Embracing AI in Education: A Journey of Possibilities and Limitations

By Vincent Forese, President of Link-Systems International (LSI)

Aug 30, 2023 12:54 PM EDT

Photo of teenagers working at laptop computers around a table(Photo of teenagers working at laptop computers around a table) (Credit: Getty Image)

The realm of education stands at a crossroads: an ever-evolving landscape intersecting with the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). As educators and innovators, we find ourselves navigating the uncharted waters of AI-powered tools such as ChatGPT and Khanmigo. We must consider their potential impact on the future of learning. 

AI's Awakening Potential

I have witnessed the emergence of transformative technologies like ChatGPT and Khanmigo, each offering a glimpse into the capabilities of AI. These tools hold the power to craft essays, compose haikus, and unravel complex concepts in a matter of seconds. Yet, as we celebrate these accomplishments, it is essential to view them through a discerning lens; to be mindful of the intricate connections that only human educators can provide.

Expanding Frontiers in Online Learning 

The advent of AI ushers in a new era for online tutoring and learning, inviting us to reimagine the boundaries of educational interactions. Notably, over 40% of U.S. students have engaged in online tutoring, a statistic that continues to surge as AI reshapes the digital learning landscape. ChatGPT and its counterparts hold the promise of responsive and adaptable conversation. This invites us to think about whether this technology marks the dawn of a new chapter in online education.

AI's Uncharted Territories 

As we continue on this journey, questions emerge about the accuracy and reliability of AI, reminiscent of concerns about information accuracy in academia in the early days of Wikipedia. A recent Stanford University study underscores the uncertainties surrounding AI's educational effectiveness. It reminds us of the importance of carefully navigating these uncharted territories.

Beyond the Academic Realm: A Human Connection

In the pursuit of education, it is paramount to recognize that the role of educators surpasses the dissemination of knowledge. Our educators provide a foundation of socio-emotional support, a cornerstone that AI, despite its marvels, cannot replicate. The nuances of human interaction, the delicate art of addressing personal challenges, and the empathetic mentorship that educators offer are essential components that AI can never truly replace.

Vincent Forese, President of Link-Systems International and NetTutor
(Photo : Vincent Forese, President of Link-Systems International and NetTutor)

AI and the Integrity Imperative

The integration of AI into education raises concerns about academic integrity and potential pitfalls. However, let's not be consumed by the fear of cheating. Instead, we should focus on nurturing a culture of academic integrity. Our basis should be an ethos that goes beyond policing. At NetTutor, our approach embodies this principle, guiding students to responsibly harness external tools, instilling the values of authenticity and proper sourcing.

A Symphony of AI and Humanity

Under AI's influence, the melody of education should remain harmonious. It should strike a balance between AI's potential enhancements and the irreplaceability of human-guided learning. AI's capabilities can undoubtedly streamline certain tasks, affording educators the luxury of emphasizing innovation and critical thinking. Yet, as we progress, we have to remain steadfast in our commitment to addressing the present needs of our learners. Nurturing their emotional growth, fostering personal development, and championing holistic education is the foundation.

Concerns of AI Hindering Learning

Now, let's think about AI doing the work for learners. Does it keep them from absorbing the information themselves? Cheating happens less in a culture of academic integrity where a student is encouraged to learn rather than simply complete the assignment-factors fostered through human interaction and community. At NetTutor, for example, tutors are trained not to give learners the answers, but rather to empower students to find the answers themselves. A tutor would never make a set of flashcards for a student, but instead would show the student how to make their own flashcards.

NetTutor places a strong emphasis on upholding academic integrity and maintaining a strict stance against any form of plagiarism. Our tutors are meticulously trained to provide comprehensive guidance on correct methods of source citation and avoidance of plagiarism. Furthermore, if an institution uses detection software to identify potential instances of plagiarism within student submissions, we are fully equipped to incorporate the analysis of these reports into our suite of services, including both tutoring and assignment evaluation. In cases where plagiarism is suspected, our tutors collaborate closely with students to effectively address the matter, ensuring a clear understanding of the significance of academic integrity.

Regarding the utilization of external resources such as writing services or AI language models, like ChatGPT, our tutors approach this matter with a focus on enhancing the learning experience. We encourage students to view these tools as supplements that complement their own efforts rather than replacements for original work. Our tutors take the responsibility of educating students on the appropriate integration of external sources and ideas into their assignments, including proper attribution practices. In the event that a student is found to be misusing resources or failing to attribute sources accurately, our tutors proactively engage with the student to rectify the situation and to foster a deep comprehension of the vital principles of academic honesty and integrity

Only time will tell how effective ChatGPT and other AI language models are as a tool in different learning spaces. Whatever happens, the ongoing discussion should center learners and their needs as they exist in the present over theories about what the future may hold.

Forging the Path Ahead

In this ever-evolving educational landscape, the trajectory of AI remains a story yet to be fully told. As we experience the unfolding narrative of this future, many educators are embracing AI as an ally-an instrument that amplifies the impact of human educators rather than overshadow them. Through a comprehensive approach that caters to the diverse needs of our students, we can shape a future where AI and humanity collaborate in a way that elevates the essence of education.

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