As the world becomes increasingly digital, it's perhaps no surprise that schools are starting to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their daily operations.
However, with the emergence of sophisticated AI chatbots, there is growing debate over whether this technology is doing more harm than good in Australian schools.
Some sceptics argue that AI is too impersonal, invasive and may be reinforcing biases and inequalities. There are also concerns that AI could hinder attempts to improve students critical thinking, given the ability of AI chatbots like ChatGPT to write entire essays.
On the other hand, there are many who believe that AI can be a positive force in schools, helping teachers to identify areas where students are struggling and providing targeted interventions. AI is also being used by some educators to streamline their administrative workloads and allow them to get back to what they do best – teaching.
Dr Rebecca Marrone, is a lecturer at The University of South Australia’s Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning. She says as the role of technology in education continues to evolve, school principals could leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications to tackle another important issue – staff and student wellbeing.
“AI can assist principals to pinpoint areas where intervention is needed and can be used to support staff and student wellbeing,” Dr Marrone told The Educator.
“One of the significant benefits of using AI in schools is its ability to detect patterns and trends that are often difficult to identify with the naked eye.”
Dr Marrone pointed to the example of a student's academic history and social emotional needs being presented through a ‘Learner Profile’.
“Based on this Profile, AI can provide personalised recommendations tailored to individual learning needs across every subject area,” she explained.
“AI can also assist in report writing as the Profile creates a unique summation of student capabilities. Here, the AI acts as a teaching assistant, and provides the opportunity to offload administrative tasks, thus freeing up teacher time which can encourage wellbeing.”
Dr Marrone said AI can also play a role in promoting positive mental health in schools.
“AI can be used to detect signs of stress, anxiety, or depression in students and provide early intervention,” she said.
“Additionally, AI can monitor students' online activity and detect signs of cyberbullying or other harmful behaviours. It can identify negative language or behaviour patterns and alert educators and administrators to potential issues, allowing them to take early intervention.”
Dr Marrone said this can support the relationship between teachers and their students and can foster a safe and happy learning environment.
However, she cautioned that AI should not become a substitute for human interaction and care.
“While AI can provide valuable insights, it is important that schools continue to prioritise face-to-face interactions and support networks. In conclusion, the potential benefits of leveraging AI to improve staff and student wellbeing are significant,” she said.
“By providing principals with powerful tools to identify patterns and trends, personalise learning, and promote positive mental health practices, AI can play an important role in supporting staff and student wellbeing.”