DA op-ed: The role of AI in education

Artificial intelligence saves time and makes everyday life easier, and it can help teachers and students in the classroom, too
By: | June 24, 2019
gettyimages.com: Besjunior
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Over the past year, I have focused on learning more about artificial intelligence. I thought I understood the meaning of  AI. But did I?

In early 2018, I noticed that AI was becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion in the blogs that I was reading and in social media posts. When I first started thinking of AI, I had a flashback to the 2004 movie I, Robot, which starred Will Smith. In the movie, set in 2035, robots filled public service positions and were able  to think like humans and take action. Then, I thought about virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri. But what is AI, and how do we use it in everyday life?

What is AI?

A quick Google search turns up more than 615 million results. AI is computer code that displays some form of intelligence, learning and problem-solving in what has been referred to as a “super intelligence.” AI “learns” on its own, and makes adjustments and improvements based on past iterations. As AI becomes “smarter,” its knowledge base grows and it is able to complete more tasks. Digging a little deeper, I found #AskAboutAI, a research project launched by Getting Smart, which identified over 100 applications of AI. 

Shehzad Najib, CEO and co-founder of Interact, recently told me: “You shouldn’t notice that AI is working. You should notice that life is easier and you’re saving time.” 

Keep that in mind. Here are a few ways that we interact with AI:

  • Communication: We all use email and receive a lot of spam. AI is used to streamline the amount of spam that is allowed through filters, and it continues to learn over time as you mark items as spam. 
  • Travel: If you use driving apps such as Uber or Lyft, you have experienced machine learning, a form of AI that determines your estimated time of arrival. In the airline industry, “human steered” flight time is estimated to be about seven minutes, leaving the rest to autopilot, which is AI. 
  • Social networks: Most people are engaging in some form of social media use. Recently, Facebook shared results of how AI is successful at detecting spam, but not as successful at detecting hate speech or cyberbullying. When photos are used in social media, AI uses facial detection to suggest a name for photo tagging. 
  • Shopping: Many people use Amazon and similar services, and appreciate when suggestions are provided for other items of interest. AI is at work here, going through your prior data and making decisions based on your preferences over time. 
  • Fraud protection: When making purchases either online or in person, there are systems in place that analyze your purchasing trends and locations, and can immediately flag and send alerts for something that is considered to be an uncommon transaction. 

Were you familiar with all of these AI uses? Thinking back to Shehzad’s statement, they do save time and often go unnoticed. 

Read: AI instruction readies K-12 students for future careers

What can AI do for education?

According to a recent article in Forbes, there are 10 ways to use AI in education:

  1. AI can automate basic activities in education, such as grading.
  2. Educational software can be adapted to student needs.
  3. AI can point out places where courses need improvements.
  4. AI tutors can help support students.
  5. AI-driven programs can give students and educators helpful feedback.
  6. AI is altering how we find and interact with information.
  7. AI could change teachers’ roles.
  8. AI can make trial-and-error learning less intimidating.
  9. Data powered by AI can change how schools find, teach and support students.
  10. AI could change where students learn and who teaches them, and how students acquire basic skills.

Regardless of the technology we choose to explore and use in education, we have to focus on the technology’s purpose. What are the benefits of using AI? Is it practical to use AI? 

Time is always a consideration, and when it comes to providing authentic, meaningful and personalized learning experiences for our students, we need to make the most of our time. AI can make an impact here. 

For example, students and teachers will be able to connect and have instant access to resources that meet their needs. AI will make decisions based on responses and interactions. 

AI can be used to save time in the grading process and provide differentiated instruction that adjusts as students continue to work through class materials. AI analyzes data faster so teachers can act upon data faster.

We must actively explore the resources that are being shared in the education world today. 

Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is also an attorney and serves as the president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network.


Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.