Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming various sectors, and education is no exception. As part of my ongoing attempt to understand the use of AI in education, I surveyed teachers* to gauge their perspectives on the potential impact of AI on education and their teaching practices. The survey consisted of four questions, including both quantitative and qualitative elements, designed to explore teachers’ current usage of AI, perceived benefits, concerns, and support needs for integrating AI into their classrooms.
Question 1: On a scale of 1 to 5, how optimistic are you about the potential impact of AI on education and your teaching practices?
(one being not optimistic at all, and five being very optimistic)
Question 2: How might you use AI in your classroom to enhance your teaching and students’ learning experiences, and what areas of your teaching practice could benefit most from AI support or assistance?
Based on the responses, the following themes emerge:
- Administrative Efficiency: Teachers see AI as a valuable tool for grading, setting up worksheets, creating quizzes, and writing reports. This suggests a desire to use AI to reduce administrative load and free up time for instruction, with one teacher writing, “AI will help me offload all the tasks that take up time and give me more time to teach.”
- Lesson Planning and Resource Creation: Many respondents expressed interest in using AI for lesson planning and the creation of teaching resources. AI’s ability to assist in developing lesson plans and creating resources tailored to each student’s needs and abilities was also highlighted.
- Personalised Learning: AI could help facilitate individualised teaching, remedial support, and personalised lessons. Teachers see potential in using AI to tailor instruction to the specific needs of each student.
- Subject-specific Assistance: Some teachers indicated that AI could be useful in specific subject areas like English Language teaching, Geographic Information Systems, Music, and enhancing language skills. This suggests that AI might be leveraged differently depending on the subject matter.
- Knowledge Enhancement and Critical Thinking: A few responses indicated that AI could assist in increasing the teachers’ knowledge and enhancing students’ research and critical thinking skills. This reflects an interest in AI as a learning tool for teachers and students.
- Practical Challenges: Some teachers mentioned specific challenges in their teaching practice where AI could assist, like dealing with the overwhelming amount of internet information (quote: “Eliminating the MILLIONS of options Google spews out”) and enhancing practical learning. These responses highlight that teachers see potential in AI to address specific challenges they face in their teaching practices.
Interestingly, one teacher mentioned they didn’t see any areas where AI could assist due to a lack of engagement with AI. This suggests that some teachers might need more exposure to AI to understand its potential benefits in their teaching practices fully.
Question 3: What are your concerns regarding integrating AI into the education system and your teaching methods?
The responses to this question fall into several themes:
- Academic Integrity: A key concern many teachers raise is the potential for increased plagiarism and cheating with AI. Teachers worry about the integrity of students’ work and the difficulty of assessing “whether a child has written/created something or the AI has done it for them.”
- Decreased Critical Thinking: Some teachers worry that relying on AI might lead students to lose essential skills such as reasoning and creativity. There’s a concern that students may become passive learners.
- Equity and Access: The concern of equal access to technology and the internet was raised. Some teachers worry about the digital divide, where some students may not have the resources to benefit from AI-enhanced education fully.
- Privacy and Ethics: Teachers mentioned concerns about privacy and the ethical use of AI. This reflects broader societal concerns about data privacy and the ethical implications of AI.
- Technical Issues: Power outages (a significant issue currently in South Africa), lack of working equipment, and problems integrating AI with current systems were mentioned. These practical considerations pose real challenges to successfully implementing AI in the classroom.
- AI Bias and Societal Impact: One teacher expressed concern about unforeseen biases in AI and lack of cultural or societal interaction. This is a significant issue in AI, where biases in the data used to train AI models can lead to unfair outcomes.
Interestingly, one respondent who teaches technology and digital skills had no concerns and expressed enjoyment in teaching students how to use AI. This underscores how teachers’ attitudes towards AI can vary depending on their subject matter and comfort with technology.
Question 4: What resources, training, or support would you need to implement AI technologies in your classroom effectively?
The responses can be grouped into several themes:
- Training and Workshops: Several teachers needed more training and workshops. This could range from software and specific skill training like prompt engineering to training on equipment use and AI, like interactive whiteboards.
- Resources: Some teachers indicated the need for help, both in terms of software, equipment, and content. The mention of tried and tested sites and AI apps shows a desire for vetted resources to ensure their effectiveness in the classroom.
- Technological Infrastructure: A few teachers mentioned the need for better infrastructure, like stable Wi-Fi and electricity, to effectively use AI in the classroom.
- Time: The need for time to investigate and research AI tools was mentioned. This reflects the reality of teachers’ workload and the additional time required to explore and implement new technologies.
- Specific Guidance: Some teachers expressed the need for more detailed guidance on how AI can be used in their particular class or subject, perhaps from the Education Ministry or educators council (SACE). This shows a desire for context-specific resources and support.
One teacher mentioned that ample resources are already available, and they have even created a Google Site to share resources with colleagues. Another teacher said that they found AI easy to figure out. These responses highlight the variability in teachers’ comfort and familiarity with technology.
The survey results provide fascinating insights into teachers’ educational perspectives on AI. Overall, teachers demonstrated optimism about the potential impact of AI, as evidenced by their responses to the question about their optimism level on a scale of 1 to 5.
In terms of AI integration into classrooms, teachers identified several potential benefits. These include improved administrative efficiency, enhanced lesson planning and resource creation, facilitation of personalised learning, subject-specific assistance, and the development of critical thinking skills. However, teachers also acknowledged specific challenges that must be addressed, such as the overwhelming amount of internet information and the practical difficulties of teaching subjects like art.
While teachers generally acknowledged the potential benefits of AI, they also expressed concerns about academic integrity, the possible loss of critical thinking skills, equitable access to technology, privacy and ethics issues, technical problems, and the potential biases of AI systems. These concerns highlight the need for careful and thoughtful implementation of AI in education.
Teachers also indicated several areas of support needed to effectively implement AI in their classrooms, including training and workshops, specific resources, better technological infrastructure, time for exploration and learning, and more specific guidance about the use of AI in their particular teaching contexts.
Interestingly, there was variability in teachers’ comfort and familiarity with AI, which probably aligns with their exposure to tech and the internet in the classroom. Some teachers were actively exploring AI resources and sharing them with colleagues, while others indicated they needed more exposure to AI to understand its potential benefits.
In conclusion, while teachers are generally optimistic about the potential of AI to enhance education and their teaching practices, careful attention must be paid to addressing their concerns and providing the necessary resources and support for the effective integration of AI into classrooms.
*Note this survey was small and shared for participation through my online network only. Take it as a snapshot of how some teachers are feeling!