There have been a lot of digital “next big things” in education over the years—everything from the Apple IIe to online learning. The latest is artificial intelligence education tech (AI Ed), and only time will tell what impact it will ultimately have. But for something as important as education, now is the time to start talking about the benefits and challenges created by AI-powered personalized learning systems as they make their way into classrooms.
Entefy covered this topic in previous articles: Old school no more: AI disrupts the classroom, which focused on teachers; and Artificial intelligence may transform education, but are parents ready?, which focused on parents.
The clear near-term opportunity for AI Ed is to support teachers by taking over time-consuming, lower-value tasks like grading and record keeping. But there are already sophisticated AI teaching systems under development, systems that raise long-term questions about what place AI should have in schools.
To help you form your own opinion, here are 14 unprecedented choices and challenges created by AI’s use in education:
- Teachers may find themselves with more time. AI systems that take over record keeping and grading would free up additional time for teachers to devote to students.
- Mass customization would improve children’s health. If AI allows for mass customization and decentralization of education, then children’s schedules can be better matched to their sleep needs. This would address longstanding concerns that school children do not get enough sleep.
- Parents will assume greater responsibility in children’s education. AI Ed means parents may have to take on additional roles as coaches, curators, and guardians as their kids navigate new tools and platforms. This shift would dramatically impact the 3.1 million public and 0.4 million private K-12 teachers, not to mention the 3.4 million administrators and support staff.
- A teacher’s instincts might conflict with sensor data. Artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition can provide learning systems with emotional data, further customizing machine teaching systems.
- AI shifts who pays for education. With fewer centralized schools and teachers, the cost of education would fall materially. But if parents become more involved in their children’s education, families may face new direct costs as well as the opportunity cost of increased time commitments.
- Students may miss out on the valuable non-academic contributions of teachers. Beyond academics, teachers lead the development of critical “21st century skills” like problem solving and critical thinking.
- Customized learning could accelerate natural inequalities. Today’s education system focuses on standardization to reduce the achievement differences between students. AI tutoring systems that tailor their lessons to different children’s needs would undo this standardization, with some students naturally progressing faster than others.
- AI could make today’s schoolhouses obsolete. Modern schools promote one-size-fits-all classes and learning at a fixed pace. AI learning systems allow for customized curriculum that reduces the need for classrooms and lecturers. Traditional schools might evolve into smaller, distributed structures and specialized learning centers.
- Peer-to-peer socialization becomes a concern if more children learn remotely. Kids learn from other kids. Australia’s School of the Air remote learning program can prescribe the model for remote education that emphasizes socialization. Students at the school learn via Internet lessons and connect with classmates at separate camps and social events.
- Customization and decentralization can lead to disparate standards. Today’s public schools are designed around common standards for all students. AI-powered schools that are smaller and more customized lose some of the shared behavioral, social, and cultural norms that kids learn at larger schools.
- Parent-managed education will be new and complicated. Our society isn’t organized in a way that makes it convenient for parents to play the hands-on role that AI Ed may require. This leads to complex new decisions for parents and employers alike.
- AI Ed will have difficulty replicating teacher models for behavior. Through their own actions in class, teachers model behaviors like resilience and emotionally appropriate responses to challenges. This is not easily recreated by an AI system.
- Textbooks will take on a new form. There are AI systems that use a teacher’s syllabus to assemble a custom textbook for a particular class or subject area.
- Tutoring will take on a whole new face. Studies show that a key element in successful tutoring is providing instant feedback to the student. AI-powered apps can learn to effectively provide targeted, customized feedback to the student.
AI has the potential to change the quality, delivery, and nature of education. It also promises to change forever the role of parents, students, teachers, and educational organizations in our children’s learning.