AI in the classroom has many possibilities - here are a few of them.

3 ways to use AI in the classroom

Some educators already use AI in the classroom--if you need a reason to start, we've got 3 for you

Get ready, everyone. GenAlexa has questions, and it wants immediate answers.

The term GenAlexa elicits chuckles, but the Alexa Generation is very serious in its demand for immediacy and accuracy.

“Today’s kids are used to just asking Alexa for homework help, for answers to questions,” said Hall Davidson, Discovery Education’s senior director of global learning initiatives, speaking at ISTE 2019 in June. “Remember when you rode your first bicycle? The next generation will say, ‘I remember the first day machines understood me.'”

Related content: Here’s why AI skills will make or break students’ futures

Davidson is well-versed in AI’s place in the classroom, and the more you listen to his predictions and expertise, the more they ring true.

You might already know about GenAlexa’s preference for immediate access to information from personal experience as a parent, a teacher, or both. My own kids roll their eyes when it takes me more than 3 seconds to answer a factual question, and instead of waiting for my answer (or for me to remember what I learned in 2nd grade), they placate me, tell me it’s OK, and turn to Alexa or Siri for the correct information in half the time.

So, where does AI fit in with education, and how can AI in the classroom improve teaching and learning?

AI, in simple terms, is technology able to make decisions based on data, and then with that data, perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. Hall highlighted a survey in which a whopping 62 percent of Millennial parents said they would let AI robots operate on their children.

There are a number of ways AI can easily integrate into the classroom today, Davidson said.

1. Amazon Echo Dot assistants have a surprisingly wide range of applications if teachers are creative. It’s cheaper than you might think to use Alexa in the classroom–in fact, Davidson said, the adoption curve on in-home smart assistants was faster than the curve for iPhones or iPads. One teaching strategy makes use of different smart assistants at the same time–students can ask the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home the same question, and if they get different answers, they can debate and use classroom lessons to talk through the answer. (Davidson recommends obtaining parental consent before implementing AI in the classroom.)

Many teachers bypass budget hurdles by creating Donors Choose applications for classroom Echo Dots or other smart assistants. The devices have remotes for muting microphones during group work, and teachers can purchase washable protective covers to help reduce germs during cold and flu season.

Using AI in the classroom can help with achievement, too–ambient noise or music while working sometimes leads to increases in math achievement, according to some research.

The Amazon Skills Blueprint lets students program a skill into Alexa without coding, but students also can use coding knowledge to create more advanced skills.

2. Using AI in the classroom helps educators tailor resources to students’ needs and abilities without losing instructional time or productivity. A smart assistant can help teachers curate digital resources and instructional strategies.

For example, Davidson said, a teacher can search an asset repository for Civil War resources. The teacher might ask a smart teaching assistant to find a reading passage on the Civil War between Lexile 740L and 1010L and assign it to a specific student, and the entire process is quick and reliable.

Putting AI in the classroom will make differentiation and personalization easier, Davidson said. “We have all these assets; what we need is an AI to help us sort through it, go into the cloud, and push it out to kids.”

3. Experiments with Google has a collection of AI experiments that can help teachers bring AI in the classroom and help students start exploring machine learning through pictures, drawings, language, music, and more.

Engaging activities and real-world connections help students realize just how many career possibilities there are in AI and machine learning.

Despite these applications for AI in the classroom, and despite the fast pace at which technology is evolving, there remains one area in which AI won’t excel.

“What’s a profession involving a series of non-routine tasks that require social intelligence, complex critical thinking, and creative problem solving?” Hall asked. “Teaching. That’s why teachers are irreplaceable. When we begin to move to learning about and teaching machine language, we’ll value SEL skills, emotional learning, and nobody thinks a machine’s going to be able to do that.”

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