Teaching with tech: Benefits of chatbots in education
Generative AI has massive potential to disrupt the education system — for the better. Public concern has crescendoed on whether students would use AI simply as a shortcut, like having it complete their homework or write entire essays, and some schools have banned it outright as a way to preserve the integrity of the academic system. This begs the question: can’t we re-imagine our education system with AI being a helpful tool as opposed to cheat code? Personally, I would have loved generative AI as a feature in my high school, but not for the reasons that one may think…
Growing up, I rarely started an essay from a blank page and instead devised my own creative process. There was always an “information gathering stage” where class discussions, perspective pieces, and CliffsNotes all fed into my thinking. By having information to react to, whether with feelings of “wow I never would have thought of it like this” or “this interpretation is limited,” I could better carve out my own perspective. Especially in literature classes, it was helpful to skim the arguments of the past so I could put my own personal stamp on essays that have been written thousands of times.
Now, as an adult, I have realized something about myself. It takes me an inordinate amount of energy to initiate something from scratch, but give me an inch — a brainstorm where we can word vomit, an article that echoes or challenges my prevailing opinion — and I can generate fires from that initial spark.
My personal experience leads me to see the possibility of a whole host of AI applications in the education space:
Chatbots can provide adaptive tutoring features or work as a “homework buddy” of sorts. AI that can tailor lessons to individual learning styles or generate first drafts could help students learn better and work quicker in an education system that is only growing more demanding.
Platforms like Curiopod.com and SlidesGPT help students build presentations on specific topics. They even allow you to select the specific grade-level for a presentation, which helps students find direction and narrow down their scope with a first draft. Such programs also help on the other side of the podium: teachers can cut down on preparation time for class materials.
Test and quiz builders like Conker.ai enable students to test themselves on the material learned in class, while teachers are empowered to build quizzes on demand (the dreaded “pop quiz” may be a more common reality!). Accuracy is still a concern with generative AI at this stage, but the possibilities will improve with more user input.
And let’s be real: we have all had an “AI of our time” that altered education forever. Computers made the necessity for good penmanship obsolete, the internet made almanacs a relic, and calculators at our fingertips made mental math a rarity. New technology, platforms, and tools have always eliminated pain points and disrupted industries for the better. I learned how to conduct online research using specific criteria in search, utilized sites like Wikipedia purely as a jumping off point, and did my own due diligence to ensure my sources were accurate and paraphrased appropriately. Similarly, today’s students will need to learn how to effectively use prompt engineering to generate content from AI, know the boundaries between plagiarism and appropriate usage, and navigate their way through the education system in the way that works best for them.
Early adoption of novel technology is the best path forward to ensure that students learn the technology skills that are in demand in the workforce. They should be encouraged to use helpful tools that are commonplace in society, rather than seeing them as forbidden fruit. The more we envision ways for AI to accommodate different learning styles, the greater the role it can play in improving the student experience, as well as the teacher experience.
-Nkechi Nwokorie, NExT Futurist
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