Why educators should embrace artificial intelligence – The Hill

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Why educators should embrace artificial intelligence | The Hill

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How artificial intelligence (AI) will affect learning is a hot topic that some educators view with fear, suspicion and panic. In fact, many schools have completely barred machine learning from classrooms when they should be harnessing its power and embracing it instead.

Like it or not, the AI genie is out of the bottle and those who don’t learn the pros and cons of using this cutting-edge technology will be left behind. The future of education should always be rooted in adapting, adopting and evolving. Adding AI to the mix is just the natural next step in that ongoing journey.

In the early 1990s the invention of the internet followed by the smartphone forever changed the way the world communicates. AI is the next major tidal wave of innovation bound to reshape the world in ways that we cannot yet imagine. Ignoring it or employing a blanket ban is short-sighted and unsustainable.

For those who don’t know, AI technology enables computers and digital devices to learn, read, write, create, and analyze at warp speed. Although far from perfect, AI is capable of assessing information and generating content based on data scraped from the internet or fed into individualized tools called generative pre-trained transformers, more commonly referred to as GPTs.

Legitimate concerns by educators relating to AI usage include cheating, loss of human interaction and diminished job security, equity and safety. But no matter the risks, AI is here to stay, and banning it will be a fool’s errand. Teachers instead should be learning as much as possible about AI as quickly as they can.

According to EdWeek Research Center, a recent survey of 498 teachers revealed that two out of three educators in grades K-12 have never used AI-driven tools in the classroom. Of those, 37 percent said they do not plan to start. Another 29 percent surveyed said they have not yet used AI, but plan to implement the technology in the future.

Meanwhile, OpenAI’s machine-powered language tool ChatGPT set a record in January for the fastest user growth, logging an astounding 100 million active users just two months after its launch. 

The message is clear: Schools should not seek to ban AI. Instead, educators should teach students how to adapt to this new reality, instructing them on how to use AI responsibly and helping them discern ethical and unethical uses.

Simply banning AI in schools makes as much sense as it would have been to tell students in the 1990s to turn a blind eye toward this new invention called the internet and instead continue to conduct library research in person using the Dewey Decimal System, even though the web unlocked limitless access far beyond whatever books happened to be on the shelves of a particular library.

Banning AI is a short-term fix that is neither sustainable nor logical. It is a brave new world and there is no going back.

In the coming years, students will need to know how to differentiate between accurate and inaccurate information, and employers will seek employees with cognitive reasoning and judgment who know how to integrate AI into the workplace.

The workforce will be comprised of those companies with employees who know how to work in these new environments, and will see loads of organizations incapable or unwilling of evolving go out of business. This is precisely why American schools owe it to their students to start teaching about AI, instead of avoiding it.

AI is not a full replacement for a thinking individual, and it never will be. However, it is a great tool for tasks such as content creation and data analysis. Some applications are nefarious, and others will be dangerous, which is precisely why it is essential that our schools instruct students how to use AI effectively, safely and ethically.

In the past, much education was based on rote memorization. Today we know that isn’t necessary because we can search facts online and get answers in a fraction of the time without having to commit the information to our own fallible memories.

And yet, students still have a need to learn. And there are still plenty of arenas where children rely on the school system for basic education.

The newspaper industry’s failure to embrace the power of the internet in the 1990s should be a cautionary tale: Many newspapers dismissed the implications of the Internet when it became publicly available, ultimately resulting in massive layoffs nationwide as newspaper advertising went online and revenue dwindled. The failure of newspapers to quickly adapt sent the industry into a deathly spiral that continues until this day.

Schools must get on board with AI and start figuring out how to utilize this new technology to increase productivity and efficiency. Educators must figure out what students should be taught, because ignoring this innovation is folly.

Set up guardrails now. Teach students how to use AI responsibly because they are going to be using it anyway. Failure to do so puts the most powerful new technology in decades into the hands of children without proper preparation or guidance.

And isn’t that exactly what education is designed to prevent? There is nothing artificial about the intelligence that American schools must demonstrate by properly preparing the next generation for the world and workplace to come.

Evan Nierman is founder and CEO of the crisis communications firm Red Banyan and author of the books “Crisis Averted” and “The Cancel Culture Curse: From Rage to Redemption in a World Gone Mad.”

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