High school senior: Why aren’t more teachers embracing AI?

One of my joys in life is reading student op-eds. Here is a wonderful example, by a high school senior who asks: why aren’t more teachers using AI?

The student describes how they use it, how they find it beneficial, and how their teachers are suspicious of it.

I believe that the student, and many others, parents included, are truly curious. In other words, I don’t think the question is rhetorical. Why not use a technology which seems to offer so many benefits? So, I thought I’d take a few moments to answer it. A point of clarification before we turn to a list of possible reasons:

  • It’s not quite clear what is the prevalence of AI use in K-12. In the US, one survey suggests that around 10% of teachers use it, while another puts that number at ~50%. Even with the high number, we need to clarify what “AI use” means because teachers’ AI use might be invisible to students (e.g., using it to create/refine rubrics, produce examples, etc). In other words, teachers might be using AI, just not in the pedagogical ways described in the op ed.

Here’s a list of possible reasons

  • Lack of familiarity and knowledge about how to use AI in the classroom.
  • Concerns about AI (e.g., about its biases, ethics, and implications for equity and access).
  • Lack of support and guidance (e.g., at the administrator or school district level) as to whether and how teachers ought to use it.
  • For decades, edtech promises to revolutionize education. AI comes with similar promises. Teachers are tired and weary of these unmet promises.
  • Inconsistencies between the technology and the school/testing environment that teachers operate under.
  • It takes time for technology to spread into education settings, and for good reasons (e.g., devising ways to integrate a technology with an uncertain future takes more time and effort that people realize, and, if one thing is certain, teachers lack time).

There’s likely other reasons, and these can be grouped into individual reasons (e.g., why aren’t individual teachers using AI?), community and organizational reasons (e.g., why aren’t schools supporting teachers in using AI?), and societal reasons (e.g., why did our  society structure schools in ways which limit rapid adoption of AI?).

Importantly: A lot of it relates to context, such as the content area or the particular school. And so, if you’re interested in why your particular teachers at your particular school in your particular part of the country aren’t using a technology (or a pedagogical strategy even), it’s important to identify local reasons for use/non-use.

And to be clear: This isn’t to say that teachers should or shouldn’t use a particular technology in education.


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1 Comment

  1. It is always good to get the student perspective. As an educator, I am not “suspicious” of it. I know that the company OpenAI is not transparent about the data that was used to train ChatGPT and that there are inherent biases, racism, and issues there. They are not transparent about how they handle student/user data. The training of LLMs has a horrendous carbon footprint as well as unethical labor issues. It has problems with spreading misinformation. There are also unresolved copyright issues. It produces poor writing that can reinforce bad writing habits. No one seems to be interested in transparent open source alternatives. And it is turning us back to a viewpoint that the purpose of education is to produce a paper rather than to teaching the process of thinking. I am not against AI at all – I am against it being used to off-load the really interesting task of thinking. It definitely has its uses, but the gee-whiz it can write a 5 paragraph essay stuff is killing me. I think there was a turn in thinking in education where we overly rely on tools like an LMS to the point that the LMS begins to define teaching and we become the tools – I am not sure if that makes sense – I am sure a bot or McLuhan could put that more succinctly.

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