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Schools Are Unprepared for AI’s Impact on Learning (and Cheating)

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As school gets back in session, many still lack sensible policies on the usage of AI in the classroom. 

That’s, to put it lightly, a huge problem given AI’s capabilities—and its potential to disrupt curriculums and learning outcomes.

Why it matters: 

Based on examples we’ve observed and ones sent to us by our audience, schools largely seem to be without comprehensive (or effective) AI policies just days or weeks away from the start of school. In fact, some of these policies seem to have the potential to cause confusion or disruption in the classroom, which could have an adverse effect on students.

Connecting the dots: 

In Episode 60 of the Marketing AI Show, Marketing AI Institute founder/CEO Paul Roetzer walked me through the impact this could have on schools, students, and parents.

  • First, we have to acknowledge school faculty are in a tough spot. Before critiquing school policies, we need to realize that teachers and administrators are being asked to deal with a highly disruptive technology that has very rapidly disrupted education as usual. Part of our reason for publicizing this issue is because teachers and administrators can’t—and shouldn’t—have to deal with AI’s impact alone.
  • Many existing policies appear vague or inconsistent. The policies we’ve seen—or that our audience has shared—appear largely vague and inconsistent when it comes to how to treat AI. Some schools cite their commitment to using it to improve learning outcomes. Others say the use of AI will result in disciplinary action. Many offer only vague guidance on what is and isn’t an acceptable use of AI. Plenty have no policy at all. “It just seems like this is going to be poorly applied and unevenly distributed,” says Roetzer.
  • And many schools appear to lack policies at all. Even more surprising than some of the policy language we’ve seen is the complete lack of policies in many schools. Students already widely use AI tools—for good or for ill. Without concrete, sensible guidance via formal policies, schools will be hard-pressed to intelligently handle AI’s impact on classrooms. “I don’t know how a school doesn’t have some formal policy or point of view on this stuff,” says Roetzer.
  • Cheating is a huge issue here that schools are dropping the ball on. Too many schools appear to believe that AI detection tools are reliable ways to detect AI being used on assignments. They are not. This misunderstanding has led schools, in policies and in practice, to punish students for cheating due to the flawed results of these tools. This is a mistake, and will lead to massive friction between parents and faculty in the coming year as more parents realize these detection tools are flawed.

What to do about it:

It’s clear schools need more guidance on how to approach AI and formulate policies around it. Roetzer says that professional associations and organizations may be a good place for educators and administrators to start finding that guidance. 

Teachers also need formal education and training to get a baseline understanding of what the technology is capable of. Because, given the lack of policy and guidance at the school-wide level, it will come down to individual teachers to lead the way.

“The benefits of AI [for students] will largely depend on who your teacher is and whether or not the teacher chooses to understand AI,” says Roetzer.

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