The Truth About AI's Classroom Potential

AI And Teachers: Discussing The Future Of EdTech
Summary: We’re going to leverage AI wisely to spark a learning renaissance that, not incidentally, addresses teacher burnout and supports greater student success.

How Can AI Support Teachers In The Classroom?

There’s a striking software arms race afoot in 2023 classrooms. More students are delegating essay-writing assignments to ChatGPT, and more tools are appearing that purport to detect the dishonest hand of chatbots in student work. (One survey [1] found 67% of UK secondary school students using them to complete homework—and one in ten teachers can’t tell!) But, as we grew used to declaring about another, more lethal arms race, this kind of war cannot be won and should not be fought. Artificial Intelligence can and will be deployed in education—but not in some tit-for-tat escalatory conflict pitting crafty students against overworked instructors. Given that AI is here to stay—and can create vivid value for educators when leveraged judiciously—here’s a better path forward wherein AI supports, complements, and de-stresses teachers. Not a bit like an arms race.

Stress Factors

First, the last thing most UK teachers need is more work or complicating factors. A 2021 YouGov TeacherTrack survey [2] reported half were suffering symptoms of burnout; 73% said they felt reduced professional efficacy "some or all of the time." Technology advances should make life better for educators, not worse.

Second, let’s stipulate that ChatGPT, along with other Large Language Models taking the world by storm and holding journalists in thrall right now, is not automatically reliably virtuous. Asimov’s First Law of Robotics says a robot may not injure a human being, but disinformation, deepfakes, and plagiarism are all injurious products of AI. In and out of the classroom it’s an intrinsically benign technology subject to manipulation.

Third, and perhaps most important: AI cannot and must not eclipse human judgment or control. It’s a deputized copilot. Those who imagine AI taking over essential human functions, in education or any other sphere, are overreaching. (You have perhaps read of the American personal-injury lawyer who had ChatGPT generate a court brief and submitted it without proofing it; he—and the judge—were nonplussed to find the bot had invented nonexistent legal precedents.)

Given those conditions and cautions, how does AI create value for teachers?

Delegate The Rote Work To AI, Elevate The Teacher

A true AI-enhanced modern learning platform (MLP) can change a typical teacher’s workflow by generating, in response to instructions, sequenced lesson plans, syllabi, reading lists, and rubrics—the kinds of repetitive, tedious tasks that consume too many teacher hours, over too many late nights at the kitchen table. The bot is always strictly subordinate, and its output is always subject to review. Teachers who put AI to work this way find themselves elevated, with more bandwidth to put to higher-value pursuits. These can include mentoring SEND students [3] whose learning styles benefit from more attention.

In fact, contemporary MLPs offer all students more personalized experiences; even in distance-learning settings, AI plus data and analytics can assess each individual learner’s progress, speed up or slow down evaluative activities based on their performance, and suggest appropriate next-step assignments. The data readouts let teachers track everyone’s progress more easily. For these reasons, far from isolating teachers from their students, MLPs actually improve their relationships.

Putting A Stop To Bot Vs. Bot: The Need For Fresh Teachers' Perspectives On AI

What about inappropriate student use of ChatGPT et al to, in effect, outsource idea generation? The problem ultimately suggests a bigger issue. Sometimes we grade the wrong things. Vetting a student composition phrase by phrase, searching for pilfered or artificially manufactured turns of phrase, is a dead-end game. Students will always be tempted to "let ChatGPT do it," and no policing software on the teacher’s end will be an airtight deterrent.

So change the game. Clearly, new assessment models are needed. High-touch, gamified evaluation experiences on the learning platform are part of the answer. So is a fresh look at competency-based learning, gaining popularity in the workplace-training world: a learner is given specific, relevant skillsets in which to achieve proficiency and a personalized curriculum suited to their observed learning style. AI can support a re-deployment of educator energy, from tedious language-purity checks to advancing the cause of joyous, effective learning.

A New View Of Ed Tech

A generation of wired classrooms bristling with computers (sometimes whiskery old units well past their sell-by dates!) has perhaps conditioned administrators to see education tech as a cost sink. After all, the hardware demands regular care and feeding, and there’s no end to the software and security updates. The advent of classroom AI makes a strong case for turning that thinking on its head: EdTech can be a value center, making teachers more productive and enhancing their influence and impact while burnout factors and disaffection recede.

With AI-enhanced modern learning platforms instructors can connect with more students—and course material can make more lasting impressions on students, better preparing them for the lives that await. There can be no better advocates for improved quality of classroom life, and a new view of classroom tech as a pragmatic, dividend-paying investment, than teachers themselves. So look beyond the popular press, so quick these days to caricature AI as a scary force for chaos. When we harness AI in the classroom thoughtfully, it actually stands to stabilize and support the essential profession of teaching.


[1] 67% of UK Students Use AI Tools, Survey Results Show Positive Responses

[2] Significant signs of burnout amongst teachers

[3] TeacherTales: How I support SEND pupils with these 10 tips