With good short-term choices to leverage AI wisely, we’ll spark a sorely needed learning renaissance – while soothing teacher burnout and supporting greater student success.

Artificial intelligence is so easily – sometimes lazily – caricatured right now as a scary force for chaos, especially where young people are concerned. With school back in session and doomscrolling in high gear, consider instead the profound transformation already possible today when we harness AI in the classroom thoughtfully. Under judicious control, it actually stands to change learning as we know it while it stabilizes and supports the essential profession of teaching.

A timely revolution

We understand full well that our education systems do not sufficiently prepare incoming generations for the imminent working world. Most business sectors report widening skills gaps – that is, they have needs job applicants aren’t equipped to address.

We also know instructors are overtaxed and exhausted. In a 2021 study of UK teachers, fully half reported coping with work-related burnout “all the time.” And we know disadvantaged students fare worse in the education system compared to their privileged peers. There’s a growing “attainment gap” that worsened during the pandemic.

Both student development and the education sector face critical inflection points.

It’s all In the personal approach

Traditional computerized learning management systems have been out there for a generation, most often giving teachers simple solutions for creating and managing lesson content. But too many of those old-school systems simply disgorge catalogues of traditional analogue content on command. They don’t respond well to individual learner agendas; they don’t fundamentally transform a traditional, suboptimal classroom setting, where teachers must normally support students of all levels and abilities simultaneously. Some of those students get lesson content quickly and grow bored unless things keep moving. Others struggle and tap out when they cannot keep up.

A modern learning platform (MLP) enhanced by AI is dramatically different, supporting each student in personalized fashion while they work at their own particular pace.

ChatGPT and other large language models generate near-instant responses to prompts, reflecting the on-demand culture to which we are now so accustomed. They can respond to individual learner agendas and suggest additional pertinent material, sparing students fruitless searches and guiding them appropriately. A student having difficulty can repeat coursework as many times as needed – and go through test questions again and again until they triumph. Each can reach their fullest potential. That formidable attainment gap begins to diminish.

Relief for instructors everywhere

As for educators, a true AI-enhanced MLP can ease their workflow by generating, in response to instructions, sequenced lesson plans, syllabi, reading lists, and rubrics – the kinds of repetitive, tedious tasks that consume too many person-hours. Lesson plans that until now took days or weeks can now be ready for review in minutes.

Teachers can also use AI-powered data analytics to see how quickly and accurately each pupil is completing work, and intervene to mentor those in need. (These personalization and analytics capabilities are a special boon for younger learners with

special needs or disabilities. Now they can thrive among peers in an in-person classroom, working at an individually appropriate pace.)

But let me be clear: the AI element of MLP technology is always, strictly subordinate to human control, its output always subject to review. I keep an “80-20” ratio in mind: Assign AI to the 80% of teaching work that is rote, onerous, and tiring. Real live teachers contribute the essential remaining 20% of effort: editing, assessment, and mentoring. Teachers who put AI to work this way find themselves elevated, with additional bandwidth for higher-value, purely human pursuits.

Cheaters never prosper

What about the growing phenomenon of students having ChatGPT et al write homework essays? Students have been tempted by various shortcuts since the first school bell ever rang, and no amount of policing software on the teacher’s desk will be an airtight deterrent.

Hopefully another benefit of the AI revolution will be the realization that sometimes we grade the wrong things.

New assessment models are needed to make AI-powered cheating moot, but high-touch, gamified evaluation experiences on a modern learning platform can be part of the answer. Change the evaluation game. Focus on acquiring new competencies: with competency-based learning, each student gets a personalized curriculum rooted in real-world skills, and progresses naturally from foundational material to more advanced topics. Among other benefits, this can better prepare young people for the 21st century workplace.

Celebrate the win-win-wins

A transformed education landscape featuring thoughtfully introduced AI means more than frazzled, fatigued teachers and happier, more productive students. By preparing an incoming labor force better suited for current and emerging jobs, it can easily be a key to next-generation prosperity: the individual kind, and the national kind.

When young students find satisfaction, even pleasure, in learning and get the habit, they’re more apt to embrace a culture of perpetual, lifelong upskilling and reskilling – which workplace analysts worldwide tell us is already a virtual necessity. Cyclical employee obsolescence is stressful and costly. Disrupting it can start here!

So hit delete on those sci-fi fantasies about bots running amok. Like every powerful tech advance, from dynamite to transistors to jet engines, AI can of course potentially cause hard. But the technology is not going to recede. With wise and effective usage and regulation, AI will support a redeployment of educator energy – away from rote work and tedious language-purity checks, and toward advancing the cause of joyous, effective learning.

Graham Glass is CEO of Cypher Learning, a supplier of digital learning solutions for educational and organizational customers worldwide.

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How technology can ensure no child is left behind