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Consultant: Teachers Who Keep Up With AI Get Most Out of It

Former teacher and ed-tech consultant Monica Burns sees a wide-open future for education innovation with artificial intelligence, but she advises teachers to stay current with their capabilities and limitations.

A person in a business suit sitting at a table typing on a laptop. There are symbols hovering above the laptop including "AI" and locks, peoples and buildings.
According to recent research from the textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, nearly 40 percent of teachers surveyed by the company said they plan to integrate artificial intelligence tools into their instruction by the end of the 2023-24 school year. That figure is only expected to grow as AI-driven programs such as ChatGPT, Claude, Bard and Adobe Firefly continue to improve — almost at breakneck speed — for functions like assisting lesson planning and content generation, according to Monica Burns, a former teacher and ed-tech consultant.

Speaking Tuesday as part of a webinar series about new classroom tools hosted by Verizon and Digital Promise, Burns said educators should stay up to date about developments in AI to get the most out of new tools and understand their limitations.

“This type of technology has come a long way. We might have thought about AI as something that belonged in a science-fiction movie, but it’s been by our sides or behind the scenes for some time. … Generative AI like ChatGPT, Claude or Bard has gained so much traction this year,” she said, noting that she’s also “excited” to see how instructors make use of Adobe Firefly, which released a beta version in March and purports to generate images that can stimulate classroom discussions and help guide lessons.

Burns noted that the improvements to AI technologies in recent months are only going to continue, meaning teachers will have more and better tools at their disposal to help save time on menial tasks such as instructional design and grading, which will help enhance instruction in and of itself. She said as more teachers grow comfortable with AI in the classroom, it’s important for them to let each other know what does and doesn’t work for certain functions.

“This can have a big impact on our workflow as we’re preparing from an instructional-planning perspective, and setting up students with different means for success,” she said, adding that AI tools can be used to find ideas for connecting lessons and course topics to student interests to boost engagement.

However, while AI tools have improved a lot for practical education applications, she said it will always be important for educators to know what limitations each one has, such as the potential to “hallucinate” or generate false information. Like other educators and experts in the AI ed-tech space have cautioned in recent months, she said AI tools still need a lot of human oversight to effectively nurture student learning. She said teachers may still need to fact-check the output of AI tools from time to time to better facilitate learning, rather than impeding it with false or irrelevant content.

“As we talk about what you can do in this space and what is new over the past year or so, it’s important to remember that this technology is far from perfect,” she said. “You might get inaccurate responses.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.