Predictions about the future of AI in the classroom run the gamut. On one side are alarmists who foresee a bleak landscape of widespread cheating and completely computerized instruction that replaces humans all together. On the other side are the futurists who embrace rapid AI integration as an essential step to prepare students for a workforce that will grow ever more dependent on this technology. Most likely, the reality lies somewhere in between. But one thing is certain: AI is here to stay.
“Right now, we’re reporting that over 49 percent of American businesses have already integrated ChatGPT into their daily workings, and 30 percent are expecting to within the next year or two,” said Daniel Woleslagle, an educational technology specialist in the Williamsport Area School District who has delved heavily into the research on this subject. “So, you’re talking about something that is possibly changing 79 percent of American businesses within the next year or so.”
As someone who trains educators on classroom technologies and assists them in the best practices of integrating them into their daily lessons, Woleslagle is keenly aware of both the risks and rewards of an AI-driven future. In his district, as in many others, teachers already are using it to plan their lessons, create rubrics, generate ideas for small-group brainstorming, and more. On the flip side, they’re looking at every piece of work a student submits and wondering how much of it was created with AI.
While tools exist to detect plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty newly unleashed by the AI revolution, they’re not perfect. That’s because the current generation of AI produces a unique written response each time it’s asked a question. And it’s only getting better. Essays composed by even early versions of chatgpt have passed for average, or better, work by a typical high school or college student. The most recent version of ChatGPT generates responses to Bar Exam questions that are of significantly higher quality than the average law school graduate.
It’s certainly no wonder why a free tool this powerful has been adopted so quickly and eagerly. For students, ChatGPT can offer creative writing prompts and provide useful feedback, help with vocabulary, foreign language translation, math and computer coding challenges, and so much more. For teachers, it can help grade papers, compose lesson plans, create study guides, analyze writing, and on and on.
But maybe technological shortcuts won’t necessarily lead to better outcomes in education. After all, giving everyone a high-powered pocket computer with every bit of human knowledge at their fingertips at all times hasn’t exactly ushered in a golden age of enlightenment.
“Sometimes, overcoming struggles in trying to learn something is more important than the knowledge you actually gained,” said Mike Soskil, a lifelong educator and former Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year who currently teaches elementary STEM in the Wallenpaupack Area School District. “By making learning too easy and by taking away the relationship aspect of education, we can sometimes stunt student growth in areas that we don’t want to.”