Must Read Blog June 15, 2023

Peering Past the Hype: K-12 Teacher and Administrator Perspectives on AI in the Classroom

Since ChatGPT’s launch in November, headlines have postulated about the potentially transformative and/or damaging implications of generative AI across sectors – particularly education. In this article, we’re going to give an overview of AI in K-12. While AI continues to be a divisive topic within the media and educational landscapes, on the ground, teachers continue to struggle with post-COVID teaching and learning realities independent of these technical (and often philosophical) debates. 

This month, Tyton conducted a survey of K-12 Principals and Teachers to explore initial perceptions regarding the challenges and opportunities associated with AI in education. Our findings indicate that while tackling AI is a relatively low priority for educators, there is still concern and confusion as to whether students are using AI in harmful ways. Educators are in the very early stages of experimentation with generative AI tools1, but when asked about the potential benefits, they see value in using AI to personalize the student learning experience.  

Given these dynamics, providers should seek to take two actions in the near-term as it relates to generative AI: 

  1. Partner with districts to outline how generative AI tools can be used as a complement to existing curriculum, assessment, and platform products 
  1. Explore strategies for embedding AI-generated content within products to provide personalized exercises and feedback to students to address learning loss 

COVID Impact: Learning loss and behavioral challenges remain top of mind 

Educators have a clear perception that the daunting tasks of managing behavioral issues (61%), counteracting learning loss (57%), and supporting student mental health needs (53%) – all amplified by teacher staffing shortages (35%) – take precedence over any discussion on innovative technology like AI (10%). 

Tyton Partners: Top Teaching and Learning Challenges Anticipated by Educators in AY '23-'24

Even while monitoring new technologies may not be top of mind for educators, the growing presence of generative AI, and potentially unchecked use among students, warrants a thoughtful and tactical response from K-12 players. Instructional materials providers, in particular, should convey to decision-makers that generative AI tools like chatbots are complementary to their curriculum and assessment products or, in some cases, may already be embedded within them.  

Current state: Student use of AI is on the rise, while teachers remain curious, but cautious

Educators lack visibility and influence over how students are using devices in the classroom. Educators estimate that 25% of students are using generative AI tools on their devices without instruction from their teacher. Another 24% don’t know how many students are using these tools at all.  

Educators also report a lack of clarity around what students are using AI tools for. 30% don’t know students’ primary use cases. Those who are aware of student use suspect they are primarily using AI in harmful ways, such as for composing complete writing assignments (39%). 

Tyton Partners: Student Use of Generative AI According to Educators

Teachers themselves are at an early stage of adoption, not yet embracing AI tools at the same rate as students. Most educators are familiar with generative AI but have never used it (35%) or have used it just once or twice (27%). Only 8% are frequent users (using daily or weekly).  

Tyton Partners: Educator Use of Generative AI

With the current state of disconnect between teachers and students, now may be a timely window for providers to deliver clear and compelling recommendations about how to address student use of generative AI and position it as complementary to their products. Providers might consider, for example, hosting informational sessions for district leaders like Curriculum Coordinators about instructional strategies that could benefit from use of generative AI. Beneficial use cases might include using generative AI to brainstorm ideas for essays, source feedback on written content, and/or develop additional practice problems. 

Future state: Edtech has a role to play in harnessing this technology for positive student outcomes 

From a product development standpoint, there is an opportunity for providers to harness this technology to create adaptive products that drive student outcomes across diverse learning needs.  

Educators are most interested in the use of AI to personalize learning exercises and feedback. Interestingly, teachers appear somewhat more excited about how AI can support personalized learning experiences, rather than how it could streamline some of the more high-touch aspects of their jobs, such as parent communication and grading.

Tyton Partners: Top Benefits to Generative AI According to Educators

To deliver on these important benefits, providers should consider ways to integrate generative AI into existing products – potentially through easy-to-use and inexpensive APIs – that create opportunities for more personalized instruction. Differentiating products based on AI capabilities will then become a matter of advertising what the capabilities enable in terms of student outcomes vs. focusing on the underlying tech. 

Looking forward: Edtech providers have an opportunity to be thought partners 

Providers need to participate in defining the desired end-stage of AI adoption in the K-12 classroom and demonstrating how their solutions personalize learning for students. Failure to act now may have revenue consequences in the long-term. Teachers are already showing some progress along the AI adoption curve and are likely to continue gaining expertise using generative AI tools to build assignments and assessments. 

As content is increasingly treated as a commodity, providers will need to prove their value not just as curators of quality content, but as facilitators of student learning experiences. Providers that guide students through individualized learning plans – and show educators tracking data along the way – will continue to have long-term value. 

We would love to hear your thoughts about AI in K-12. Reach out to us to continue the conversation.