Schools across Australia have been grappling with the sudden proliferation of AI tools for a while now, and there has been a wide variety of responses to the new technology – from outright bans to trials examining the benefits and pitfalls. When it became clear that AI isn’t going anywhere any time soon, educators, parents, and industry have all been pushing for more guidance on how the tools can be safely and effectively implemented within schools.
The federal government has responded by developing the first Australian Framework for Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Schools. It means that generative AI tools will be no longer banned in schools from Term 1, 2024. So now that AI will be appearing in all schools, how can teachers use it to benefit students, and how does the Framework help?
Should AI be used in schools?
Debate about whether or not AI is appropriate for use in schools has been ongoing for quite some time now.
Earlier in the year, more than 90 institutions, businesses, and individuals (including education departments, universities, unions, and even the OECD) made a submission to the government’s Inquiry into the Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in the Australian Educational System. They all suggested ways AI can be used for education, and also noted important risks that should be taken into consideration too.
The Australian Human Rights Commission noted that “generative AI has the potential to transform learning and improve educational outcomes, but only if AI is used ethically”.
Some educators, such as Westbourne Grammar principal Adrian Camm, believe that banning tools like AI is actually counter-intuitive:
As soon as you talk about pausing, banning and regulating things, it just goes underground. We need understanding; we need education on how to navigate this new environment in safe, effective and ethical ways.
If schools aren’t at the forefront of having these conversations with young people well, who is?
On the other hand, some are concerned that introducing new technologies will put even more pressure on already full workloads in schools, while others worry that these technologies will only further widen the digital divide and perpetuate bias. UNESCO has also called for urgent regulation of AI in education to avoid deepening inequalities.
But AI is coming whether we like it or not – so focus should shift on how it can be safely implemented and used instead.
What is the Framework?
The Framework was developed by the National AI in Schools Taskforce from submissions and consultations with unions, teachers, students, industry, academics, and parent and school representative bodies. It was actually approved by state and federal Education Ministers back in October, but has just recently been released to the public.
The government describes the purpose of the Framework as such:
The Framework seeks to guide the responsible and ethical use of generative AI tools in ways that benefit students, schools, and society.
The Framework outlines potential opportunities and risks that can arise from the integration of AI in schools, then sets out six key guiding principles that schools should follow:
- Teaching and learning – including guidance on how these technologies should be used to support teachers, administrators, and students.
- Human and social wellbeing – to ensure that AI is used safely and respectfully, as well as monitored for bias and harmful content.
- Transparency – that schools clearly communicate to teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders which tools are being used and why.
- Fairness – including that AI is accessible to people from diverse backgrounds and is respectful of intellectual and cultural property.
- Accountability – suggests that tools should be thoroughly tested and monitored before and during implementation.
- Privacy, security, and safety – that student inputs and data are kept private and secure and schools comply with any relevant legal obligations.
Importantly, the government has also committed to reviewing the Framework on an annual basis “to accommodate the fast-moving pace of technological development in generative AI”.
How is the Framework useful for schools?
The main purpose of the Framework is to ensure that schools aren’t left in the dark when it comes to the integration of AI. Having general principles and guidelines for all schools to follow is helpful to reduce inequality between schools – some schools have already been using these technologies for some time, while others will have a bit of catching up to do.
Federal Education Minister Jason Clare is optimistic about the benefits of AI in schools and how the Framework can help:
This Framework will help guide all school communities so they can enjoy the potential benefits to teaching and learning that generative AI offers, while mitigating the risks.
If we get this right, generative AI can help personalise education and make learning more compelling and effective, and this Framework will help teachers and school communities maximise the potential of this new technology.
Things to keep in mind
While many schools (and students) may be keen to start using AI in the classroom, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:
- AI still makes mistakes – while generative AI technology is improving, it’s not foolproof. Any outputs still need to be thoroughly checked by a real person before they are used.
- AI is inherently biased – the output of any AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Generative AI is still remarkably biased, particularly when used to generate images. There is also valid concern over how AI chat bots learn and use First Nations languages and culture.
- AI is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution – like any other teaching method or tool, some students may benefit greatly from the use of AI, while others may not. It’s particularly important to keep in mind students who may not have access to these technologies at home.
- AI should not replace teacher expertise – the first principle of the Framework states that AI should be used to enhance and support teaching, and that teachers should still be “recognised and respected as the subject matter experts within the classroom”.
- AI is still grappling with ethical concerns – particularly around plagiarism, copyright, and intellectual property in the creative industries, as well as data privacy and safety.
AI resources for teachers and schools
If you need to prepare for the integration of AI in your school, there are lots of resources out there to help. Here are a few we’ve found:
- The Digital Technology Hub’s Artificial Intelligence Explainers
- ACER’s Interactive learning and AI in Education webinar
- CSER’s Artificial Intelligence in Schools resources
- AI for Education’s GenAI Chatbot Prompt Library for Educators
- ISTE’s Artificial Intelligence Explorations and Their Practical Use in Schools course
- aiEDU’s lesson plans and learning activities
- MIT’s Day of AI program
- The University of Sydney’s AI and Education collection
Looking to the future
It’s clear that the development and uptake of AI in all aspects of our lives isn’t slowing down any time soon. At the end of the day, the value schools and students get from AI tools comes down to their considered implementation and use, or as Professor Leslie Loble says:
It is important we use the opportunities provided by edtech, rather than edtech using us.