How Is AI Impacting Education?

Recently, the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, gave a speech about the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in education. Here, as a follow-on from our recent post on The UK's International Technology Strategy, we delve deeper into the use of AI, this time in education.

Government stance

In her speech, the Education Secretary put forward the idea that AI has the power to transform teachers’ daily lives, offering cutting-edge opportunities, and called on the education and technology sectors to work together to harness its potential and manage its risks.

Ms Keegan’s speech coincided with the Department of Education’s publication of a statement detailing the opportunities and risks that AI brings to education.
The key messages in this statement were that AI poses both opportunities and challenges for the education sector, that, when used appropriately, AI has the potential to reduce teachers’ workload, allowing them to focus on delivering ‘excellent’ teaching, that schools and colleges must take steps to prevent malpractice, and that the education sector must protect its staff, students , data and resources in case of cyber attacks and from harmful online content. 

Current uses of AI in education

There are already many examples of the use of AI in education – let’s take a look at some of them.

Personalised learning

Everyone has their own individual learning style – these include visual, aural, solitary, verbal, logical, social and kinaesthetic – and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ teaching style has been proven to be ineffective in getting the best from students  both academically and on a personal level. That’s where AI can provide individual learning solutions.
By analysing a student’s learning history data, AI can create personalised learning experiences, and provide them with bespoke content, resources, activities and topics based on their abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and interests.
AI can also provide personalised feedback, providing insights into grammar, style and syntax so that the students can learn from constructive criticism.
Learning such as this can increase engagement and raise motivation, as well as providing real-time feedback to both students and teachers, leading to better academic results. 

Routine tasks

According to the Times Educational Supplement, teachers spend ‘more than 11 hours marking every week’. Imagine if they could use this time more productively, in planning, teaching and student engagement?
AI has the potential to release this time spent on routine administration and can mark assignments, providing instant feedback to students and reducing teachers’ workloads.

Professional Development for teachers

All teachers must undertake at least 30 hours of professional development every year, in order to maintain high standards within the education sector.
AI can help with this in various ways. One of the most innovative methods is the use of Virtual Reality (VR) classroom simulations which enable teachers to receive feedback on their methods and teaching. 

Should It Be a Concern?

Among all the benefits that AI can bring there are also concerns as to its use within education.
A recent Government White Paper, entitled ‘
A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation’ sets out five core principles that are expected to be encoded into regulations to ensure safe and innovative uses of AI.
These include:

  • Safety, security and robustness – ensuring that AI systems function in a safe, secure and robust manner

  • Transparency and explainability – organisations that are developing and using AI should be able to explain why it is being used, how it works, when it will be used, and the decision-making process behind it

  • Fairness – it is important to ensure that AI should not discriminate against anyone, undermine their rights or create unfair outcomes

  • Accountability and governance – it is important to understand who is responsible for the outcome of AI material, and that there is effective oversight

  • Contestability and redress – if harmful outcomes or decisions result from the use of AI there must be clear routes for dispute resolution and redress.

The Department for Education recently released a White Paper entitled ‘Generative artificial intelligence in education’ in which it outlined several key messages about the safe and ethical use of AI in the education sector.
The challenges, it says, include avoiding malpractice in the use of generative AI, and protecting the data of institutions, staff and students which may fall foul of cyber attacks, as well as safeguarding staff and students from harmful content generated by AI. 
There is little doubt that AI can be of great benefit to both teachers and students within an educational setting. However, care must be taken to protect its users. The Government is holding a consultation on the regulation of AI to inform a safer future for everyone.
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