Generative AI: A New Frontier in Education

Mark Pate, Middle School Design & Technology Teacher

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the educational sector, and generative AI is leading the way. Generative AI is a type of machine learning that involves the use of algorithms to create original content from prompts provided by a user. This emerging technology has immense potential to revolutionize teaching and learning by offering personalized learning experiences and immersive, authentic interactions. Despite concerns regarding the potential misuse of AI, a responsible and effective application of the tool can equip students with the skills and dispositions necessary for success in an ever-changing world.

Last month's Superintendent Speaker Series, "Artificial Intelligence in Education: Opportunities and Implications," featured a panel of technology industry experts, students, and faculty/staff who shared their insights on AI. A curious audience engaged with panelists, asked questions, and voiced concerns to deepen their understanding of AI and its potential impact on education.

As a faculty panelist, I view AI's ability to create personalized learning experiences as one of its most exciting potential applications. By analyzing student learning styles, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, algorithms can create customized lesson plans and activities tailored to a student's unique needs. By offering a "Goldilocks" zone of learning, a level of rigor that’s just right for each student, AI can facilitate student engagement and enhance motivation, leading to better learning outcomes.

Last month's panel discussion at Graded on artificial intelligence in education.

The combination of generative systems and virtual and augmented reality could allow students to experience a level of personalization and engagement that was previously impossible. It would be possible for students to interact with a "virtual expert" in a specific field, creating an immersive and authentic learning experience. Students can ask questions and receive responses tailored to specific, contextual inquiries. This approach is far more empowering than reading a textbook or watching a video lecture. Engaging with these generative systems, when done properly, promotes a deeper understanding of the material and promotes intellectual curiosity while fostering the development of essential transferable skills. These skills include: understanding situations and recognizing constraints, developing precision of language to formulate impactful questions, and honing analytical reasoning. Ultimately, by developing these skills, students will be equipped with the building blocks for deeper learning.

During the panel discussion, participants acknowledged that AI holds immense promise for revolutionizing education but also raised issues for educators and parents. One concern is that AI could produce a complete essay that meets a teacher’s expectations with a single prompt, which could lead to academic dishonesty and raise questions about the authenticity of student work. Furthermore, as an emerging technology, generative AI carries the risk of error, inaccuracy, bias, or even harmful content. Educators must exercise caution and vigilance when incorporating generative AI into their teaching methods. Proper training, implementation, and technology monitoring are crucial to ensure responsible and effective use.

As a school with an abundance of highly trained and skilled educators, Graded is uniquely positioned to explore the potential of AI in education while thoughtfully addressing areas of concern. The tool can help students engage in deep, meaningful learning experiences that can go beyond a surface-level understanding of concepts. The competencies they will develop will allow students to navigate and thrive in the future—one in which adaptability and critical thinking are essential for success.