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Many Teachers Want AI in the Classroom. Here’s What Holds Them Back

Today’s students have grown up in a world where artificial intelligence informs so much of their daily lives. Many of the tools they use—social media, voice assistants, search engines, smartwatches—run on AI.

But the technology was largely invisible to them until ChatGPT burst onto the scene last year. The AI-powered chatbot can hold humanlike conversations and instantly answer seemingly any prompt, and it has made AI’s powers easily accessible to everyone.

Experts say AI is only going to get better and more ubiquitous, so students need to prepare for a future where it’s everywhere and in everything. Students will need to become AI literate, experts say. They’ll need to understand how the technology works, how to use it effectively and responsibly, and how it impacts the world around them.

Teachers understand that AI literacy is a skill that students need to learn, but many educators are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with AI. A nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey conducted in November and December found that many teachers aren’t using AI in the classroom.

“Teachers need guidance and training on this technology,” said a middle school English teacher in Iowa in the open-ended response section of the survey. “Students are using AI for school, and we need to know how to better use this technology while still getting students to learn the fundamental skills necessary to function in our future society.”

An overwhelming majority of teachers, principals, and district leaders agreed that educators in their school or district do not have the bandwidth to teach students how to think about and use AI, according to the EdWeek Research Center survey. Their plates are already overloaded with academic challenges, social-emotional learning priorities, and safety issues.

“One question asked about why teachers don’t teach AI or something along those lines, and one option was that teachers are overburdened/overworked/overwhelmed with their daily duties,” said an elementary school principal in Kentucky in an open-ended response to the survey. “This is a common thread in education communities throughout the U.S. However, there is little being done to alleviate these concerns.”

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