Where Does AI Belong in Education? Teachers and Administrators Have Some Strong Opinions

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The expanded use of artificial intelligence in K-12 education this school year is prompting very strong feelings, from calling it the “Terminator” to telling people to get hip, because “it’s here to stay.”

Educators are also creating new approaches to balance the benefits and drawbacks of the new technology. Fewer seem to be calling for outright bans on large language models like ChatGPT, recognizing that students will have to learn how to use AI in future jobs. Still, many are worried that AI, unchecked, could lead to lazier students and much more cheating.

What is clear is that educators are hungry for guidance from their schools, districts, and states on how to use AI for instruction. But they say they are not getting that guidance.

“I was asking for a district policy for student use of AI last spring and was brushed off,” said a Minnesota social studies teacher in the open-ended response section of an EdWeek Research Center survey conducted last fall. “Teachers shouldn’t be left out in the wind on this issue.”

In that survey of educators from across the country, scores of respondents weighed in on the role of AI in education. Education Week pulled the 25 responses it felt best represented the wide array of feelings and ideas about how to use AI effectively. Some of those responses were edited for length and clarity.

Here’s what they had to say:

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1   “While I like using computers, AI, etc., and recognize their importance in the future, when push comes to shove, students still need a stock of knowledge and thinking skills—both receptive and critical. Further, we cannot ditch paper and pencil. I’ve already seen situations in which AI may mean artificial incompetence or artificial ignorance as well as artificial intelligence.”

—High school teacher (social studies/humanities/civics/history) | Maryland

2   “[When ChatGPT was used to cheat], it was depressing in a genuinely existential way. As the leader of the English department for my school, … we crafted an acceptable use policy. This school year, we started to proactively design procedures that would make it harder to use AI unethically and some teachers, myself included, have started finding ways to model ethical use. It’s been a roller coaster.”

—High school teacher (English language arts/literacy/reading) | Texas

3   “We had an entire PD day devoted to AI last year. It was surprisingly informative, but I thought the administration was being a little gung-ho and uncritical in their acceptance of it.”

—High school science teacher | New York

4   “The idea of AI being integrated into the education system is inevitable, but scary.”

—District-level administrator (curriculum and instruction) | New Jersey

5   “The default pushed seems to be reflexively pro-AI.”

—High school principal | New Jersey

6   “Students are surrounded by and influenced by AI—they need to know how to recognize it and analyze its use. If they cannot be educated about AI, then they will be vulnerable. They also need to learn how to use ChatGPT in a professional manner to aid them in their own critical thinking.”

—High school teacher (Bilingual education/English as a second language) | Nebraska

7   “Recently, our technology teacher told me about using ChatGPT for crafting letters of recommendation. I get a lot of these, and it certainly helped when I received several requests with quick due dates. I can definitely see the usage but would want a lot more training and guidelines set.”

—High school teacher (social studies/humanities/civics/history) | Michigan

8   “Our district supports the use of AI for teachers, but doesn’t seem to have a plan for how students should use it yet, except for programs like Khan Academy (Khanmigo) or Grammerly, where the age use is clear and the programs are pretty focused.”

—Middle school teacher (computer applications) | Illinois

9   “My district has not given any guidance about using AI/ChatGPT etc. Students do use it to get work products.”

—High school teacher (math/computer science/data science) | Texas

10   “In my opinion, offering AI to students gives them the opportunity to learn less. The AI does the work for them. Students only have to type in what their teacher is requiring to ChatGPT and the AI does the work for them. We worry about the reading stamina of students—this AI junk will ruin their learning stamina and work ethic.”

—Middle school science teacher | Colorado

11   “I would like to learn more about AI in the classroom, but with four preps and new curriculum, I have a hard time finding more time to do so.”

—High school teacher (world/foreign languages) | South Dakota

12   “I work in a school that pushes the use of AI. The problem is that students don’t use the tools as they are intended. They are constantly looking for ways to cheat or use the tools to be lazy. Students are getting lazier every year due to technology completing more and more tasks for them. Technology should have its place in school, but it shouldn’t replace a student’s ability to think and complete tasks on their own.”

—High school teacher (special education math) | Georgia

13   “I was asking for a district policy for student use of AI last spring and was brushed off. I am on the Digital Learning Committee for my building and it won’t take a firm stand either. Teachers shouldn’t be left out in the wind on this issue.”

—High school teacher (social studies/humanities/civics/history) | Minnesota

14   “I was anti-AI until I went to a PD about it. Turned out to be a Dad of a former student. He shared insights and HOW to use AI in a purposeful way, which completely changed my view of what it can and cannot do!”

—Middle school teacher (special education) | Michigan

15   “Students have begun accessing/using AI technologies without any guidance on appropriate/inappropriate use and therefore are running into inappropriate usage issues. This is a VERY similar issue to students’ use of the internet where they struggle to use it appropriately.”

—High school science teacher | North Carolina

—High school teacher (social studies/humanities/civics/history) | California

17   “I strongly believe that AI tools with effective safeguards can revolutionize education by providing personalized learning experiences that match students’ levels and interests.”

—Elementary school teacher | Wisconsin

18   “I have a lot of concern about using AI in the educational setting. Our students need to know how to write on their own and AI makes it very challenging for a teacher to know when AI has been used to assist a student’s efforts. I do think teachers are using it to help them create lessons, which I am fine with. I just don’t think it will benefit our society to allow students to have access to this in school.”

—Elementary school teacher | Oregon

19   “We should responsibly teach students how AI works and how to use it as a tool. My high school students try to use ChatGPT to write papers, but they always seem wonky and repetitive. I tease them and suggest that I wouldn’t mind if they were at least well written! I explain that in order to utilize the tool we must read and edit what the AI spits out. I frequently use ChatGPT to write lesson plans, syllabi, and parent letters. It can be a very effective tool, but I still look over and edit anything that looks off.”

—High school fine arts teacher | Texas

20   “ChatGPT needs to be banned in a way that students can’t access it with school WiFi. [Students are] just copying and pasting and learning to take credit for something they didn’t write. Use of brain cells and the pursuant expansion of the mind are gone. Students are just looking for an easy way out of doing work and accepting deception and amoral activity as the norm. What will become of society in 20 years if we permit this?”

—High school teacher (career and technical education) | Florida

21   “In my school, it is not outright banned for anyone and is instead only punishable if it was used to give the answers to an assignment or assessment. I have not heard of anyone getting in trouble for using it to brainstorm or something like that.”

—High school teacher (social studies/humanities/civics/history) | Indiana

22   “AI is terrifying.”

—District-level administrator (special education) | Arkansas

23   “With the growing use of AI in several fields and industries, it is imperative that schools are preparing learners to compete in a global society.”

—Middle school principal | Georgia

—Middle school teacher (math/computer science/data science) | Georgia

25   “AI is here to stay. Our district needs a policy that creates guidelines for the ethical use of it. This way we can teach students how to use AI as a tool for learning, not for cheating.”

—High school teacher (English language arts/literacy/reading) | Connecticut


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