An educator’s AI dilemma

The writer says while it is important to discuss and raise awareness about the potential pitfalls and ethical considerations that come with AI, it is important to also accept the inevitable necessity of these tools in the future.

Eleanor Pinugu

Eleanor Pinugu

Philippine Daily Inquirer


The writer says that educators must enhance understanding of AI tools, including their capabilities and limitations, to prepare students for future success. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

January 30, 2024

MANILA – As someone who regularly trains teachers, I am often asked about my thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on the education landscape. I have noticed that amongst educators, reactions to AI tend to be polarized into two distinct camps: those who view it as a harbinger of educational doom, and others who embrace it with unbridled enthusiasm that they might be overlooking some of the risks.

This observation seems to be consistent with the recently published results of the State of Vocational Education in the Philippines, conducted by Hanover Research. The study found that while 97 percent of the institutions believe that their use of technology has played a crucial role in enhancing student success, there are still many conflicting opinions about AI use. Among the 115 surveyed institutions last September 2023, 32 percent of vocational institutions have incorporated AI tools into their operations while 38 percent have completely prohibited their use. Additionally, 23 percent are familiar with these tools but choose not to use them, while some (6 percent) indicated a lack of knowledge about them.

While it is important to discuss and raise awareness about the potential pitfalls and ethical considerations that come with AI, this should be balanced with the pragmatic acceptance that completely preventing its usage in educational settings overlooks the inevitable necessity of these tools in future work landscapes—some of which might be currently inconceivable. It may be presently considered a novelty, but generative AI is poised to become an integral component of various industry applications. As educators aiming to prepare students for future success, we must enhance our understanding of these tools, including their capabilities and limitations. By doing so, we could also better guide teachers to exercise judicious and critical decision-making in regulating AI integration in the classroom.

If you are a fellow school administrator, it is important to start the conversation with your staff to understand their thoughts on how to harness the potential of AI tools while mitigating the harm. These discussions can serve as a platform to collaboratively explore and evaluate specific AI tools, ensuring they align with educational goals and teacher needs.

For example, a widely recognized immediate benefit of AI is its potential to save time. A session could then be allotted to introduce tools that would help teachers with their most time-consuming tasks like developing lesson plans and assessments. My current favorite is Through a simple prompt (e.g., creative writing lesson for eighth grade), it will create a comprehensive lesson guide complete with a presentation deck, engaging seatwork activities, and assessments to check for understanding. It also outlines the learning standards addressed, allowing teachers to verify, extend their research, and further tailor the content.

A predominant apprehension voiced by educators centers around the issue of academic dishonesty. Another major fear that came out in the Hanover Research is how the use of AI may suppress creativity and critical thinking skills among students because they might use it as a “shortcut” for doing their schoolwork. While these concerns are understandable, they require a reevaluation of the fundamental paradigms and conceptual frameworks that underpin our approach to teaching, especially about fostering deep learning.

If a student can easily complete educational assessments by copy-pasting AI-generated responses, it raises questions about the pedagogical efficacy of such evaluations. The questions educators must ask should be: How could we challenge students to synthesize and apply ideas and contribute to existing knowledge? How could we guide students to develop their authentic voice? How could we effectively measure the student’s learning process versus just their learning outputs? Rather than prohibiting AI use, classrooms must focus on teaching students to responsibly use these tools to support, not replace, their learning. This includes providing clear examples and guidelines to distinguish between ethical use and misconduct like cheating or plagiarism. As with navigating any new development, this will be an evolving conversation, especially as the technology becomes even more sophisticated. However, it is important to start as early as now to build and foster best practices.

Personally, what excites me the most is the potential of AI tools to meet diverse learning needs. Through a well-crafted prompt, we can now develop adaptive learning programs that can customize lessons based on a student’s learning needs. These tools are far from perfect but they open up many possibilities for us educators to improve our practice. I am not an AI expert, but I am committed to going on a collaborative learning journey with my team and our students—exploring the new ways these tools could help both learning and teaching to flourish.

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