Artificial Intelligence: Our Future or Demise?

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology has made its way across various industries, one of which is academia. Individuals involved in America’s education system have conflicting views as to AI’s place in students’ learning process.

Before diving into the debate itself, one must first define AI— it is any computer system that completes tasks that would normally require human assistance.

A common misconception about AI is that it only refers to robots and talking computers; in actuality, AI is everywhere. Social media monitoring, algorithms, and chat boxes are examples of AI, just like self-driving cars and “smart assistants” like Siri.

In recent years, AI has skyrocketed in popularity due to significant accomplishments made by the major tech giants. As a result, AI is most commonly found in healthcare, marketing, banking, aviation, oil, and gas organizations. It is only a matter of time before AI is implemented in our schools.

AI in education leaves some individuals skeptical about how well the technologies will perform.

Supporters of AI in the classroom argue that it will enhance the system by creating personalized forms of learning for each individual. For example, AI could help customize teacher’s instruction and tutoring services.

AI likewise has the ability to alleviate educators’ stress. Scantrons have dictated standardized assessments for ages, but AI makes it possible to grade students’ multiple-choice exams even faster. Additionally, according to the University of San Diego’s online blog, some AI technologies can grade more “abstract” assignments, such as papers.

This new wave of technology has the bandwidth to enhance one’s learning from online school. After the pandemic, many students and families of students chose to transition their preferred mode of learning to online. Students were able to prioritize their health and safety without sacrificing the essence of their education.

While these benefits paint a barrier-free picture, there are many who feel uneasy about intertwining AI with education.

The first issue, and most obvious, is cheating. AI has backed apps and websites that essentially complete students’ work for them. For instance, the app Photomath enables students to receive an answer to their math equation in seconds by simply snapping a picture of the problem.

Sophia Curcio, a sophomore psychology student, argued, “Some AI makes it a lot easier to cheat. I feel like students learn less with more extensive AI.”

Cheating is likely to occur in the classroom one way or another, but many teachers and parents fear that AI makes cheating far too easy and will even encourage cheating as there is no perceived risk. A student may not choose to cheat on a math test by looking at another student’s paper out of fear of being caught. However, that same student may cheat on their math homework using Photomath because there is little way of proving that their homework was done using an app.

The next issue that arises does not necessarily involve education, but the atmosphere of a school. Schools are environments that foster social connection between people of all backgrounds. Therefore, some argue that the use of AI in education, specifically through tutoring and teaching, can take away from that necessary social component educational institutions.

Lastly, AI is just data fed into a machine. AI cannot learn, grow, adapt, or be creative by itself. Therefore, the use of AI in the classroom is potentially more complicated (and expensive) than some make it seem.

“I think AI does not necessarily enhance a student’s learning experience. I guess in some cases it could be useful, but for me, I tend to take away more from traditional styles of learning than through techniques that use AI,” said Kirsten Cluett, a sophomore health studies student.

The implementation of AI is not going to single-handedly ruin America’s education system as we know it so long as the key ideas of what students are learning stay the same. Rather, we should focus what aspects of AI prove beneficial and find a place for them in the classroom. Finding a balance between using AI technology and utilizing traditional teaching practices is the key to unlocking a new layer to our present education system.