Educating in the age of AI

Posted on 22nd Mar 2024 in School News, International Education, International Schools, Technology

Hong Kong Academy’s Secondary School Principal, Ms Teresa Tung, shares some insights into the impacts, challenges and opportunities which Generative AI presents for schools.

Rapid developments in AI software such as ChaptGPT and Google Bard are generating much interest and discussion. ChatGPT was released in late November 2022 and had 100 million active users by January 2023, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Since then there has been an ever increasing number of generative AI tools, media stories and research papers released.

As educational leaders it is our responsibility to stay abreast of technical advances to ensure that we understand their implications and can adapt accordingly. Therefore, members of HKA’s Educational Leadership Team, including our Future of Learning Leader, Teacher Librarian, and myself as the Secondary School Principal have been attending workshops and reviewing the fast growing base of literature about the impact of generative AI on learning, education and school so that we can proactively guide our faculty, students and parents in this new field.

As a future-focused school, we empower adults and students as lifelong learners and encourage them to explore challenging topics. So when something as fast changing and impactful as Generative AI came along, we also encouraged our teacher-led professional development committee to convene as a cross disciplinary team of teachers who came together to inquire into AI and its impacts.

Key Implications of Generative AI

Based on our inquiry into Generative AI and the resulting findings, we believe there are three key implications and associated important questions that we need to be able to answer to guide our community and inform our practices as a school.

  • Ethics: How might the use of Generative AI impact on our understanding of and approach to Academic Integrity? How might we be aware of the biases inherent in the models used to build Generative AI programmes?
  • Use: How might we empower teachers and students to make effective use of Generative AI to support their work and learning? How might we leverage the best out of Generative AI as a brainstorming, researching, writing, and learning tool? How might we learn how to use prompt engineering to get the best out of AI?
  • Assessment: How might the proliferation of Generative AI impact the ways that students demonstrate evidence of their learning and thinking, and how teachers assess for quality and depth of their learning?

As we have considered these questions, we have come to realise that in the time of Generative AI, the purpose of school and teachers is to be more human than ever. In order to effectively assess and support ethical student learning, teachers must understand each student's learning profile and assess their progress not only by reviewing their written output but by triangulating their learning through individual conferences, ongoing observations, and application to real life situations.

Generative AI’s Affect on Students

Our teachers have been co-learning about AI with each other and their students, as well as dialoguing with them about what constitutes ethical use of AI, and what constitutes academic dishonesty if they use AI as they complete their assignments. Students have reported that they have been using Generative AI by; asking questions to get background knowledge, finding out the answers to quick factual questions, summarising texts and creating images.

Impacts on Teaching and Curriculum

The skills of learning how to learn and be ethical global citizens have always been at the heart of an HKA education, and the advent of Generative AI has highlighted the importance of nurturing these competencies in our students.

Generative AI provides great opportunity as well as areas of challenge that we must pay close attention to, and all of these areas will bring change to how learning and teaching happens in schools. We will need to continue to develop an inquiry based, concept driven approach to teaching and learning as AI makes the access to knowledge and facts and the answering of complex questions about knowledge and facts readily available. We will need to continue to design real life, authentic projects that require the application of skills like creativity and critical thinking in order to nurture deep intellectual curiosity and learning. We will need to support students to develop their intrinsic motivation and find value in school as a platform for learning where they can think and create for themselves.

This article first appeared in the 2023/24 edition of John Catt's Guide to International Schools, which you can read here: