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Jul 3, 2018 2:26:46 PM Grace Baldwin

Should Teachers be Worried about Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom? The Answer Might Surprise You

 

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One of the most pervasive fears about artificial intelligence (AI) is that it will make human labor obsolete. Looking to the education industry, teachers are a cohort that is often overlooked in this debate around the impact of AI on the job market. Should they be worried about artificial intelligence taking over there jobs?

Will AI steal work from teachers? How safe are teachers’ jobs from artificial intelligence?

In this blog post, we’ll answer these pressing questions.

Do teachers need to be afraid of losing their jobs to AI?

Teachers don’t really need to worry about their job security when it comes to AI. In fact, teachers are some of the most sought-after professionals in the world.

As the global population continues to rise, the need for teachers will continue to grow. UNESCO estimates that by 2030, the world will need a whopping 68.8 million teachers. 48.6 million of those roles will be just to replace current teachers, while 20.2 million more are required to counteract population growth. This global need means that teachers have some of the best job security out there as an industry.

But can AI take over that job?

The short answer to this is no, AI cannot. At least not for a very long time.

AI can’t take over the role of teachers because it just isn’t advanced enough to fill the shoes of an actual human.

AI is smart, and its achievements are astounding. But it isn’t intelligent in the way we think it is. Supervised AI can’t “think” about a challenge that it encounters. Instead, it can only analyze the problem and compare it to its training data. If it has no previous data for the situation at hand, it won’t be able to do much.

This processing makes AI an excellent analytical tool. But it also means that the machine lacks the soft skills that teachers possess. For example, AI might be able to provide students with an exciting lesson about the Battle of Waterloo. It might even be able to answer questions about the battle, much like the way Siri or Alexa can scan the Internet.

But it can’t mingle around the classroom and chat with students about their weekend in a meaningful way. And while it might be able to understand if students are not engaged in the lesson, it might not be able to change its teaching style to match classroom needs.

In essence, AI doesn’t have any of the "soft" skills that teachers need to support students. It cannot help students who are having bad days or who are stressed out. Nor will it achieve those skills anytime soon.

 

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What AI can do in the classroom

Instead of worrying about whether AI will replace their jobs, teachers should worry about the future of their field.

As the world changes, so too will the role of the teacher. New pressures will arise, and it is likely that schools will look different in 15 years than they do now.

But AI might be able to support teachers through these changes, and as a result, teachers should become some of the earliest adopters of the technology. By automating some of their work, they'll be able to devote themselves to increasing interactions with students.

There are a million different ways that AI can shape the classroom, but most of the innovations are still in their infancy.

But one development stands out from the rest because of its obvious benefits: automated grading.

Automated grading already exists in some ways, but only for responses to multiple-choice questions. However, automated grading of written responses is a different story.

China is currently testing an automated grading tool that analyzes open-ended assessments in over 60,000 schools. The AI can read written responses in both English and Chinese, then look at the text holistically. Instead of grading just for grammar or spelling mistakes, it can evaluate the tone of voice and train of thought.

Currently, this technology's accuracy is lackluster at best. But its implications are massive. Once the AI reaches a point where it can grade as accurately as a human, it could free up countless hours for teachers every year. That translates into more time for teachers to interact with students on a personal level.

Challenges to AI in the classroom

Incorporating AI into the classroom will not be easy. The technology faces quite a few road bumps before it can gain widespread acceptance.

The first challenge is AI's overall accuracy. Right now, AI still has tons of room to improve. The Chinese grading technology, for example still requires teachers to double-check its work.

That inaccuracy will change with time. As developers feed the AI is more information and training data, the more it can learn and improve.

Another challenge for AI is the sheer ability to implement it around the world. Many classrooms around the world don't have access to plumbing or electricity. Introducing AI will be challenging in these areas without proper infrastructure.

Conclusion

AI will substitute some work from teachers. But the TYPE of work that it takes, such as grading papers, will allow teachers more free time to interact with students on a human level.

Teachers should have no fear about AI taking over their jobs. For one, the global need for teachers is too high to worry about AI taking over the role completely. For another, a machine cannot replicate every skill that the classroom needs.

Teachers do more than teach: they guide, they coach, they support, and they inspire. AI will not have the emotional capacity to perform those skills for quite some time.

For now, teachers should welcome AI into classrooms as a useful tool, not as a replacement.

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