As AI dominates the headlines, school leaders harbour optimism and fear about the technology’s implications for students and learning.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT can streamline teacher workloads, giving them more opportunities to spend quality time with students, transforming how we teach and learn.

But it also presents serious questions about the impact on student learning experiences.

So, as you inevitably start incorporating generative AI into your school’s daily operations, how do you ensure the technology doesn’t do more harm than good?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of generative AI in schools and how you can make it work for your school.

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Where Generative AI can help

Generative AI is the use of artificial intelligence to create new content, like text, images, music, audio, and videos.

Generative AI systems, like ChatGPT, Claude, and Bard, use machine learning to learn the patterns and relationships in a dataset of human-created content. They use the learned patterns to generate new content.

With suitable prompts by humans, the technology can create new content in seconds.

Advantages of AI in Schools

Schools globally are seeing the benefits of AI in schools, with one of its most significant advantages being how it can help automate admin tasks to give teachers more time to focus on high-value student interactions.

An Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) survey showed that the most commonly reported benefit of generative AI tools for teachers was time saved.

Many teachers are already using generative AI tools to quickly create lesson plans and develop differentiated learning tasks for students. Teachers can also use generative AI to create:

  • Curriculum unit summaries
  • Student assessment rubrics
  • Class discussion topics
  • Individualised student lesson plans
  • Learning resources
  • Classroom activities

Generative AI can also be used in conjunction with a school management system to streamline tasks. For example, using AI tools alongside SEQTA can significantly reduce teacher planning workloads. Teachers can quickly generate detailed unit, curriculum and lesson plans, create and share resources more effectively, and personalise student learning experiences.

In the AHISA survey, teachers also reported that generative AI increases the efficiency of marking and feedback. ChatGPT can be used to evaluate student papers in a fraction of the time.

It’s not only the teachers who can gain from using generative AI. The survey highlighted the potential for generative AI to personalise lesson plans for students with literacy and learning challenges.

Despite fears of how generative AI might impact students’ learning outcomes, according to the AHISA survey, teachers have reported improvements in the calibre of students’ work, a greater understanding of concepts, and an improvement in student engagement.

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Challenges of Generative AI in Schools

The biggest fears about generative AI in schools are the rise of cheating and the propensity for the tools to give wrong or misleading answers.

But there are other worries, too, that generative AI might hinder attempts to improve students’ analytical thinking. Some sceptics argue there is a possibility that AI will lead to a permanent downgrading of human skills and knowledge. While calculators reduce the need for basic arithmetic skills, AI poses a bigger threat to creativity and critical thinking. How do teachers know if students are learning skills or if they have a fundamental understanding of a topic if they are using generative AI?

The use of generative AI could also lead to complacency. There’s a risk that students may become dependent on AI technology to do the work for them. Why would a student bother learning when a robot can give the answers? What incentives are there to learn and grow?

School leaders responding to the AHISA survey reported additional concerns around ethical issues such as inherent bias, intellectual property rights and data privacy, and how to detect and manage output from generative AI tools.

How to make generative AI work for your school

Generative AI has the potential to benefit the student learning experience and creativity and free up more time for teachers, but only if it is embraced thoughtfully and responsibly.

This means schools need an AI policy.

Your AI policy should include guidelines on responsible use, including the potential risks of using AI, what responsible use looks like, and caution about sharing personal data with AI. It should also cover bias and errors, including any ethical considerations related to plagiarism and the proper use of secondary sources.

The policy should also clearly state how the school is using AI tools and outline the school’s commitment to using them fairly and safely.

Teachers should know what’s expected of them and how they can effectively use AI in the classroom to support learning.

For example, you can treat ChatGPT the way you treat calculators — allowing it for some assignments but not others.

Another approach is allowing students to use generative AI for part of the task. For example, students can use ChatGPT to create outlines for their essays, then put their devices away and write them independently. This teaches students how to interact with AI and ask the right questions. And for today’s students, who will graduate into a world full of generative AI programs, these are critical skills to learn.

It’s worth remembering we’re in the early days of AI, and the technology is in a perpetual state of evolution. By staying informed about the latest advancements, you can stay ahead of any critical changes and adapt accordingly.

Want to learn more about using AI tools to support teacher planning? Watch our AI webinar

Want to learn more about using AI tools to support teacher planning? Watch a recording of our practical webinar on Using Generative AI to save time and improve Unit and Lesson planning. Our teaching and learning expert Kim Edwards takes you and your team through a set of simple steps to immediately begin benefitting from Gen AI to save time and strengthen your school’s planning work. Press play below to watch

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