AI in education: a reading list

When I discuss the role of AI in education with colleagues or friends, I generally get two types of attitudes:

  • The techno-enthusiasts: these people generally tend to focus on the positives and see AI as a necessary and welcome progress in education. Their stronger arguments are usually the fact that AI can free teachers from unwanted bureaucracy by writing reports for them or creating assessment tasks based on given criteria, and the potential of AI to help learners develop their creativity by (once again) freeing them of the burdensome task of actually typing and remembering spelling and so on.
  • The techno-sceptics: at the other end of the spectrum are people who see AI as doomsday, the thing that will make us all lose our ability to write and complete certain tasks. Their most convincing question being: who will be able to write a report once AI writes them all for us?

I find myself in between these two position (and admittedly leaning towards the second one). I am by no means and expert on the subject — I have never even tried ChatGPT first hand! However, like probably everyone in the education sector I have been reading and discussing quite a bit on the topic, and therefore today I would like to share a list of interesting articles, blog posts or podcasts that I think provide a stimulating perspective on the subject.

The Sky Is Falling, or Is It?

In this blog post, Tom Whitby advocates for teachers and educators to embrace AI. His argument goes: ChatGPT is here to stay, and therefore teachers should learn to deal with it, and make it work in their favour. I find his arguments convincing, and I agree that teachers should face the truth and understand the tools their students are using. However, I am wary of an approach that sees in AI a panacea for all evils in education.

AI is a serious threat to student privacy

This post focuses on an aspect of AI in the classroom (and in general) that is seriously and consistently overlooked: what about our privacy? I have students and friends of any age who are surprised to discover that their home smart device is listening to their conversations, and showing them adverts related to what they discussed the previous day. Surveillance and data collection is already ubiquitous, but what will happen when an AI has access to all our most private data, such as school marks, attendance records, lesson notes, and even feelings, aspirations, and emotions expressed in school assignments? This post reflects on some of these concerns, and on how the simple fact of knowing that we are constantly monitored will probably influence our behaviour.

Dubious Research on AI in Education

AI in education is relatively new, so what do we know about it, its strengths and drawback, and the potential problems it can create? Very little, apparently. This article is an interesting take from a researcher on the type and quality of the research we are shown on the benefits of AI for education. In his informative post, Geoff describes why we should take most research results on AI in education with a pinch of salt.

Assessment and AI

Whether you want it or not, your students are bound to be using AI tools to complete their school work. So as an educator, how can you make sure that your assessment is still relevant and cannot be easily plagiarised using AI? In this blog post Svetlana Kandybovich offers a useful framework to… Well, assess your assessment against AI and make sure it is still serving its purpose. I find her proposal simple but very effective, and something all educators should adopt in order to help their learners develop writing skills in spite of the help they can get from an AI.

How AI shook the world in 2023

2023 will probably be remembered as the year of AI, when generative artificial intelligence started to become part of our daily life. The pace at which this has happened is dizzying. This post tries to put a little perspective on the use of AI by presenting “some of the most unexpected ways AI was used around the world in 2023”.

Scacco all’AI (Italian)

This is an episode of the Italian podcast “Fuori da qui” where the host, Simone Pieranni, discusses with Guido Brera of the present and future of AI and of how, instead of freeing humans from menial jobs, this new technology is feeding off cheap manual labour from developing countries, and even from prisoners in places like Finland. It is not an in-depth analysis, but I found it unbiased and to the point.

Creare insieme o contro l’algoritmo (Italian)

An very lucid summary of the threats and potentials of generative AI for the creative professions. Will artists, writers, musicians (and teachers, I would add) be replaced by AI? What are the risks and what can artists do to safeguard their work and their creations?

This is just a very short list of posts which represents a variety of points of view. Of course, there are million others out there — many of which are probably AI generated! However, since from my research most posts on AI and education tend to be enthusiastic and uncritical about the use of this new and still relatively unknown technology in such a delicate environment as the classroom, I hope that the list above can help to get a different perspective, and to reflect on aspects of AI that are seldom considered by popular news outlets.

What is your take on AI in education? Do you use it? Have you ever considered any of the points above? Please let me know in the comments, and if you can link any articles or posts that you find interesting on the subject. Thank you!

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