The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Education

student using AI for assignment

Recently, I walked into a McDonald’s to order my favorite hot fudge sundae. Wanting the delicious sauce on the side, I wondered how I could carry out my special request. Alas, all that befriended me was a screen with a set of buttons and no choice for adaptation. McDonald’s is one of many leading vendors in the food industry to be run by artificial intelligence (AI),1 and many customer service applications on our favorite shopping websites utilize an AI called Chat GPT. “Generative Pre-trained Transformer” is a language model used in several applications like ChatGPT where the responses are near human-like.2

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with technology; we either have run from it in hopes it doesn’t take over some aspect of our lives or we try to keep up only to find that it goes faster than we can adapt. So, as educators, what can we do to “live forward” and embrace AI? For example, we are now seeing completely automated tutoring sessions. Many of us will have to adapt to keep up with the changing world we live in. But how? In this article, we’ll discuss the role of AI in education and in classrooms and how can we differentiate ourselves from these robotic takeovers. Also, there will be a call to action for educators to rise up and embrace the change.

In This Article:

What Is AI?

AI in a nutshell is the capability of a machine to displace tasks that would normally be a human endeavor. In his book, "How AI Will Permanently Disrupt the Education Industry," Justin Gluska states that examples of AI in its current use are in the forms of understanding language, recognizing patterns and making decisions.3 ChatGPT is one such tool. It can analyze wordings and generate responses (only for which it has been trained from a plethora of books, articles, websites, etc.)

As educators, we must ask ourselves, how does this help or hinder the education sector? Plagiarism is already a mounting issue (and in that way a hindrance), but in a good way, we can see AI handle the mundane administrative tasks that plague our time. AI can also help creative thinkers deepen their ideas as the responses it generates are advanced and human-like. Still not perfect, ChatGPT is unable to understand the complexity of human language and instead relies on pattern recognition and statistical analysis.4 We will see why this is an important discrepancy later in this article.

The Current Role of Artificial Intelligence in Education

A whopping 34 billion dollars has been granted to AI startups since January and is expected to double by December.3 How is it being currently used? Humans are still very much needed to utilize the maximum benefits of AI. For apps in the classroom like Google Classroom and Microsoft-funded AI companies, these are currently giving educators ways to take the classroom virtual and create exciting, nuanced experiences for otherwise sheltered classroom time.

One expert noted, “If we can get to a point where education is about application over memorization, we’ll see massive improvements in the quality of student's knowledge and skills.”3 In the area of personalized learning, many apps are in the spotlight. Gluska shared a few like Knewton and Ocelot, which allow for a more personalized learning experience with regard to tutoring, two-way communication and live chats. He continued, “these apps tend to increase student retention, enrollment, and ultimately their success.”3

The Future Role of Artificial Intelligence in Education

AI is poised to revolutionize the field of education, Gluska surmises, offering unprecedented opportunities to enhance learning experiences and potentially improve educational outcomes. Let us take a look at how the future role of AI in education holds great potential to transform the way we teach and learn.

Individual Learning And Assessments in Real Time

One size does not fit all, which is why differentiated instruction is so powerful. However, we can take this one step further now. With AI, customized tutors can be especially helpful for students who may struggle with traditional classroom learning or who need extra support to reach their full potential. Another benefit of this is that it can lessen the obstacles to a higher quality of life for students who, in the past, have had less opportunity due to race or income status.5 For example, teachers can assign a program to help with skills at home basically cloning themselves outside the classroom.

With this said, educators can also generate same-day analytics, thereby knowing how well their students are grasping concepts and where their weaknesses may lie. Essentially, this means real time assessments beyond a fun game like Kahoot. Not only can AI generate this data but it can also help the educator see how to teach the content to individual students. This may result in getting the remediations and timely interventions in place sooner than later. Now we have technology to assist in helping transient students sooner who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks due to human error. This brings new meaning to the old phrase, no child is ever left behind. According to Gluska, this individual AI-footprint software will recognize patterns and understand students like something never seen before.3

Easier Lesson Planning

AI can make lesson planning more fun because teachers have detailed information about students now, including their learning styles, progress from past lessons and assessment data. This can help tailor to individual needs and be a big time saver, which then can be applied to more quality uses of time like relationship building — which is something AI cannot accomplish.

