Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged at astonishing pace in 2023 as a groundbreaking technology with the potential to reshape various sectors of society, and education is no exception. In British schools, the integration of AI into the learning environment is steadily gaining momentum, promising to revolutionise the way students are educated and teachers teach. At Glendower, we are proud to be a school that has always adapted to the changes around us, without losing our core traditional values – who can forget how we continued to thrive even through the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic… And did you know that during World War 2, the whole school moved to a hotel in Devon for 6 years? This article will look at the transformative potential of AI in schools, shedding light on its benefits, challenges, and the imperative need for a balanced approach to harness its full potential, and give you a little insight into how we are looking to work with AI at Glendower in the coming years.
One of the most promising aspects of AI in education is the ability to offer personalised learning experiences. Traditional classrooms often struggle to cater to the individual needs and pace of each student. AI can analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each student, adapting the curriculum to match their learning style and progress. This approach enhances engagement and fosters a deeper understanding of subjects, making learning more effective.
Sir Anthony Seldon is leading the charge with a government initiative to see how AI can not only benefit schools and learners, but also tackle inequality. “Schools themselves must seize the initiative to ensure rapidly developing generative AI technology is in the interests of learners, because schools cannot rely on or trust anyone else to do it for us. We slept on social media; teachers must help to shape AI,” he says in this recent article.
AI is also making strides in automating administrative tasks, allowing educators more time to focus on teaching. From grading assignments and managing schedules to tracking student progress, AI streamlines these labour-intensive tasks, helping to enhance overall efficiency in school systems. This newfound efficiency can lead to better allocation of resources and more personalised support for students. There is a mantra for those who work with automation that says, “Automate where possible, human beings where necessary.” Who could argue with the idea of teachers having some of their workload lightened to be able to spend more time planning and delivering outstanding classrooms experiences?
AI’s integration with augmented and virtual reality is revolutionising the classroom experience. These technologies can transport students to various historical events, geological locations, or even inside the human body. By bringing abstract concepts to life, students gain a deeper understanding of subjects, making learning more engaging and memorable. Some schools are using apps such as Google Expeditions to take their classes on virtual dives of the Great Barrier Reef, or have tours of museums and art galleries around the world – how amazing is that?
AI-powered chatbots and virtual tutors provide students with on-demand assistance and support, outside of traditional classroom hours. These systems can answer questions, provide explanations, and offer additional resources, ensuring that students have the help they need whenever they require it. This approach encourages independent learning and can bridge the gap for students who need extra support. Some schools are experimenting with using robots to provide individual reading support – the perfect way for children who suffer with anxiety of making mistakes with adults to be able to regain the joy of reading with help that is totally non-threatening and low pressure.
Despite the transformative potential of AI in education, several challenges and ethical concerns must be addressed. Data privacy, for instance, is a paramount issue. Schools must ensure that personal information is protected and that AI systems are not used to invade student privacy. Furthermore, there is a risk of overreliance on AI, which may lead to deskilling of educators and the loss of the human touch in education – something that Glendower will resist with full force. There are even signs that schools in China are using headbands that show different colour light codes to monitor student engagement, which again could seem attractive on some levels – but our values wouldn’t support anything that would remove the core principle that learners should be intrinsically motivated by the love for learning itself, rather than the fear of being “caught out”.
To harness the full potential of AI in our schools, a balanced approach is essential. AI should complement traditional teaching methods, not replace them. Educators must continue to play a crucial role in guiding students, fostering critical thinking, and imparting important values and social skills. Furthermore, stakeholders must collaborate to create guidelines and standards to ensure the ethical and responsible use of AI in education. On top of this, we also need to think how our curriculum will need to adapt so that students leave Glendower full of the traditional values we hold so highly, but also prepared for a world that is evolving at pace.
The transformative potential of AI in British schools is undeniable. It has the power to provide personalised learning, streamline administrative tasks, and enhance the overall educational experience. However, these benefits must be weighed against ethical concerns and the risk of overreliance. To navigate this educational revolution successfully, it is essential for educators, policymakers, and technology developers to work hand in hand, striking a balance between the power of AI and the enduring value of human teaching and guidance. By doing so, we can shape a future of education that is enriched by AI, yet still firmly grounded in the traditions of Glendower.