In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (2024)


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Newark public schools are cautiously trying out a new automated teaching aid from Khan Academy. The preliminary report card: “could use improvement.”

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In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (1)

By Natasha Singer

Natasha Singer, who covers education technology, reported from Newark.

On a recent morning, Cheryl Drakeford, a third-grade teacher at First Avenue Elementary School in Newark, projected a challenging math question on her classroom’s whiteboard: “What fraction of the letters in the word MATHEMATICIAN are consonants?”

Ms. Drakeford knew that “consonant” might be an unfamiliar word to some students. So she suggested they ask Khanmigo, a new tutoring bot that uses artificial intelligence, for help.

She paused for a minute while about 15 schoolchildren dutifully typed the same question — “What are consonants?” — into their math software. Then she asked the third-graders to share the tutoring bot’s answer.

“Consonants are the letters in the alphabet that are not vowels,” one student read aloud. “The vowels are A, E, I, O and U. Consonants are all the other letters.”

Tech industry hype and doomsday prophesies around A.I.-enhanced chatbots like ChatGPT sent many schools scrambling this year to block or limit the use of the tools in classrooms. Newark Public Schools is taking a different approach. It is one of the first school systems in the United States to pilot test Khanmigo, an automated teaching aid developed by Khan Academy, an education nonprofit whose online lessons are used by hundreds of districts.

Newark has essentially volunteered to be a guinea pig for public schools across the country that are trying to distinguish the practical use of new A.I.-assisted tutoring bots from their marketing promises.

Proponents contend that classroom chatbots could democratize the idea of tutoring by automatically customizing responses to students, allowing them to work on lessons at their own pace. Critics warn that the bots, which are trained on vast databases of texts, can fabricate plausible-sounding misinformation — making them a risky bet for schools.

Officials in Newark, the largest district in New Jersey, said they were cautiously testing the tutoring bot in three schools. Their findings could influence districts across the United States that are vetting A.I. tools this summer for the upcoming school year.

“It’s important to introduce our students to it, because it’s not going away,” Timothy Nellegar, the director of educational technology at Newark Public Schools, said of A.I.-assisted technology. “But we need to figure out how it works, the risks, the good and the bad.”




Khan Academy is among a handful of online learning companies that have created new tutoring bots based on language models developed by OpenAI, the research lab behind ChatGPT. Khan Academy, whose high-level tech donors include Google, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Elon Musk Foundation, received access to the A.I. models last year.

Designed specifically for schools, the tutoring bot often takes students through the sequential steps needed to solve a problem.

When Khan Academy began looking for districts to pilot test its experimental tutorbot this spring, Newark volunteered. A number of local elementary schools were already using the education organization’s online math lessons as a way to track students’ mastery of concepts like grouping numbers. And the A.I. tool would be free for those schools during the initial pilot-testing phase.

District officials said they wanted to see if Khanmigo could enhance student engagement and math learning. Schools like First Avenue, attended by many children from lower-income families, were also eager to give their students an early opportunity to try a new A.I.-assisted teaching aid.

Districts like Newark that use Khan Academy’s online lessons, analytics and other school services — which do not include Khanmigo — pay an annual fee of $10 per student. Participating districts that want to pilot test Khanmigo for the upcoming school year will pay an additional fee of $60 per student, the nonprofit said, noting that computing costs for the A.I. models were “significant.”

Newark students began using Khan’s automated teaching aid in May. The reviews have so far been mixed.


In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (2)In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (3)In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (4)


One recent morning, sixth graders at First Avenue Elementary were working on a statistics assignment that involved developing their own consumer surveys. Their teacher, Tito Rodriguez, suggested the students start by asking Khanmigo two background questions: What is a survey? What makes a question statistical?

Mr. Rodriguez described the bot as a useful “co-teacher” that allowed him to devote extra time to children who needed guidance while enabling more self-driven students to plow ahead.

“Now they don’t have to wait for Mr. Rodriguez,” he said. “They can ask Khanmigo.”

Down the hall in Ms. Drakeford’s math class, the bot’s responses to students sometimes seemed less like suggestions and more like direct answers.

When students asked Khanmigo the fraction question posted on the classroom’s white board, the bot answered that the word “mathematician” contained 13 letters and that seven of those letters were consonants. That meant the fraction of consonants was seven out of 13, the bot wrote, or 7/13.


“That’s our biggest concern, that too much of the thinking work is going through Khanmigo,” said Alan Usherenko, the district’s special assistant for schools, including First Avenue, in Newark’s North Ward. The district did not want the bot to lead students through a problem step by step, he said, adding, “We want them to know how to tackle the problem themselves, to use their critical thinking skills.”

In an email, Khan Academy said students often needed initial support getting through problem-solving steps, and practicing could help them learn to automatically go through the steps, without assistance.

The group added that the tutoring bot was designed to help students solve problems, not give them the answers. But in the case of the fraction problem in Newark, the organization said, Khanmigo “helped too much, too fast.”

“Our engineering team corrected the A.I. a few weeks ago,” Khan Academy said in an email on Tuesday, “so that it no longer gives the answer to this question.”

On Wednesday, a reporter asked Khanmigo the same fraction question. In student mode, the tutoring bot explained the steps and then directly provided the answer: “the fraction of consonants in the word ‘MATHEMATICIAN’ is 7/13.”



