Transforming Learning with AI: An Imperative for Educators

By Brandie Shatto, Program Director & Professor | Educational Technology, University of Maryland Global Campus

In the ongoing debate over the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) in education, there are mixed feelings. Some are hesitant about adopting AI, feeling anxious about the rapid pace at which these technologies are advancing and uncertain about the questions that have yet to be answered when it comes to responsible use of AI. Others have been using, experimenting with, and advocating for its adoption since OpenAI’s ChatGPT first burst onto the scene. In this technological tug-of-war, some worry about the erosion of academic integrity and the potential for AI to replace human interaction. Others see AI as an unstoppable force, one that, if harnessed correctly, can profoundly enrich the educational experience.

This dichotomy presents a critical juncture for the future of education, where the decisions we make today will shape tomorrow’s learning landscape. As an advocate for the use of generative AI in the classroom, I propose that AI is not merely a passing trend but a transformative force reshaping how we learn, design learning experiences, and teach skills. Examples of this transformative force can already be found in classrooms across the globe. Here, I share just a few ways that generative AI is beginning to impact teaching and learning.

The future of AI in education holds immense promise for even more personalized and efficient learning experiences.

AI as a Thought Partner

As my esteemed colleague Dr. Jeffrey Hall says, AI can serve as a ‘thought partner,’ offering a collaborative and interactive approach to problem-solving and creativity. As a digital thought partner, AI can assist in brainstorming sessions, providing an array of ideas. For instance, when struggling to explain a complex scenario or seeking inspiration, generative AI swiftly offers multiple options for consideration. It can assist with writer’s block or provide solutions to a problem. However, there is a risk of overdependence. As educators, we must help learners balance AI’s assistance with the development of critical thinking and independent problem-solving skills.

AI as a Differentiation Tool

AI’s power in developing differentiated learning materials is game-changing. It can adapt content for diverse learning needs, translate languages, generate visual aids, recommend learning paths, and more. AI can use predictive analytics to identify areas where a student is likely to face challenges, allowing educators to provide additional resources or interventions in those areas proactively. Imagine an English literature class where AI rephrases Shakespeare for different reading levels, or a science lesson where a learner is able to adjust the level of complexity of an explanation of a theory. The challenge is ensuring equitable access to such technology, making it a tool for all students, not just a privileged few.

AI as a Feedback Loop

The use of AI as a feedback loop can significantly enhance the learning process, providing students with the guidance they need to improve their skills and knowledge efficiently. AI tools can provide immediate, unbiased feedback. For written work, for example, AI tools can provide feedback on flow enhancement and stylistic improvements. This immediate feedback aids learning and fosters metacognition, encouraging students to reflect on their writing process. AI can analyze feedback data to provide insights into common areas of difficulty among students, enabling teachers and professors to adjust their teaching strategies accordingly. AI can even use sentiment analysis to ensure that the feedback provided is constructive and positively framed, which is crucial for maintaining learner motivation. The goal is to complement, not replace, human feedback, ensuring a balanced approach to learning.

AI as a Study Tool

AI tools can summarize long texts, highlighting the most crucial points, which is particularly useful for learners dealing with large volumes of reading material. They can also assist in organizing and synthesizing notes, generating quizzes, and recommending supplemental material, effectively becoming an on-demand tutor. This is especially beneficial for students requiring extra help or those who thrive on self-paced learning. The challenge lies in ensuring AI enhances, not replaces, learning.

AI as a Digital Citizenship Tool

Integrating AI in education is also an important opportunity to teach and model digital citizenship. Navigating data privacy, authenticity, and ethical technology use is crucial to becoming a responsible steward of a digital environment. Discussions around the AI’s programming, data usage, and algorithmic biases can serve as practical lessons in understanding the complexities and responsibilities that come with digital citizenship. In this way, AI becomes not just a subject of study but also a participatory tool, helping learners engage with and understand the digital world in a more nuanced and responsible manner.

Looking Ahead: The Future of AI in Education

The future of AI in education holds immense promise for even more personalized and efficient learning experiences. AI’s potential to adapt to individual learning needs, predict challenges, and provide feedback is significant. However, ethical considerations – ensuring data privacy, security, and teaching responsible use – are paramount. As educators, our role isn’t just to adopt new technologies but to guide their integration in ways that enrich and prepare students for an AI-integrated future. Let’s not shy away from this revolution; let’s lead it in a direction that benefits all students.