AI and Machine Learning: A Teaching Superhero's Secret Weapon

By: Kevin Humphrey, guest writer

When I first started writing this post, the world was still normal. We still shook hands, hugged, went out to restaurants, bars, and live performances, and differentiated instruction strategies to reach each individual student in writing instruction was one of the most difficult technical tasks an educator may ever face. Now, in the new world of social distancing, mask-wearing, and possibly a lot more online learning, differentiation has become even closer to the impossible than ever before. It seems like it would take a superhero to teach solid essay writing skills during Distance ‘Learning.’

Before the pandemic, MI Write and other AI-based learning platforms were amazing tools that allowed me to help my students in ways that I could not without them... Post-pandemic, these tools turn great teachers into superheroes, and educators who cannot leverage these tools are left looking like mere mortals with tools as good as a chisel and hammer in the 21st Century.

Back in the day -- before the Distance Learning norm that is -- I used MI Write and AI Reading Programs to differentiate instruction for reading and writing in dynamic ways that I could not before. The tools didn’t work alone; I had several students that needed some humor or inspiration to see the value in a text or written assignment. Before Distance Learning, I was there to do that.

Once it became obvious that nobody would be returning for the Spring semester, Distance Learning became all the buzz. I was confident that I could use my tools to help guide students and collect accurate data on where they were in their reading and writing. For the students who read their emails and regularly logged in to our online learning platform, the tools did help them, but the students that needed that little extra couldn’t get it from me. If they didn’t have someone at home to breathe purpose into an assignment, the chances of it getting done started to fall to the floor. Now, imagine that before Distance Learning, a teacher didn’t leverage tools like MI Write or AI software for reading instruction. What would Distance Learning look like for those classes?

Distance Learning is definitely the most universal challenge in education in the 21st Century, and without the help of programs like MI Write and other AI-based programs, it will be nearly impossible for teachers to reach their students academically or gather accurate data on their progress. I’ve seen worksheets sent home; they rarely return. I’ve seen PDFs of books with audiobook files sent out; they were largely unopened. I’ve seen work at your own pace or pick and choose lessons and resources left for students; they were not connected to teacher resources well. Do a quick Google search and you will find teacher and student issues with distance learning all over the place.

With the help of AI, I was able to reach about 90% of my students with differentiated work that gave them feedback. This allowed me to give them a merit-based grade that they could then work to improve. While Distance Learning is the choice of no true teacher, I was still able to reach many students in these trying times with the help of computers and AI. Teachers without these resources struggled to help students move the needle. AI and machine learning can never replace a good teacher, but they can give a good teacher superhero-like powers for differentiating, data collection and even allows them to be effective against the greatest teaching nemesis of all … Distance Learning.