One-third of teachers have attempted using AI, reveals survey

Approximately one out of every three American educators have utilized artificial intelligence tools in their instruction on at least one occasion, as per a recent survey from the RAND Corporation. The teaching of English and social studies seems to be at the forefront in this adoption, marking the initial steps towards integrating this new technology into the educational landscape without a significant transformation yet apparent in how students learn. Nevertheless, both teachers and district leaders anticipate a more commonplace presence of AI in school activities in the near future.

In the survey sample, about two-thirds of the participants disclosed that they had not incorporated AI into their teaching practices, including a small 9 percent segment that had not even heard of tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini. In contrast, 18 percent of educators acknowledged regular use of AI offerings, while 15 percent mentioned having experimented with them but without intending to make them a standard part of their pedagogy.

Melissa Kay Diliberti, a policy researcher at RAND and one of the report co-authors, emphasized that the current users of AI in education make up a minority within the school system, but this foothold is expected to expand over time. Since its introduction in November 2022, ChatGPT has made significant waves in the education sector, symbolizing the ongoing progress within this domain.

“While the adoption rate is still relatively low, there is steady growth in the utilization of AI tools in education,” remarked Diliberti.

The recent poll, drawing responses from over 1,000 teachers in 231 public school districts, sheds light on the technological shift towards AI that has been heralded as groundbreaking. The transformative potential of AI in enhancing teacher efficiency, customizing instruction for each student, and providing support for students with mental health concerns has spurred a growing demand for AI products, which large tech companies like Google and Khan Academy are rapidly meeting.

Comparative studies indicate that the rate of AI integration among educators matches or even surpasses that of other professions, including lawyers (15 percent), journalists (28 percent), human resources personnel (26 percent), and doctors (38 percent), who have reported using AI for various tasks.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, whose company developed ChatGPT. (Getty Images)

The positive outlook of teachers regarding AI’s future prospects is evident, with nearly all current users foreseeing increased utilization of AI tools in the upcoming academic year, while a noteworthy 28 percent of non-users express intent to explore these tools further down the line.

Usage of artificial intelligence appears evenly distributed across diverse school types, irrespective of student demographics, poverty levels, or rural/urban distinctions. Notably, middle and high school educators show a higher tendency to use AI compared to elementary educators, with English and social studies teachers demonstrating more extensive engagement than their STEM counterparts.

While interpreting the findings cautiously due to a relatively limited sample size, Diliberti elucidated that educators in humanities subjects are more inclined towards curricular innovation and customization, which could explain their higher AI adoption rates, offering potential time-saving benefits over a school year.

“AI could serve as a valuable tool to alleviate the burdens associated with certain tasks teachers regularly perform,” she suggested. “This could account for the higher proclivity of humanities teachers towards AI compared to math instructors.”

Among educators who integrate AI into their teaching practices, a significant portion use it for creating classroom assignments or worksheets (40 percent), developing lesson plans (41 percent), or formulating student assessments (49 percent).

Creating a Strong Foundation for AI Integration

Amanda Bickerstaff, CEO of AI for Education, highlighted the RAND poll as a representative snapshot of AI adoption in schools, highlighting the ongoing shift towards incorporating AI tools into educational settings.

In her training sessions with thousands of educators and administrators, Bickerstaff noted varying levels of awareness and enthusiasm for AI’s potential benefits. The early adopters may include individuals eager about technology advancements or special education educators seeking more inclusive instructional approaches.

Interest in AI technologies is emerging from both grassroots initiatives and administrative directives, indicating a growing trend among educators to explore and implement AI in classrooms.

Notably, a minority of respondents expressed proactive interest in discovering AI tools independently, with prominent platforms like Google Classroom, Khan Academy, and i-Ready being among the most utilized products currently available in the educational landscape.

Diliberti noted the dominance of major players like Google and OpenAI in the K–12 education sector due to substantial investment and promotion efforts. However, she pointed out the engagement with lesser-known AI products specifically tailored for educational tasks, emphasizing the need for more diverse and dedicated tools to complement the existing AI options.

“It’s interesting to see the preference for generic AI tools over those that are specifically developed for educational use,” she commented.

Bickerstaff emphasized the importance of enhancing teacher training on AI tools and advocating for broader access to advanced AI solutions to optimize their educational impact. With subscription costs for such tools averaging around $20 per month, providing adequate support and training is crucial for enabling educators to leverage these tools effectively.

“Effective use of AI tools requires training and support to mitigate errors and biases inherent in these technologies,” she concluded. “By facilitating access to advanced AI tools, educators can better harness their potential benefits in teaching and learning.”

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