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  • Alcea

How artificial intelligence tools can help teachers

It's back to school for us this week (well, it is September!) In this article, we are going to look at the artificial intelligence tools already available to our teachers and educators. In the next article, we will be looking at the AI tools available to students on the other side of education.

If you prefer to listen to Alcea's covering of this topic check out the AI Life Tools podcast on Spotify now.

AI in education - the revolution has begun

Artificial intelligence and education is a hot topic. Most people agree that AI will transform education in the coming years, but as yet, alongside these amazing opportunities to alter how teachers teach, there are concerns over ethics, plagiarism, cheating, and how students will learn. I’ll do my best to give a rounded overview of the conversations happening alongside the tools that are at the heart of transforming education.

In Alcea's article about AI Life Tools, we talked about many tools we use in our daily lives that are actually using artificial intelligence technology without us even realising it. The more I’ve spoken to teachers and researched AI tools available in teaching, the more I understand that artificial intelligence is already being used, sometimes without realising it is even AI. What I found is like so many areas of work, business and creativity – AI is already here and we need to get on board with it.

Are you already using AI in schools?

Not convinced? OK, here’s an example: as I type up my script here on Microsoft Word, the version I have completes many of my sentences for me (or it tries to). This is artificial intelligence in real life. This is just one example of the ways AI is already here in the working life of teachers (and students) without any fanfare or discussion, and really without an opt-out option. Now, how many teachers use Word? And how many students? Exactly… we’re using AI in some form already. What we need now is to use it consciously and harness it for the good of education.

Not to be pessimistic, but we’re going to start by looking at the concerns and challenges for teachers and AI, before we look at the opportunities which will take us finally into the wonderful world of AI education tools that are available for teachers right now.

Concerns around AI in teaching and how to help solve them

· AI education for teachers: AI technology is new, and incorporating it into working practices for teachers is newer still. How can teachers effectively use AI teaching tools if they don’t know how to use them, what they can do, and why they’re going to be helpful to them? The answer is the majority don’t. This leaves a few teachers to experiment, learn, and create new ways of working to become AI-technology fluent these are the go-ahead outliers, and the majority of their colleagues will be left behind – this is important because it will lead to a disparity between student’s learning experiences and opportunities. This needs to be solved with education. Teachers, headteachers, and school governors, all need to be given AI training on educational tools, ethics, and capabilities so they can see the power in the opportunity and reduce the fear of the unknown whilst equipping teachers to teach using all the AI technology available to them.

· Privacy and data security: The concern around privacy and security is not exclusive to education but like in healthcare, the personal data of the young and potentially vulnerable is critically important that it’s protected. The storage and analysis of sensitive information could raise privacy issues and require stringent data security measures to prevent misuse or unauthorized access. A possible solution to this would be secure systems comparable to those used in the finance industry with an overarching regulatory framework that AI education companies have to sign up to and adhere to.

· Bias and fairness: AI algorithms are not immune to bias and can inadvertently perpetuate existing biases present in educational materials or societal norms. Careful design and continuous monitoring are necessary to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all students. Working to continuously check and review biases within AI education tools and review before being released into the market could be one potential solution. As AI tools develop so will the bias and fairness checks needed to continue.

· Teacher-Student relationship: Concerns that the robots will take over the interpersonal relationships between teacher and student are firmly entrenched. But just as Google’s Bard says, AI is a “creative and helpful collaborator” and not a human replacement. The same concept applies here. AI tools can be a helpful assistant to human teachers. Rather than being seen as competition think of it as a supportive tool that can collaborate to enhance the teacher’s teaching. Personalised learning through AI should complement, not replace, the essential human touch in education.

There are big opportunities for teachers using artificial intelligence, what are they?

· Personalised learning: AI tools can adapt to individual student needs, tailoring learning experiences to their strengths, weaknesses, and pace. This personalisation can enhance engagement and improve learning outcomes. This could be a game-changer for teachers working with a class of students that have a mixed range of abilities. This way, teachers can set personalised work for everyone in the class whilst teaching them in the same room at the same time. High achieving students could be given more advanced content on the topic with the support of AI tools, while students who need more support could be set different content on the same topic using the technology, all with the teacher still in the room able to support and encourage students collective learning.

· Data-driven insights: AI can analyse vast amounts of educational data to provide insights into student performance and areas needing improvement. Educators can use this information to refine their teaching strategies against the demands and needs of the wider curriculum and the personal needs of their students.

· Efficiency and accessibility: In most professions, the amount of paperwork, bureaucracy and admin tasks is significant. But in teaching wouldn’t everyone rather a teacher was spending more of their time teaching than doing admin? AI tools have the capability to automate administrative tasks and support in the grading of homework, freeing and speeding up teachers to focus more on teaching and mentoring. AI-powered tools can also make education more accessible to diverse learners, including those with disabilities.

· Lifelong learning: AI tools enable continuous learning by offering resources and learning opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting. This supports the concept of lifelong learning in an evolving job market both for teachers and students.

How to integrate AI into teacher’s work practices safely and ethically

· Ethical guidelines: Teachers, headteachers and school boards all need to establish clear ethical guidelines for the development and deployment of AI in education. This will need to be supported and possibly led by the government and local authority to ensure a consistent set of ethics criteria is developed. This ethical framework will need to include transparency in data usage, algorithmic decision-making, and mechanisms to address bias.

