AI in Education: An Ever-Evolving Landscape

Michele Heimbauer, MA CCC-SLP
Associate Director, Winston Innovation Lab

All across the nation, schools are making use of AI supported assessment and analysis tools. They are being used to track and better understand student performance, outcomes, and growth. Furthermore, AI technology also supports many administrative tasks, such as transportation and scheduling.
Evidence of Potential Benefits of AI in Education

Naturally, tools for AI in education are appealing. They can help ease operational task loads, allowing educators to spend more time addressing student needs. Easing operational task load requires ethical considerations, but not the burden of efficacy evidence that is needed when related to working directly with students. 

A vast body of information and conversation exists around potential opportunities to integrate AI into education. This is even more so the case for students with learning disabilities. Still, there is limited evidence of outcomes. 

Research seems to support AI assessments and diagnostic tools. At the moment, there is not much current research on the outcomes of AI use for students with learning disabilities.

There is sufficient potential for improving outcomes for students with learning disabilities through AI technology tools. Even so, gaps in this research for students with learning disabilities remain.

AI in Education Examples 

Surveying information available, current research and development efforts are currently focusing on cognitive systems. These systems are improving the capacity of AI to transform complex information from a range of sources into simplified language. Examples include textbooks, articles, and documents. This supports learning by making information more accessible and meaningful.

It is the hope of many that the combination of AI tools and an instructor’s expertise will lead to exponential growth in remediating skills. Particularly, we hope these tools are effective for students with learning disabilities.

Many programs are designed to capture students’ attention by offering ‘Goldilocks’ leveled activities. These ‘just right’ activities are challenging enough that students are learning. However, they are never so challenging that students become frustrated and withdraw. 

This expands accessibility by boosting engagement and learning. When programs make complex information accessible, students are more likely to engage with it. 

How Will AI Be Used in Education in the Future

The majority of future focus is predicted to be on developing tools with more sophisticated data analysis capabilities. These might include learning platforms, virtual facilitators, and intelligent tutoring systems. Each of these could contribute to improving individualized programming for students.

Future technology development will also be centered around individualized & immersive learning experiences. Technology spotlights will include advances in information visualization, mixed reality, spatial audio, and immersive scenarios. These technologies will provide ‘hands-on’ and interactive experiences.

Though exciting predictions, we await with caution as our priority is not to jump on the newest bandwagon. Instead, we aim to uphold excellence in our work in developing sustainable and independent learners. 

Ethics and Potential Harms of AI in Education
As discussed, there is significantly limited outcome evidence for the use of AI technology for students with learning disabilities. Additionally, the limited information that is available is already outdated because of the pace of improvement. Developments in the AI realm are swift and ever-evolving because programmers are focusing on creating AI that improves AI. Researchers just can’t keep up!

Widely discussed in the education and technology fields are concerns related to bias and discrimination. Algorithms can perpetuate the racism, gender bias, and stereotypes that the WPS community works explicitly to disrupt. They seem to go against our mission to develop social responsibility, equity, and understanding. 

Algorithms can also amplify misinformation. AI technology has been reported to generate false information, especially if authentic information is not found. Programs like ChatGPT have one goal. It is to satisfy its user with a response. If it cannot find what it is looking for, it will create that response and claim it as fact.

Privacy for our community members is another major concern. AI tools are constantly collecting data on users. Though there are consents embedded that are designed to alleviate privacy concerns, people give consent without understanding the implications. They are unaware of the metadata they are offering. 

If you include sensitive information in an AI prompt, it becomes readily available to others. To compound the privacy issue, AI systems can be (and often are) used for surveillance. The goal is to monitor the thoughts and actions of its users.

Plagiarism and clarity of communication are concerns for users of AI in education. AI technology often relies on clear communication, something many of our students struggle with. This can lead to further misunderstandings without instructor support and guidance. 

However, the more poignant issue taps into the vulnerability of students with learning disabilities. Our students might have difficulty realizing or remembering that a chatbot is not a real person. This can promote vulnerability to be persuaded and is especially concerning with misinformation. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

New AI tools for education are incredibly enticing. Unfortunately, the efficacy evidence for students with learning disabilities is not there yet. However, with the saturation of AI in higher education, we have a responsibility to explore these tools with students.

We seek to use AI generated work as a resource to develop critical thinking, social responsibility, and digital citizenship. Our hope is this will prepare our students for independence now and in the future.

Step Into the Future With Winston Prep

Winston Prep will continue expanding our research to determine how to best approach the use of AI tools in our school. We plan to move forward intentionally and responsibly, considering all of the ethical implications. We will continue reviewing the most current research with our school community in mind. 

Learn more about how Winston Prep can help your student get the most out of learning by viewing a location near you.
Winston Preparatory School is a leading school for students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, executive functioning difficulties (ADHD), and non-verbal learning disorders (NVLD).

WPS does not discriminate against applicants and students on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin. The Winston Preparatory School provides programs and services and equal opportunity in the administration of its educational and admissions policies, financial aid programs, employment, and the selection of its governing board without regard to gender, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability status, or any status recognized by federal, state and local civil rights and non-discrimination laws.