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How artificial intelligence tools can help students

Following our last article (all about AI tools for teachers) Alcea's diving into the world of artificial intelligence tools for students and learners this week. If you'd rather listen then there is a brand new AI Life Tools episode, how artificial intelligence tools can help students available now on Spotify.

In this article, we’re going to look at the artificial intelligence tools already available to students and learners. AI in education is a big discussion topic at the moment with a lot of opportunities and concerns being debated by a lot of people. The ethics, plagiarism, risk of cheating, and ways students learn are all bringing challenges, so I’ll do my best to give a rounded view of the conversations happening alongside the tools that are at the heart of transforming the student’s experience.

I don’t want to start with pessimism, but it’s important I share some of the concerns that are informing the debate about whether students should be using AI tools in their learning. It’s a big debate with lots of different perspectives, so here I’ve captured a selection of the ones I’ve heard most frequently.

Concerns around AI for students and how to help solve them

· Overdependence on technology: Relying heavily on AI tools could lead to a decline in critical thinking and problem-solving skills if students are not encouraged to engage deeply with the learning material beyond automated recommendations.

· Lack of personal connection: The need for human interaction is critical, and there are concerns that AI-driven learning might reduce the personal connection between students and teachers. AI should not be replacing human connection but enhancing it.

· Privacy and data security: As we spoke about in the previous episode teacher's privacy and data security is imperative to ensure student’s and children’s data is protected. There are concerns about data privacy, security breaches, and potential misuse of sensitive information by the companies creating these new tools and ‘bad actors’ hacking them to gain data.

· Plagiarism and cheating: these are hot topics, really important, and probably an episode in its own right. There are risks that plagiarism and cheating can be an aspect of AI tools, but the wider and most pertinent question for me is what is going to constitute cheating and plagiarism in the new world, and for that, there needs to be more conversations around who owns what when it comes to AI-generated content. For example, AI has helped me research and collaborate on writing all of my podcast episodes – does that make me the sole writer or a co-writer along with the developers of the AI tools I’ve used? If I don’t mention that I’ve used AI am I cheating? Is it plagiarism to use the generated AI response from a prompt I’ve written, because I didn’t write the generated response? Until these questions have solid and stable answers, we need to be careful here about discouraging use and labelling students in certain ways that may not be applicable in what is rapidly evolving as a new world.

· Loss of traditional learning skills: Yep this is really quite possible and in some cases probably likely. Though before that’s used as an argument to stop students using AI how many people can write with a quill? Or cut out and sew clothing from scratch and by hand? How many people know how to polish silver? At some point in history these were everyday skills people needed – but alas, need no longer. Time, society, and technology move on, and the majority of people need to move with them.

There are opportunities for student skills to be developed and supported by AI tools

There are a lot of discussions about the skills and knowledge that students will lose if they use technology too much. But, what if we flip that conversation for a second and look at the skills and knowledge students will gain from exposure to AI technology. Here’s a few ideas on how artificial intelligence technology will actually help students.

· Adaptability: AI tools expose students to diverse learning materials and formats, fostering adaptability and the ability to engage with a variety of resources in new and different ways. Many AI-powered tools now use gamification and personalisation to inform and engage with students enhancing their learning.

· Critical thinking: By analysing AI-generated insights and recommendations, students can refine their critical thinking skills by evaluating and questioning information. This is really important with technology able to be both right and wrong, real and fake, it’s imperative that students learn to critically consider the information they’re being given and interrogate it.

· Problem solving: AI tools can present complex challenges that require innovative solutions, encouraging students to develop their problem-solving abilities. This is particularly important for high-achieving students who could be more advanced in their needs than some educators. AI tools can help stretch and strengthen their learning outside of the normal school environment.

· Digital and data literacy: Interacting with AI technologies enhances student’s digital literacy, a crucial skill in today's technology-driven world. And this is only really going to more and more apparent as time moves on. The digital world and the ever-developing technologies it’s creating are going to require a sophisticated level of data literacy. And when it comes to data, knowing how AI uses data to generate information is going to be continually relevant throughout education and life.

· Self-directed learning: AI-powered platforms empower students to take ownership of their learning journey, promoting self-directed learning and time management skills. This is really helpful to students who don’t have someone they can ask for support with certain subjects and can fulfil their interests in key subjects.

· Collaboration: Some AI tools facilitate collaborative learning, encouraging students to work together virtually and develop teamwork skills.

AI tools for students

Let’s dive into looking at the tools available for students designed to help them learn and enhance their education. This is a selection of tools, and more are in development as we speak.

· Plaito is an AI app that acts as a student’s personal tutor. Get help with homework, and support with writing essays and learn faster with flash cards on screen. Plaito is bringing one-to-one tuition to any student with access to a computer, pretty powerful stuff. According to their website 90% of students who use Plaito get better grades.

· Socratic is a Google-powered AI tool that helps students learn via an app. “Socratic brings you visual explanations of important concepts in each subject”.

· Copyscape is an AI-powered plagiarism checker that helps students avoid plagiarism. It compares student work to a database of online sources, and it can also identify similarities between student work and other sources.

· Cognito is dedicated to maths and science for GCSE. It’s a learning platform that adapts to the needs of the students giving personalised feedback and instructions.

· Quizlet is a learning platform underpinned with AI that helps students learn by creating and taking quizzes and practice tests. It uses spaced repetition to help students remember new information.

· Khan Academy and Khanmigo is an online learning academy and now with Khanmigo an AI for education guide – a tutor for students. Why is the Khan Academy different? It’s a non-profit organisation that gives students of all ages free learning resources.

· Babbel is a language app that focuses on conversational speaking right from the start. It also uses gamification and spaced repetition to help students remember new words and phrases.

· Duolingo is an AI language app many people are familiar with using gamification to engage learners with the content.

· Microsoft programmes such as Word and Google’s suite all use AI to underpin much of their services and programmes now too.

Students know AI is here and either wittingly or unwittingly are already exposed to it and are using it. This poses real challenges for teachers, headteachers, and education policy-makers because there is currently no single approach or overarching guidance on students using artificial intelligence. Some schools are even trying to ban it (something that seems implausible to me, given the scale and ways in which AI is already being embedded in ‘basic’ tools like Word). Students as well as teachers are increasingly exposed to AI and will need the guidance, support, and education to use AI appropriately.

This episode has tried to give an overview in the debates and discussions happening around the use of AI by students, as well as a practical look at the tools already available to help and support students in their learning. There are challenges and opportunities ahead but the educational revolution has already begun.

If you’re interested in learning more about AI from the perspective of teacher's our dedicated article on how AI tools can help teachers is available on the Alcea blog.

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