A new study pleads for the balanced consideration of AI in special education, highlighting its potential benefits rather than proposing bans.
Artificial intelligence’s potential to reshape numerous fields has been making headlines.
One space that is attracting special attention is education.
Researchers, including a team led by James Basham, a University of Kansas professor specializing in special education, have recently published a position paper that examines the role AI could play in special education.
The authors are urging for a measured and informed approach before dismissing such technology with blanket bans.
The paper, entitled “The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Special Education Technology” was published in the Journal of Special Education Technology on May 19, 2023..
AI: An Empowering Tool for Students with Disabilities
According to the researchers, AI has the potential to offer significant benefits to students with disabilities.
The team argues that tools such as ChatGPT, known for its quick writing capabilities, can be a valuable aid.
Some may see the potential misuse of such tools by students to evade schoolwork, but the researchers are clear: outright prohibition is not the solution.
AI in Special Education: From Novelty to Public Relevance
AI and machine learning have come a long way from being limited to niche ‘geek’ culture.
Over the last decade, they have infiltrated mainstream spaces and public consciousness.
The introduction of tools like ChatGPT, easily accessible to the public, has made the implications of AI’s potential even more concrete.
The researchers argue that while the writing process is inherently complex, AI can tackle it quickly and efficiently, highlighting the need for careful consideration of its role in education, especially for students with writing difficulties.
Ethical, Policy Considerations, and the Importance of Information Literacy
The position paper offers a brief chronology of AI, from its origins to its current state.
It also discusses ethical considerations surrounding its use in education and special education.
The authors argue for thoughtful policy-making that focuses on the potential benefits of AI in education rather than resorting to impulsive bans.
Moreover, the researchers stress the importance of information literacy, citing it as a major ethical consideration.
Students need to learn not only where and how to find valid information but also how to discern truth from falsehood, think critically, and evaluate topics to avoid misinformation.
Furthermore, educators must avoid the pitfall of evaluating skills, like writing, too narrowly.
The “Cognitive Prosthesis” and Issues of Consent
The authors of the paper invite readers to ponder if AI could serve as a “cognitive prosthesis” or offer even more benefits.
They draw parallels between AI and other assistive tools that help students with physical or auditory impairments, suggesting that AI could similarly assist students with cognitive disabilities, enhancing their writing skills.
The paper also raises the issue of consent.
It calls for educators to teach students about the data any AI tool collects, how it is stored, and how it is shared.
Parents too have a role to play in ensuring that schools using AI are compliant with Individualized Education Plans, respectful of diverse student backgrounds and values, and offer personalization.
The authors point out that AI already exists in schools, noting that students use technologies like laptops, tablets, and smartphones that were not available to previous generations.
They argue that just as these tools are not banned from classrooms outright, AI tools such as ChatGPT, despite their potential misuse, could also be effective resources for students with disabilities.
AI In Special Education: Preparing for a Future Shaped by Technology
Technology is transforming society and the educational landscape.
To benefit from this evolution, the education system must proactively explore ways to integrate beneficial technologies like AI into teaching and learning processes.
Basham and his colleagues assert that instead of fearing change, there should be a focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students, with or without the use of AI.
The authors emphasize that the current state of AI should not solely determine its utility or potential hazards.
Instead, we should be forward-thinking, examining what it could mean for the future of education and society at large.
They argue for continuous research and open dialogue, ensuring that those representing students with disabilities have a voice in these discussions.
In this transformative era, educators, policymakers, and parents alike need to reflect not only on how AI can change lives today, but also on its implications for the future.
As such, the role of AI in special education calls for further exploration before definitive judgments or restrictions are made, ensuring a balanced approach to harnessing the power of technology for human betterment.