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Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Published March 1, 2024

Opinion: The impact of AI and EdTech in the classroom

The role of technology in the classroom is changing out how students engage with the material.
Opinion%3A+The+impact+of+AI+and+EdTech+in+the+classroom
Image by Sarah Mai

As the world becomes increasingly digitized, the education sector has witnessed a surge in the integration of artificial intelligence [AI] and educational technology [EdTech] tools, which refers to the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning experiences, encompassing various digital platforms and devices. While proponents of these advancements highlight their potential to revolutionize education, it is crucial to critically examine the negative implications that AI and EdTech can have on the classroom environment.

In this article, I will delve into the darker side of AI in education and shed light on the potential pitfalls associated with the growing influence of EdTech companies.

Overdependence on technology

EdTech companies such as Chegg, Quizplus and Quizlet exemplify the e-learning platforms that provide study materials, interactive tools, and online tutoring services. These EdTech companies have recently started incorporating AI tutoring as a tool for students. 

While these tools may enhance certain aspects of learning, there is a risk of students becoming overly dependent on them.

Excessive reliance on pre-packaged content and automated solutions can hinder critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as students may prioritize quick answers rather than developing a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Loss of personalized learning

EdTech companies often promote their AI-powered platforms as personalized learning solutions. However, in practice, these platforms may fall short of delivering truly individualized instruction.

The algorithms behind the e-learning platforms may generalize student abilities and preferences, leading to a one-size-fits-all approach to education. This can undermine the importance of tailoring instruction to meet students’ unique learning needs.

The emphasis on uniformity and efficiency can overshadow the importance of tailoring instruction to meet students’ unique learning needs. As a result, students may not receive the targeted support necessary for their individual development, leading to a lack of engagement and a limited understanding of the subject matter.

Data privacy and security concerns

EdTech companies collect significant amounts of student data to personalize their services and improve their platforms. However, this data collection raises concerns about data privacy and security. Instances of data breaches and privacy violations have been reported in the past, highlighting the potential risks associated with sharing sensitive student information with EdTech companies.

To ensure the trust and confidence of students, it is crucial for EdTech companies to prioritize robust privacy measures and adhere to strict data protection regulations. Implementing strong encryption and data anonymization techniques can mitigate the risks associated with data collection.

Widening socioeconomic gap

EdTech companies, driven by a profit-oriented approach, frequently require students to pay fees for accessing their premium features and resources. While the intention may be to provide enhanced educational opportunities, the reality is that these fees can create a significant barrier for many students, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

As a result, a digital divide emerges, further exacerbating existing educational inequities and hindering social mobility. 

Students who cannot afford the additional costs of these premium services are denied access to the same level of educational resources and support as their more affluent peers.

This lack of equal access perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage, limiting the opportunities for students from lower-income families to excel academically and pursue their educational goals.

Reduced teacher autonomy

The increasing prevalence of AI-driven tools provided by EdTech companies poses a significant challenge to the autonomy and professional judgement of teachers. While these platforms offer convenience and efficiency, they often rely on pre-packaged digital content and standardized solutions, leaving little room for educators to customize their teaching methods and incorporate creative approaches that cater to the unique needs of their students.

This depersonalization of instruction can have detrimental effects on the overall learning experience, as it diminishes the role of teachers as facilitators of meaningful interactions and impedes the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. 

To maintain the integrity and educational standards, the University of Minnesota states that the use of AI language models, including ChatGPT, and online assignment help tools such as Chegg®, for course assignments is strictly prohibited unless explicitly authorized by the instructor.

The concerns raised about the reduced teacher autonomy due to AI-driven tools align with the need to preserve the role of instructors as the primary source of guidance and facilitation in the learning process.

While EdTech companies have made significant contributions to the education landscape, it is essential to critically evaluate the unintended consequences of their platforms. 

By fostering a balanced approach that prioritizes student well-being and equitable access to educational resources, we can mitigate the unintended negative consequences of AI in the classroom.

Sophia Williams is a freelance editor and writer who brings a wealth of insights to the field of education.

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