How to use AI ethically in the classroom

Nick Walter, head of commercial and education at Acer UK, discusses the concerns around use of AI in schools, and how educators can make sure it’s ethical

There are endless discussions around AI and the importance it holds for the betterment of our society. These conversations have also seeped into the world of academia. However, with the technological advancements that have taken place, rises a set of concerns for the sector of education today.

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AI, when adopted in schools, could lead to the following worries:


Over recent years we have witnessed an increase in the number of distracted students as they find it difficult to differentiate learning time from their leisure activities conducted on the same device. Many teachers believe that smartphones and tablets, with internet connectivity and text messaging services, are merely a source of distraction for students as opposed to a learning tool. It can, therefore, be challenging for a teacher to monitor their students so closely in class as to determine whether they are utilising educational apps on their tablets or browsing Facebook.

Disturbances in social and learning dynamics

Often with technology, the reliability of them not breaking down is subject to deliberation. If such a scenario occurs, it can disrupt a child’s learning but also disturb the environment of the classroom where others in the group cannot progress further. Also, due to technology being introduced in schools, the way children socialise with each other and their teachers is no longer the same. Children are more inclined to be with their devices than making friendships. Moreover, the reliance on technology to resolve their academic problems has meant children are not intellectually putting the time and effort into learning as they once used to.

Due to technology being introduced in schools, the way children socialise with each other and their teachers is no longer the same.

Question of honesty

The lines of plagiarism are now more subtle and complicated due to the easy access of information and technological support provided. There have been cases reported where students have blatently copied (or even stolen) information to hand in as a submission of their coursework. This not only breaches a student’s integrity but overall raises questions regarding the ethics of adopting AI systems within the education sector.

Contrary to the above reservations, AI is very much a trend to stay and if adopted strategically, cannot only benefit the education sector but also can remain ethical. Let’s take a look at how developments within AI can remain ethical within the education sector:

Build trust and sustainable establishments

Ensure you, as an educational institution, are only collaborating with ethical companies on research and educational programmes. The more trust is built between stakeholders, such as parents, staff and organisations, the more transparency is revealed. For example, Google was one of the first companies to vow they will only use AI ethically and not for backhand surveillance or data-obtaining purposes. This has built their credibility. Educational systems should clearly understand which brands they are associated with and what each respectively stands for in light of AI. This will build trust for the establishment and promote more ethical AI within the academic sector.

Strike a balance between the human and AI

There is no replacing the job that a teacher can do. Understand where and how AI plays a role so it can ethically sit within the education system without disrupting a child’s learning. For each action for example, AI-based learning software assesses the extent to which it helps to promote or impede the satisfaction of a child’s academic need. The key is to strike a balance between the support that technology can provide and a teacher’s emotional intelligence towards a child in any given scenario.

Understand where and how AI plays a role so it can ethically sit within the education system without disrupting a child’s learning.

Create and follow policies to mitigate risks of unethical AI

Through research, the amount of data generated within education is rapidly increasing. However, not many education institutions ask how exactly student privacy is respected. Major concerns around this subject are who owns this data and how it’s being used. Private institutions have a right to the data they personally collate, but governmental establishments open doors to wider conversation which must be protected. With policies and other regulations in place, not only are educational systems protected but it also refrains students from exploiting unethical algorithms within their assignments, when attempting to utilise AI based tools as a means of ‘learning’.  

From the archive: Institute for Ethical AI in Education launches in a UK first

Ethical AI in education is achievable

Whether we wish to adapt it within the education sector or not, the developments within AI will continue to develop. There is also no doubt that schools and universities have experienced a positive impact when adopting this form of technology within everyday learning. However, with any introduction of advanced technology used in schools, there are questions raised on the social, economic and ethical impact the system will bring. We must also look at what criteria will be used to evaluate the appropriateness of all new technologies for youth in schools and higher education. Students’ and teachers’ data privacy and security mechanisms should also be taken into consideration before introducing either internet-based or AI programs for learning and teaching.With all this in mind, we are currently embracing the age of ethical AI and look forward to the challenges within the education sector.

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