most extensive Knowledge Base for all school subjects and grades. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn.