AI in our schools: The good, the bad, and the ugly | Kevin Merges & Kwaku Aning | 4 Min Read

January 4, 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a lot of news with sites and services like GPT-3, Open AI, ChatGPT, Lensa, and DALL-E.  These tools can respond to questions, create/alter images, and write phrases or longer statements through the application of AI.  The big questions for schools are how these tools and others are being used by students, could be used by students, or how their use should/will be limited.  

There are many AI tools accepted in schools today.  Students are regularly allowed to use spelling and grammar checkers.  Email, GitHub, and other programs offer predictive text to writers and coders.  Some students arrive at school in self-driving cars.  While these uses are acceptable in most schools, it is important to begin discussions around the AI applications that will be allowed, and what grade levels can use the different platforms.

Machine learning algorithms are able to data-mine large sets of information to make decisions about the text, image, or response being created.  Students are learning to train chatbots in middle schools but are schools offering courses to understand how the algorithms could potentially be harmful?  Futureproof by Kevin Roose offers strategies for thriving during the period of technological change, and The Big Nine by Amy Webb offers scenarios regarding some of the larger companies using AI.

Schools can find many applications for AI.  Summer reading could be organized as a hub in Readocracy, where the AI analyzes text and videos seen by students, and eventually, the credits will become micro-credentials.  Coursera already uses AI to analyze student interactions in a course to verify learning of the content.  Copyleaks uses AI to detect plagiarism and content created with other AIs.  ProfJim uses AI to create quizzes and assignments for teachers based on their textbooks, and historical figures can be generated to deliver lessons if requested.  DARPA is currently funding AI tools to improve adult learning which should inform K-12 platforms in the future.  The advancements in these areas seem to be accelerating and schools need to consider emerging technology as an integral portion of the information they offer students.  

Educators need to prepare for an entanglement of technological advancements.  We should expect a transition from digital badges to digital certificates cryptographically verified in a blockchain.  Over 1,000,000 digital credentials, from almost 60,000 providers, have been offered in the last five years.  Employers are using AI tools to search for prospective employees with skills and credentials, but there are concerns about assets that are not cryptographically secure.  Schools should anticipate the emergence of a college application process that resembles the Credential Engine work for employers.

The fourth industrial revolution and Web3 are combining with the launch of low-earth-orbit satellite networks (LEOs). These networks are emerging at a time when 5G and IoT technologies are also building out.  Soon, students’ wireless internet connections will be ubiquitous on the planet.  The availability of knowledge, past and newly created, through high-speed networks independent of educational institutions could result in cost savings for schools.  These changes will accelerate transformations in schools that should exceed the transitions in the early 1900s as high school became an option for many people and textbooks allowed teachers to send work home.  Educators need to recognize the difference between emerging technologies and not get overwhelmed by the entanglement that is sure to occur.  

Apple seems to be targeting the fall of 2023 for the release of their XR device and xrOS.  This could enable people to see information in a manner similar to the displays in the movie “Free Guy”.  This will create new VR & AR discussions in schools.  Apple was not the first tablet, but the iPad changed many curricular conversations.  The blending of emerging technologies is a place of both great opportunity and anxiety for some.  People will worry about Terminator scenarios where Skynet becomes self-aware, but my mother (well into her 70s) gets email recommendations for tickets to Taylor Swift and Pink tours, so I believe AI still has a ways to go.  

Kwaku Aning and Kevin Merges will be talking on these topics and more, with participants at the NAIS Heads’ Summit in February. 

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Kevin Merges

Dr. Kevin Merges has been Executive Director of Global Education Programs and Director of The Innovation Center, Rutgers Preparatory School (NJ) since 2014. Previously, he was a teacher and Director of Program Advancement at Rutgers Prep School since 2000. He has taught math and research at Rutgers Preparatory School and Rutgers University. He serves as a representative of the United Nations Education Committee.

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