Wednesday, October 18, 2023

AI Tools for Elementary School Students- The WHAT and WHY

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be a concept reserved for scientists, tech experts and software engineers, but that's a thing of the past. Since the release of ChatGPT to the general public, a wide range of AI tools for all types of users have been created, covering almost every aspect of our daily lives.

An increasing market of AI tools is the education field, and some fantastic tools are now making their way into classrooms everywhere, offering exciting opportunities even for our young learners, and they are changing the way children interact with technology and learn. It is important to learn about how exactly these tools are enhancing our offerings and at the same time to be mindful of the lack of regulation and privacy issues.

In this blog post, I will share some basic information about what are AI tools for students, their benefits, and what to be cautious of when introducing AI to our students. In the next posts, I will share how we could go about selecting AI-based educational tools, and finally, I will share some great tools I have been exploring and using with my students. I hope you find this blog series useful.

What are AI Tools for Students?

AI tools for students are software or applications that utilize artificial intelligence to enhance the learning experience. These tools can be used across various subjects across the curriculum. They often incorporate features like personalized learning, interactive lessons, and adaptive assessments. Some AI tools for elementary school students are designed for in-class use, while others are accessible online for remote learning.

Benefits of AI Tools for Elementary School Students:

  • Personalized Learning: AI can adapt to each student's individual learning pace and style. This ensures that students receive lessons and exercises that match their abilities, allowing them to progress at their own speed. (Examples: Khan Academy, TTRockStars)
  • Instant Feedback: AI tools provide immediate feedback, helping students understand their mistakes and correct them. This real-time response can boost students' confidence and encourage a growth mindset. (Examples: Prodigy, IXL)
  • Engaging Content: AI-powered apps often come with interactive and gamified content that makes learning fun. Students are more likely to stay engaged and motivated when lessons are enjoyable. (Examples: Minecraft Edu Edition, Canva)
  • Accessibility: Many AI tools are accessible online, enabling students to continue learning outside the classroom. This is especially valuable for homework, independent study, or remote learning scenarios. (Examples: DuoLingo, Read&Write for Google Chrome)
  • Data-Driven Insights: Teachers and parents can monitor students' progress and identify areas where they may need additional support. AI-generated data can inform educational strategies. (Examples: Cognii, IXL)

Possible Drawbacks and What to Be Cautious Of:

  • Quality Control: Perhaps the most important drawback is each tool's overall educational value. Not all AI tools are created equal. Some may offer low-quality or inaccurate content/feedback, have inconsistent performance, or lack pedagogical rigor. Some apps and tools marketed as educational may in reality be poorly designed, which would lower the quality of education we intend to provide to our students. Do your research and try tools on your own before you introduce them to your students!
  • Over-Reliance: Another concern is that students may become overly reliant on AI tools and neglect time-tested effective "traditional" learning methods. It's important to strike a balance between technology-based and conventional learning. Some students might become too dependent on AI tools and neglect traditional learning methods like reading physical books or engaging in hands-on activities, which, as a consequence, may cause them to struggle to adapt to non-digital learning environments.
  • Privacy and Data Security: Using AI tools may involve sharing data about students' performance and preferences. Ensuring data privacy and security is crucial, and parents and teachers should be aware of how data is used. There have been cases of data breaches in educational technology platforms, potentially exposing students' personal information. One notable example is the Edmodo data breach, which impacted millions of users.
  • Screen Time: Excessive screen time can have negative effects on children's health and well-being. It's important to set reasonable limits on the use of AI tools (and any digital tool) and encourage physical activity and face-to-face interactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other reputable institutions, warns about the negative effects of excessive screen time on children, such as sleep disturbances, reduced physical activity, and potential behavioral issues.
Education has been and will continue to change quicker than ever, and so embracing AI tools is just one step in the journey to provide the best learning opportunities for our children and students. I hope this blog series proves to be a valuable resource for both parents and educators, helping you to make sense of and begin navigating the dynamic world of AI tools with confidence. Our children's educational journey is a promising one, and AI tools, if understood and selected with the above in mind, are here to enrich that path. All the best!

Next up: How to properly choose AI tools- a guide for educators and parents.

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