Educators are continually seeking innovative AI approaches to improve instruction, especially in fields like math and computer science. As Jake Price, an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Puget Sound, points out, technology has always been a significant factor in these discussions. While websites like Wolfram Alpha once posed challenges for algebra homework, the new frontier appears to be generative artificial intelligence tools, prominently ChatGPT.
Redefining traditional teaching with AI assistance
Although math scores are currently seeing an all-time low, educators are optimistic. Price and several of his peers see the integration of AI in classrooms not as a deterrent but as a tool to strengthen the teaching process. The past saw educators adapting to tools like calculators, and now the challenge and opportunity lie in AI-driven platforms.
Price emphasizes the importance of understanding a tool’s potential and limitations. His philosophy rests on the idea that machines can manage tedious tasks while students interpret results. In essence, by shifting the focus from routine calculations to critical thinking, students can find patterns, analyze different methods, and make informed decisions.
The University of Washington education professor, Min Sun, echoes this sentiment. She envisions AI chatbots acting as personalized tutors for students. Teachers can leverage these tools to plan lessons more efficiently, offer real-time feedback, and even interact with parents. Especially for newer educators or those handling diverse classrooms, AI tools like ChatGPT can offer customized problem sets, ensuring each student’s unique needs are met.
Transforming computer science instruction with AI
The domain of computer science has been particularly influenced by these advancements. Daniel Zingaro, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, highlights how AI is revolutionizing how professors assess and instruct. Along with Leo Porter, a professor from the University of California San Diego, Zingaro believes AI tools can help students grasp larger concepts without getting bogged down by coding basics.
Porter remarks on the frequent frustrations beginner students face due to simple coding errors. By utilizing AI, these basic pitfalls can be avoided, allowing both students and professors to focus on advanced topics and practical application. The approach has shifted from just coding to understanding and problem-solving, a more holistic approach to the subject.
As Magdalena Balazinska, the director of the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, states, AI enables humans to channel their energies on more creative aspects of computer science.
Not everyone in academia is ready to fully embrace AI in the curriculum. However, advocates like Zingaro and Porter believe exposure to AI-generated code can be invaluable. They equate it to budding writers reading extensive literature to hone their craft. Learning through observation, they argue, is a potent method of education.