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Artificial Intelligence (AI): EdTech’s Sharpest Tool

There has been much hand-wringing about ChatGPT recently and how it might enable a generation of students to simply cheat their way through school. If you’ve been around long enough, you may remember the same worries about the use of handheld calculators in schools. The truth is that every generation will bring new technological advances. This is a train that cannot, and in my opinion, should not be stopped. Rather than a stumbling block, AI can and should be viewed as a powerful tool that academic institutions can use to elevate the educational value that they offer to students at every level.

If you’re unfamiliar with ChatGPT, it’s a chatbot that was developed by OpenAI, which is a San Francisco-based AI research and deployment company whose mission is to, “ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” The reason that ChatGPT has sent ripples through the educational system is because it can easily produce essays and research papers as well as solve math and science problems. The fear of cheating students and diminished academic achievement was so high that the New York City education department recently blocked ChatGPT on all school devices and networks.

I believe that educators’ hearts are in the right place. I’ve worked with enough teachers, professors and administrators to know that they overwhelmingly have their students’ best interests at heart. So, what if we entertain the thought that ChatGPT and other AI advances could actually help students learn? What if AI could help teachers teach? A blog post on Ditch That Textbook’s website gave a long list of ways that AI, like ChatGPT, might be used in a classroom setting, including asking the chatbot to write lesson plans, create personalized learning experiences, summarize tests and supplement in-person instruction.

Many players in the educational technology, or EdTech, field believe that AI has the potential to revolutionize the learning experience. According to a recent 2023 Forbes article, venture capitalists are expecting an EdTech boom in 2023 that will be fueled in part by AI. Companies at the forefront of the AI frontier include Edgi Bot, an AI that can answer students’ questions about homework, Koalluh, a company that uses AI to write personalized kids’ books, Derivata, an AI math courseware and assessment platform, and Byju’s, an EdTech startup that uses AI to provide adaptive learning tools that are personalized for student preferences.

Higher education in also harnessing the power of AI. Many colleges are using AI technology in their admissions and recruiting programs as well as their course offerings and grading systems. The Ivy Chatbot, for example, is a set of AI tools specifically designed for colleges and universities to assist with enrollment, applications, deadlines and tuition with live chat and integrations for Facebook, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and SIS (student information systems). Knewton’s Alta also helps students at the post-secondary level with courseware solutions that offer personalized learning experiences through adaptive technology.

Michael Moe, founder and CEO of a venture capital firm called GSV Holdings, told Forbes, “Every business in ed tech—if it’s not an AI business—needs to have an AI component.” Not only do I agree with his statement, but I also see it as a profoundly prescient sentiment for all industries. Disruptors like AI can be scary at first, especially for those on the ground who are not AI researchers, scientists or tech executives, but once teachers, parents, students and administrators see the opportunities that open up through AI, it will become another important tool in their tool box just like iPads, personal computers and even handheld calculators, leading to a plethora of new education products at their disposal.

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