The Pros and Cons of AI in Education

The Pros and Cons of AI in Education

Artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded into new buzzwords: ChatGPT, Bard, Stable Diffusion, Dall-e, Midjourney and more. It seems inevitable that AI will have an increasing impact on our lives, kids' education, teaching, and future professions.

Image-creation AI like Dall-e has used the vast amount of imagery on the internet to learn what objects look like and how different artists style their work. Chatbots, like ChatGPT, have absorbed the contents of websites and books to learn. The latest computer graphics chips can turn a low-resolution screen into a high-resolution screen because they've trained on how the game looks at high resolution.

Artificial intelligence has been the big tech news of 2024, and its potential impact on students and education has worried some teachers and excited others. In this guide to AI in education, we'll look at both sides of the debate on AI in education. We’ll discuss the major benefits and drawbacks of adopting AI in education. We’ll also talk through some use cases for AI, to give you an idea of how AI can help in education.

Pros of AI in Education

Searching for answers to questions does not mean finding the solutions. Children could ask AI to get the information they need to be presented in a format they find accessible.

Students already ask Google for answers but must choose from a list of search results. Even if these are all correct, they could be written with very different audiences in mind. The same answer will not best serve an academic and a child.

1. Adaptability to Learning Styles

AI could answer the question in a way that suits the questioner's age, needs, and requirements. ChatGPT has learned different styles of text, so just as you could ask an image AI to draw a cat in the style of Picasso, you could tell ChatGPT to answer in Shakespearian prose.

2. Instant Feedback for Students

ChatGPT is adept at pinpointing students' difficulties and offering extra assistance to tackle these obstacles. Such prompt responses can maintain students' motivation and interest in their educational pursuits.

3. Reduce Workload of Teachers and Educators

AI tools can help teachers save time and streamline many administrative tasks. This allows them to allocate more time to vital responsibilities like organizing lessons, marking assignments, and giving more tailored support to students requiring extra help.

4. Continuous Improvement and Evaluation

Students could ask for their answers in the form of a list, a timeline, or something else that makes the information more accessible. They could ask the AI to be more elaborate or to simplify the answer. Used this way, the same ability that might undermine teachers' ability to assess students could enable it to be an always-ready personal tutor.

5. Tool for Spelling and Grammar

We see a similar problem of confident inaccuracy with grammar-checking apps. The most sophisticated use AI and do a good but not infallible job. The writer still needs to accept or reject the suggested changes, and they'll need a grasp of grammar to do this.

We discuss this more in: Using AI spelling and grammar tools for learning.

Cons of AI in Education

1. Accuracy Issues

The first thought for many teachers when they hear about the aims of ChatGPT, is that it could do kids' homework for them. If kids can ask AI to produce an essay on the causes of the First World War, why would they write it?

We asked ChatGPT, 'What were the causes of the First World War?' and its answer was excellent!

(The First World War was caused by a combination of factors, including imperialism, nationalism rivalries, and alliances between different countries. A key trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on June 28, 1914. This event led to a chain reaction of alliances being activated and countries mobilising for war.)

However, we know it is excellent because we asked ChatGPT a question to which we knew the answer. If a child asked the question and the response was for the wrong conflict or even a fictional one, they'd have seen a well-written wrong answer.

Chatbots got lawyers into trouble by inventing legal precedents that did not exist. Google's Chatbot even got its facts wrong in a well-publicised error at its launch. So, a big problem is that kids could get AI to do their work, but it might not do it properly!

2. Content Bias

A more insidious problem is the material used for training. We all know the internet stores distorted, wrong, questionable and harmful content. AI has no morals, discernment, conscience, or understanding of the words it reads or writes. The AI treats all of its training material equally. The responses of AI can repeat and amplify harmful messages. It can present and strengthen prejudices. Whether hurtful or unrepresentative, AI won't challenge existing biases but will repeat them. This problem will be challenging as AI is hungry for training material, and we can never keep up with curating its source.

3. Safety Concerns

Generative AI companies have tried to build in safeguards to prevent their products from being misused for criminal or harmful activities but many experts feel this will not work in the long term. AI researchers have shown ways they can overcome those safety precautions. Children should not use Chatbots without supervision and monitoring.

We talk about this more in: Educational apps for kids and artificial intelligence

4. Limitations of ChatGPT and other generative AI 

ChatGPT has the same limitations as the AI that generates artwork. It takes a prompt and uses its training material to produce a pattern that works best. The training material for image AI is images, while chatbots use text. Something like Dall-E, which creates pictures from prompts, and ChatGPT are just as likely to get things wrong. However, we can tell when a generated image of a person has too many arms but not when a question is answered incorrectly.

A key limitation of current AI is that it does not understand the patterns. Dalle-E doesn't know what a cat is but can use the patterns it was trained with to draw a cat. ChatGPT doesn't know the meaning of a single word, but it knows the patterns they are most likely to follow corresponding to the prompt. This is why a common criticism levelled at ChatGPT answers is that they look like they could be correct even when they are nonsense. ChatGPT's parent company are keen to keep expectations realistic, and they readily admit it currently has limitations.

5. Challenges in AI Detection

Some companies are working hard at creating tools to detect AI, but some feel experts feel this is likely to fail. It isn't enough to detect AI-generated content reliably it must not wrongly identify human creativity as AI-produced. OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, has ended its attempts to produce a detector as it does not predict success. History tells us, though, that banning technology rarely works.

What are educators and teachers doing about AI?

Optimists point to other technological upheavals like the electronic calculator. Despite fears that they would destroy math education, they instead changed what teachers taught and how they assessed knowledge.

Pessimists fear AI will undermine kids' desire to learn when they can ask a computer to complete their tasks. They also worry that they won't be able to assess kids' progress.

Will it be possible to restrict Google searches if they start to generate ChatGPT-style answers? However AI evolves, kids must learn about it. Is it wise to tell kids never to use a spell or grammar checker? No, these tools help all of us, however literate, to spot typos and mistakes. But we should teach kids about the tool's limitations and strengths and how to use it responsibly.

AI is much more than chatbots and image generators, but we'll focus on those here as ChatGPT and similar have brought the subject to the public consciousness. We have a broader guide to Educational apps for kids and artificial intelligence.

You may also be interested in Best apps for teaching kids about AI and AI Lesson Planning Apps here.

Language learning is both a potential beneficiary of AI apps but also a subject where app-buyers must beware to ensure they get high quality and relevant practice form their apps.

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