· Teacher training: Educators need training to effectively integrate AI tools into their teaching methodologies. This includes understanding how to interpret AI-generated insights and adapting them to meet diverse student needs.

· Continuous improvement: AI tools are likely to be iterative and adaptable, so regular assessment of and updates to the teaching, ethical guidelines, and plans for integration will all be necessary.

· Wider collaboration: Collaboration between educators, technologists, policymakers, and students is essential. Involving all stakeholders ensures that AI systems align with educational goals and meet the needs of all parties involved.

· Developing soft skills: While AI can assist with cognitive tasks, the development of soft skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal communication remains vital. AI should be integrated in a way that reinforces, rather than replaces, these skills.

Now we have covered what I think are many of the key aspects of the debates and ideas around AI in education, let’s dive into looking at some of the top tools available right now for teachers to use.

AI teaching tools you can use today

· TeachMateAI was designed by teachers for teachers. It is a one-stop-shop for over 80 AI-powered tools. All designed to increase efficiency for teachers, saving them time every day. As TeachMateAI says, “These tools are saving teachers on average over 10+ hours per week, making it possible for them to redirect that time back into teaching, developing new skills, or simply taking a much-needed break. Imagine creating PowerPoint presentations instantly, or generating model texts or worksheets that would usually require hours of internet trawling, all at your fingertips. This is what TeachMateAI does – it redefines the teaching experience for the better”.

· Gradescope by Turnitin is an AI tool that helps teachers grade papers, it says Gradescope “helps you seamlessly administer and grade all of your assessments, whether online or in-class. Save time grading and get a clear picture of how your students are doing”.

· Fetchy has over 50 teacher support tools, that acts as a virtual secretary for teachers. With everything from giving advice to teachers, offering strategies on how to deal with difficult behaviour to producing feedback and setting tasks and generating lesson plans. The idea is that you set this AI-tool a task and it ‘fetches’ it for you, (see what I did there?).

· Seesaw is an AI learning platform that compares in many ways to TeachMateAI. Seesaw offers a comprehensive set of tools to help teachers and others in the school community. It integrates with other systems such as Google Classroom and offers training and resources packages too. As it says, “Seesaw makes engaging, personalized learning part of every student's experience in school”.

· Quillionz AI platform that helps create questions, assessments, quizzes and notes and for free.

· Texthelp is an AI tool designed to help build confidence in reading, writing and maths. With a variety of tools for literacy and numeracy there’s lots here for teachers to look into.

· Nearpod, a Renaissance company has added multiple solutions into a single platform. What makes Neapod different to other tools is that it’s putting gamification, interactive videos and lessons together with real-time insights to track learning.

· Pear Deck has a range of ready-to-teach lessons, templates and activities. According to it’s website, “Pear Deck is designed to support proven strategies in daily classroom instruction, making it easy for teachers to follow the best practices that reduce achievement gaps and improve outcomes for all students”.

· Kahoot is another all in one platform that uses gamification and interactive sessions to engage students.

· Edpuzzle is an AI tool designed to draw students in with interactive video lessons that have inbuilt questions and feedback options for learners.

· And finally, Google Classroom… following Covid do I need to say more?

Top tips for starting to use AI tools in education

· Experiment in small ways: Rather than trying to apply an AI tool or tools to every aspect of the curriculum or across the whole school, try choosing one or two smaller trial opportunities. Maybe choose one subject or a particular project to trial using an AI tool. Pick something that is small enough to try it out, learn as you go, build confidence and then scale up to a wider student base or more subjects.

· Collaborate and share: Work with other teachers to share the results of trials, ask questions and compare notes on how well a particular tool is working (or not). This will help the school cover more ground in trialling AI tools that it could then roll out to the whole school.

· Introduce AI tools to children and parents: Introducing children to AI tools that they’ll be working with early is a great way to ease them into getting to grips with this new technology. And, being open with parents about what the tool is, what it does and how it’ll help their child’s education will help raise their awareness and allay any concerns they may have.

More resources and ideas

If you’re interested in learning more about the wider debates and different perspectives on AI in education and teaching here are some great resources I found whilst researching this podcast.

To conclude, AI is here in our work and lives and it’s also here in our schools and education systems. It’s nascent but it’s here. This article has tried to give a solid grounding in the debates and discussions happening around the use of AI in our schools as well as a practical look at the tools already available to help and support teachers in the classroom.

There are challenges ahead but the educational revolution has already begun. And there is a mix of responses and reactions from teachers, education policy makers and head teachers as to how much or how little they are willing to embrace AI in their schools. There are many challenges ahead to ensure there is a standardised approach to the use of artificial intelligence in schools. But, it seems to me that the first and most pressing need is to train and educate teachers and headteachers in the power, opportunities and tools that are already available to support teachers do what they do best – teach. By educating teachers as to what AI can help them do, and how it can be a supportive assistant enabling them, the better off our education system and their students will be.

If you’re interested in learning more about AI from the perspective of students our dedicated article on how AI tools can help students will be next in the series.

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