An educator’s guide to AI: Unpacking objections and exploring opportunities

Lucinda Starr

Writer for Atomi

2000

min read

Educators: what springs to mind when you hear the phrase ‘artificial intelligence’?

Fear and apprehension? Confusion and uncertainty? Excitement and new possibilities?

A quick Google search reveals the spectrum of concerns and objections teachers (like you) hold towards AI, from ‘What are the dangers of AI for kids?’ to ‘Can AI completely replace teachers?’

Rather than turning away from the debate, it’s important to consider AI's potential and learn how to incorporate this emerging technology effectively into the classroom without compromising student experience or outcomes.  

What objections do educators hold towards AI?

There’s no denying that educators are concerned about the rise of AI, both inside and outside of the classroom. In our own research (as part of our Tech in Schools report), we discovered that 60% of educators are concerned about the ethical implications of using AI in the classroom. 

Plus, 60% of teachers believe the use of AI in education will significantly change teaching methodologies. 

In more specific terms, here are the most common objections raised by teachers towards AI:

  • AI will replace teachers and remove the valuable human touch from teaching.
  • AI can’t handle the complexities of teaching and won’t be able to navigate the diverse needs and preferences of learners.
  • AI will create a one-size-fits-all approach to education that will remove the ability for teachers to creatively deliver learning materials in new, dynamic ways.
  • Students will become reliant on AI and may adopt unethical uses of AI, particularly in the context of assessments.
  • AI will create a data privacy nightmare with a lot still unknown about how AI stores and handles sensitive information. 

How real Australian teachers feel about AI

“I am inspired by AI chatbots and what they can create with simple instructions. I enjoy exploring and experimenting with these bots to see what can be produced.” NSW Catholic School Educator.

“AI is amazing. I have been using it to create short quizzes based on YouTube videos, which help students consolidate their understanding of a video. I have been using it to create flashcards and to give me ideas on how best to present new concepts.” NSW Government School Educator.

“Students have used AI in a negative way. They ask AI to complete their tasks, rather than using it as a tool to help them synthesise information into original content.” NSW Catholic School Educator.

“There are constant reminders of screen addiction, as students are unable to regulate the need to get off the task and focus on given work. Also, AI now gives them an easy way out with no 'Turn It In' type of platform to regulate cheating.” NSW Independent School Educator. 

The opportunities of AI for educators 

But with change come opportunities. Just like the rise of digital learning platforms and continuous reporting tools, AI has the potential to enhance learning experiences, alleviate the adminstrative pressures on educators and ensure students gain access to real-time feedback. 

85% of educators believe AI could never replace the need for human teachers. Source: Atomi’s Tech in Schools Report 2024. 

For educators, AI offers huge scope to unlock efficiencies and boost student engagement by:

  • Enabling differentiation at scale and using AI tools to track student progress in real-time, followed up by tailored revision resources aligned with each learner’s unique needs.
  • Streamlining and automating time-intensive tasks, from marking assessments to providing feedback on pre-assessment tasks and even lesson planning.
  • Making it most accessible to apply innovative pedagogical methods in the classroom (like interactive, personalised tutoring).
  • Easily assessing student skills beyond recall to foster critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills (such as using AI to role-play a debate partner who can point out weaknesses in their arguments).
  • Reducing friction for non-English speakers, with the ability to use AI as a translation assistant where students can practice their conversation and writing skills. 

For students, AI allows for immediate and specific feedback at their moment of need, highlighting issues that might require attention from their teacher as they come up. Plus, AI can direct students to the right next steps based on their individual learning strengths and weaknesses. 

Practical ways to tackle common AI objections

Along with learning how to effectively harness AI in teaching, it can be helpful to break down and challenge the key objections to AI in the classroom. 

We sat down with Sarah-Eleni Zaferis (Atomi’s resident teacher and Product Enablement Specialist) to gain her practical insights into how to tackle the most common AI objections for educators:  

  • Don’t fight the change: Now is the time to be adapting to the rise of AI (where appropriate)  in school and beyond, rather than resisting this technology. “Kids are going to have access to AI, whether we introduce it in the classroom or not. I think embracing it and showing kids how to use it correctly means the novelty wears off for kids,” explains Sarah-Eleni. 
  • Involve students in ethical conversations around AI: “It’s about involving kids in ethical conversations about AI’s benefits and pitfalls. For example, start by explaining the implications of using AI to complete an assignment and how failing to learn that knowledge can have effects on future assessments and even life after school. Not to mention that AI tools don’t always get it right,” shares Sarah-Eleni.
  • Set clear boundaries around AI usage: Sarah-Eleni recommends “taking a whole school approach to boundaries around AI usage so students are clear about what is and isn’t allowed, which is enforced across each subject area”
  • Rethink the structure of assessments: “Look at ways to test student knowledge and skills and challenge students without asking them to regurgitate something that AI can generate for them… In English, that could mean asking students to prepare an illustrative summary of key themes in a novel,” reveals Sarah-Eleni. 

Harness AI in your teaching with Atomi 

As an EdTech company, we know that AI is here to stay. While we can already see big benefits for teachers and students, we also know that this technology has a long way to go. 

As Thomas O’Donahoo, Co-Founder at Atomi, explains, 

We’ll be working in lockstep with our partner schools and teachers to help improve AI technology over time and make it work within the Australian context. These systems are guided by the inputs of teachers, and we look forward to working with the community to deliver the AI assistance that students and teachers want and need.

We believe students come first, which is why we’ll take steps to ensure any new tech exceeds expectations when it comes to safety, security, and privacy before we roll out new features. Plus, we’re bound to protect students' data through the legislation of the jurisdictions in which we operate. As a signatory to the globally recognised Student Privacy Pledge, Atomi goes above and beyond to protect students' information and implement best practices.

References

Published on

May 23, 2024

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