Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Teachers at US public schools are testing AI tutoring robots


On a new morning, Cheryl Drakeford, a 3rd grade educator at 1st Road Primary School in Newark, projected a difficult numerical statement on her study hall's whiteboard: " What proportion of the word "mathematician"'s letters are consonants? Drakeford was aware that some students might not be familiar with the term "consonant." Therefore, she suggested that they seek assistance from Khanmigo, a brand-new AI-based tutoring bot. After that, she asked the students in third grade to share the tutoring bot's response. One student said, "Consonants are the letters in the alphabet that are not vowels." The vowels are a, e, i, o, and u, while the other letters are called consonants.

Many schools scrambled this year to block or limit the use of AI-enhanced chatbots like ChatGPT due to tech industry hype and doomsday predictions. The approach taken by Newark Public Schools is different. It is one of the first school systems in the United States to try out Khanmigo, an automated teaching tool made by the education nonprofit Khan Academy.

In essence, Newark has offered to serve as a test subject for public schools across the nation. By automatically customizing responses to students and allowing them to work on lessons at their own pace, advocates argue that classroom chatbots could democratize the concept of tutoring. Critics say that the bots, which are trained on huge text databases, can create misinformation that sounds plausible, making them a risky bet for schools. The tutoring software was being tested cautiously in three schools, according to officials in Newark, the largest district in New Jersey.

The director of educational technology at Newark Public Schools, Timothy Nellegar, stated, "It's important to introduce our students to it, because it is not going away." However, we must determine its operation, risks, benefits, and drawbacks.

Since its introduction in May, the automated teaching aid has received mixed reviews from Newark students. The bot was referred to as a helpful "co-teacher" by statistics teacher Tito Rodriguez, who was able to devote additional time to students who required guidance. However, in Drakeford's math class, the bot's responses sometimes appeared more like direct responses than suggestions. That is our primary concern," stated Alan Usherenko, the special assistant for schools in the district. We want them to use their critical thinking skills to solve the problem on their own. The Khan Academy stated: The artificial intelligence was altered by our engineering team to no longer provide an answer.

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