AI in education: a risk worth taking

Image: Clarisse Croset /

The role of technology in the classroom has long been a controversial topic, fuelling debates over how much screen time young children should have, or the impact of technology on children’s cognitive development. Now, with the emergence of one of the most disruptive technologies in history, artificial intelligence (AI), the debate is as lively as ever.

AI is already quickly becoming a trusted assistant in the classroom, from taking grading and other administrative tasks off teachers’ plates to providing personalised learning and instruction to students. However, this level of sophistication doesn’t come without its risks. Joe Fatheree, an award-winning teacher, believes that “we need to move forward but with a degree of caution”, citing risks such as depression, potential detrimental effects for the human psyche, issues of privacy, and other ethical implications.

In an EdTech podcast on AI in education, Sir Anthony Seldon, co-founder of the Institute of Ethical AI in Education, urges for safeguards to be put in place to ensure that the “bad side of AI” is minimised. Issues of transparency, accountability and security are already being addressed through steps such as the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the European Commission’s guidelines for trustworthy AI. However, to engage with AI both “critically and effectively”, citizens need at least a basic understanding of this technology. We are seeing a focus on developing competences not only for citizens (DigComp) but also for teachers (DigCompEdu), who need to be prepared to embrace and use AI in a meaningful way. What’s more, specific guidelines, ethical parameters and policies with a focus on education need to be developed, and teachers need to be involved in the process.

The uncertainty and risks surrounding AI cannot be ignored, but AI is here to stay, and a balance must be struck between its ethical implications and its immense potential for education. As Sir Anthony Seldon explains, “There are hazards too in driving a car or taking exercise or playing sport. But this does not and should not stop us from driving or playing.”