AI should revolutionize teaching—but not in the way you think

Teaching and tech spheres have been buzzing lately with predictions about how generative AI will permanently alter the landscape of education. Teachers from kindergarten through college have been inundated with calls to transform their instruction by incorporating AI, or else to prohibit student use of AI through policing and surveillance. Meanwhile, OpenAI is building its own “academy”—possibly envisioned as an alternative to traditional higher ed—in which GPT-5 will serve students as “instructor, tutor, mentor, or companion.” 

All of this, of course, spells big change for teaching and learning—and change is, in my view, sorely needed. But the most significant transformations won’t come in the form of chatbot tutors or lessons in prompt engineering or AI detection software. The most significant changes, if we choose to embrace them, will come from the opportunities generative AI presents us to critically and fundamentally reexamine our teaching practices.   

Before we ask how to promote or prevent student use of AI, we should ask some more fundamental questions: 

Answering these questions (among others) is the first step to building an educational future that is neither willfully technophobic nor designed to profit Silicon Valley the expense of teachers and students. This teaching revolution will not be televised, and it will certainly not be brought to you by Proctorio or OpenAI. While we can’t get the generative AI genie back in the bottle, we can control how we respond to it. Let’s respond by radically transforming teaching and learning—with or without AI.  

- Emily Pitts Donahoe (@EmPittsDonahoe)