AI can save teachers time. But what is the cost?

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As an educator reading headline after headline about AI in education, Billie Eilish's “Who Was I Made For?” It's hard not to get lost in an existential tailspin to the tune of (If AI can All of this.)

Integrating generative AI into education is complex. The field of AI is still the Wild West — we're working on it as we go. As an assistant professor of edtech, I often think about the implications of AI for teaching and learning, especially as I experience implementing different methods and approaches with pre-service teachers.

I'm excited about the potential AI holds, yet one part of the equation that gives me pause is the concept of time. It's no surprise since my favorite movies have this theme. “Benjamin Button,” “About Time” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy all make me think about what it means to be alive and how to live well with the time we have.

In a recent book exploring the impact of creative AI on teacher education, two researchers, Punia Mishra and Mary K. Heath poses a question that I can shake. “What does it mean to trade off zones of proximal development for ease of access to knowledge creation for education?” Mishra and Heath admit they don't have the answer, but say they think it's an important question for academics and scholars.

This question left me wondering if, in our quest to reduce the time it takes to do things, we forget to consider the value of the experience we would have gained in the time it took us to do those things. Is.

My curiosity about AI extends beyond my work, peeking into home life. Recently my husband and I spent over an hour clearing our garden. As I knelt on the ground, hands in the dirt, my muscles ached, and I found myself thinking — and not thinking — as I walked away from the space. I find my thoughts go in and out of loving and hating gardening.

Hours later, I couldn't help but think about the value of that time spent working. I was satisfied as I washed my hands to remove the remaining dirt. This type of home improvement work is often featured in time-lapse videos on social media outlets. Scroll through Instagram and TikTok, and you'll find someone weeding their garden, painting a wall or renovating a room. These scrollable nuggets show before and after project visuals in Flash. They're a joy to watch, but these videos only echo the satisfaction you feel when you see the finished product of your labor.

Time is an obvious part of our lives, but we often don't think about how it shapes us. It often passes us by without us noticing, just like the fish that didn't recognize the water in David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, we swim through time, not noticing it as it passes.

Yes, there are machines that can clean my garden, and in the midst of hard work, I would happily finish the job. And yet, as I do a difficult task well, I feel good – somehow more alive. I know my garden and myself better.

I like a term that captures this idea. “Meraki” is a Greek word that describes “doing something with spirit, creativity, or love — when you put 'something of yourself' into your work.” My mom's homemade quilt is different than the one I can buy at Walmart. There's a reason we put handwritten words on store-bought cards.

In a 2023 interview, professional basketball player Caitlin Clark explained where her confidence came from. “The time I put in in the gym, the hours working on my game, it builds my confidence.” Is Clarke different if she somehow magically and quickly knows how to shoot? Is her experience beating as valuable as she thinks and walking the court?

I am not against using AI. In fact, I believe it has great potential to enhance our human creativity and support effective teaching and learning. But often, in the debate around AI in education, we get stuck on the notion of cheating and miss the more interesting questions: How can these new tools make us more creative? Can these tools make us more human, not less? A lot depends on the intention and how we choose to use them.

When I learned to do citations as a high school student, our teacher required that we physically create citations using index cards, even when it was possible to generate them with a citation generator. be taken out. As much as I hated it, I have a deep understanding of how references work because I built them by hand. Is this a valuable concept to know? This is debatable, but I am not debating it here. Instead, I'm challenging us as educators to think about what we gain and lose as we use AI intentionally.

What is the meaning of working so quickly? What is the price? In his essay, “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change,” Neil Postman, an educator and social critic, wrote, “Every technology has a bias,” adding that “it makes us It predisposes to supporting and valuing certain perspectives and achievements.” Postman explains the importance of memory in a non-writing culture, but how memory is considered a waste of time in a writing culture. “The writer favors logical organization and systematic analysis, not idioms. The telegraphic person values ​​speed, not introspection. The television person values ​​immediacy, not history. And computer people, we What about? Perhaps we can say that the computer person values ​​information, not knowledge, certainly not wisdom.”

I wonder what values ​​will fall when we become humans using AI?

As AI becomes more mainstream, it leads me to philosophical questions, but on a practical level, I find it interesting that I've learned many things that were most difficult for me. They worked hard. They took their time. It was beneficial to learn them.

I don't want to forget how satisfying it feels to clean up a garden, get strong at something through long practice, or create something from scratch. I don't want our schools to be forgotten either. As Tom Hanks said in “A League of Their Own,” “It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everybody would be doing it. Hard is what makes it great.”

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