I have had so many debates with people about the use of technology in the classroom. I love technology, and I love what technology can do to help my profession. I am able to assign work, grade that work and give feedback all from the comfort of my couch. I no longer have to spend multiple class periods lecturing, when the students could be tasked with watching a video. All of the tools that have been created indeed make teaching a learning easier, however, am I putting myself out of the job?
“In online classrooms, the tutors can interrupt video lectures to ask questions directly to learners, replaying snippets of the video if it is clear the student is struggling to understand specific subject matter. This kind of omnipresent support and mentoring can fill in gaps, particularly for large introductory courses where it is challenging for instructors to give their pupils oneon-one attention.” (The NMC Horizon Report, 2017)
The idea behind AI in education is one that in theory will increase accessibility to all students. Since the future of AI is predicted to be able to learn about the learner and be able to fill in the gaps in content knowledge, where does that leave the actual teacher? If technology is progressing in a direction where computers can give lectures, grade assignments, and manipulate outputs based on student progress, are teachers even necessary? This in lies the debate. Where this could be a solid solution “to address teacher shortages, especially where subject matter expertise is missing” (“What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For Education,” 2016) it does also have the prospect of putting thousands of teachers out of the job.
“However, skepticism about the ethics of AI may hamper progress. The World Economic Forum cites learned biases, such as racism, as a major concern, questioning humans’ ability to prevent such unintended consequences” (The NMC Horizon Report, 2017)
In addition to the possible teacher crisis that could stem from full implementation of artificial intelligence in the classroom, there are ethical concerns as well. If AIs are able to learn from people without being manually programmed, what is to stop them from learning all of the negative human attributes. If you have ever seen the show Futurama you know exactly what I am getting at. (If not enjoy the Best of Bender) AI, if unchecked could essentially take all humanity’s malice, biases, and discrimination and embed it within it’s designed task. For example, Bender is a bending unit, designed only to bend. However, with his ability to learn from his surroundings and the people he interacts with he has morphed into a rogue unit that exhibits some of humanities worst character traits. (Albeit he is rather hilarious).
Overall, there are definite pros and cons to the integration of artificial intelligence into the educational setting. But at the end of the day, the purpose of education is to give people a means to expand their understanding of content and if technology wins out on its ability to differentiate and lead to educational excellence then so be it. May the best teacher win.