Some colleges have dashboards that give students real time information about their engagement with course materials and resources, assignments and grades. Three types of data are revealed to the educator: Behavior patterns, decision-helping actions to take to improve grades and how one stands in a course. This inevitably should motivate a student where in the past, the educator held the locust of control. How exciting that we can empower students to own their educational journey.

Deep Virtual Experiences

Augmented reality (AR) is the coupling of digital information with the user's environment versus Virtual Reality (VR) which is not a real environment. In the education world, students can utilize these immersive technologies to relate more closely to the content. Think of chemistry labs, STEM, astronomy, humanities, novel reading — so many ways to engage the students and provide a hands-on learning experience.

Call to Action: Rise Up, Teachers!

As teachers, we need to ask: What do we do as educators and what facets of education can be handled by AI? Also, what value can we, as human beings, offer that no robot can displace?

Our Writing Instruction Must Change (What Will Be Used In The Future?)

It’s no secret that plagiarism and cheating are widespread with the abundance of information available at one’s fingertips. However, we must look at the kind of writing that students need for life preparation. Teaching the formulaic, classic five-paragraph essay can be handled by any AI function, but is this what employers want? This is not the real world. Chris Dede from Harvard EdCast commented that any reporter will share that they could never use Chat AI to write their stories because they write narratives, not essays.3 This means as educators, we need to rise up and allow for voice and choice in writing; let’s allow more of the “personhood” to come out in one’s essay. AI cannot do this.

Also, in terms of plagiarism, AI raises the bar for human performance because one cannot use ChatGPT as a typical search engine. It has fallacies and can be misleading. Moreover, AI currently can predict a sentence, but according to Heikkila, it has no knowledge of what the sentence actually means.6 That makes it incredibly dangerous where it’s vital to get the facts correct.

We Must Become More Intentional in Building Relationships

Our society is lonelier than ever, and mental illness is at an all-time high.7 Although we are connected we are less connected via eye contact. The AI assistant can take over the routine parts of the job, and now we have the distinct opportunity (and challenge) to focus on more personalization to individual students (ushering in more cultural awareness and equity ideals that AI cannot handle). Also, educators can now focus on teaching skills that are difficult for AI to duplicate like critical thinking, creative ideas, direct communication with eye contact and solving practical problems. Again, we need to get to the point where education rises above memorization and the robotic five-paragraph essays to become more focused on application. AI is not able to replace a human in the application of real scenarios.

Looking Ahead

Finally, the education sector should look at rethinking standardized testing and assessments. Do we continue with these tests or do we focus more on critical thinking applications? Next, we need to change our perspective: How can we help our students learn? vs. How can we teach our students? Humans embody wisdom, culture and rites of passage. Therefore, we need to continue to be a provider of relational learning which this society is truly craving. If we can stay one step ahead of AI, educators can be on the forefront of ushering in and shaping the new generation of learners and critical thinkers.

At Grand Canyon University, you can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in teaching and education. Wherever you are on your path to becoming a qualified educator, GCU’s College of Education can help you get there with informative classes and hands-on teaching experiences. 

1 Just Food. (2023, Jan. 9). Leading artificial intelligence (AI) companies for the food industry. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

2 Dheda, Govind. (2023, April 17). What does GPT stand for in Chat GPT: Everything you need to know. Open AI Master. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

3 Gluska, Justin. (2023, June 9). How AI Will Permanently Disrupt The Education Industry. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

4 Anderson, Jill (2023, Feb. 9). Harvard EdCast: Educating in a World of Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved on June 13, 2023.

5 Gillani, Nabeel (2023, Jan. 26). ChatGPT Isn’t the Only Way to Use AI in Education. Wired. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

6 Heikkila, Melissa (2023, Feb. 14). Why you shouldn’t trust AI search engines. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

7 Surgeon General Social Connection Advisory. (2023). Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. Retrieved on June 14, 2023.

Approved by the senior adjunct professor for the College of Education on July 17, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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