In teacher mode, which is designed to walk educators through problems and answers, the bot provided a different — incorrect — response. Khanmigo said erroneously that there were eight consonants in the word “mathematician.” That led the bot to provide a wrong answer: “8 consonants/ 14 total letters = 8/14”

In an email, Khan Academy said that it had fixed the issue within its “tutor me: math and science” section for students, noting that the reporter had asked a question in a different part of the site. “As for the teacher mode giving the incorrect answer,” the email said, “sometimes Khanmigo makes mistakes.”

Even so, Mr. Usherenko said he was hopeful. The district had suggested to Khan Academy that, rather than relying on students to ask Khanmigo the right questions, it would be more helpful if the bot asked students open-ended questions and analyzed their responses.

“It’s not where I want it yet,” Mr. Usherenko said of Khanmigo. “But when it can find students’ misconceptions, that will be a game changer.”

Khan Academy said that the tutoring bot often asked students open-ended questions and that the group was working on getting the A.I. models to accurately identify misconceptions. The nonprofit added that it was continuing to improve Khanmigo with feedback from school districts.

Whether schools will be able to afford A.I.-assisted tutorbots remains to be seen.

Khan Academy said that it would offer a discount for districts in which more than half of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Even so, the financial hurdles suggest that A.I.-enhanced classroom chatbots are unlikely to democratize tutoring any time soon.

Mr. Nellegar, Newark’s ed tech director, said his district was looking for outside funding to help cover the cost of Khanmigo this fall.

“The long-term cost of A.I. is a concern for us,” he said.

Natasha Singer writes about technology, business and society. She is currently reporting on the far-reaching ways that tech companies and their tools are reshaping public schools, higher education and job opportunities. @natashanyt


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In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (2024)


What are the disadvantages of AI in education? ›

A disadvantage of AI in education is the potential for ethical and privacy concerns. AI systems collect and analyze a significant amount of data on students, including their performance, behavior, and personal information.

How AI can be used in evaluation of teachers? ›

AI-powered adaptive assessments can provide teachers with more detailed insights into student performance by adjusting the difficulty level of assessment items based on student responses. This can help teachers figure out what students know, what they don't know, and what they need to do next.

Do you think that artificial intelligence or a robotic teacher can be an effective substitute for school? ›

While AI has the potential to revolutionize the education industry, it is unlikely that robots will completely replace teachers. Teachers provide a personal touch that AI cannot replace, and they bring creativity, passion, and emotional support to the classroom.

What is the negative impact of using AI? ›

There were many occasions where the use of AI had a negative impact on society. Some AI recruiting tools showed to be biased against women. False facial recognition matches led to arrests of innocent men and women. Faulty AI systems in self-driving cars have led to major traffic accidents and in some cases, death.

What are 3 negative impacts of AI on society? ›

These negative effects include unemployment, bias, terrorism, and risks to privacy, which the paper will discuss in detail.

How do teachers feel about AI? ›

But a global survey of teachers has found that, while many harbor doubts over the impact of AI, a majority feel that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. More than half - 52% - of the secondary-level teachers surveyed said they believed AI would change the teaching profession for the better.

How does artificial intelligence affect teachers? ›

With the ability to analyze data on student performance and preferences, AI can help educators to create customized lesson plans and assessments that align with each student's unique strengths and weaknesses. This can improve student engagement and motivation, and ultimately lead to better academic outcomes.

How is AI currently being used in the classroom? ›

Assistive Technology

For example, AI technologies help these students communicate more effectively by providing voice recognition and speech synthesis. These tools can also help students with disabilities better understand their course material. It does so through visualizations and simulations.

Why teachers should not be replaced by AI? ›

Ethical concerns: Replacing teachers with AI raises ethical concerns about job loss and its impact on society. In addition, it is unclear how AI will handle sensitive issues such as diversity and inclusion, which are central to teaching.

Why shouldn t AI be used in education? ›

Bias in AI models, lack of personalization, the potential for errors, and fear of job loss for teachers are among the challenges. AI models can perpetuate biases if trained on biased data, and they may struggle with individualized learning needs. Errors in AI recommendations or feedback can impact learning outcomes.

Why teachers shouldn t be replaced by robots? ›

Teachers have the unique ability to inspire children to learn. Humans are social animals and inherently prefer to learn from other humans. Robots might be efficient in teaching facts, logic, and theories; however, they cannot practice skills like sharing and teaching from life experiences.

What are the pros and cons of artificial intelligence in the classroom? ›

Advantages: Personalised learning can improve student motivation and engagement, resulting in better academic performance. Disadvantages: There is a risk of students becoming too reliant on AI tools, which may limit their ability to think critically and independently.

What are 2 pros and 2 cons of using AI? ›

The advantages range from streamlining, saving time, eliminating biases, and automating repetitive tasks, just to name a few. The disadvantages are things like costly implementation, potential human job loss, and lack of emotion and creativity.

Why are people against AI? ›

People worry that AI systems will result in unfair incarceration, spam and misinformation, cyber-security catastrophes, and eventually a “smart and planning” AI that will take over power plants, information systems, hospitals, and other institutions. There's no question that neural networks have bias.

What did Elon Musk say about AI? ›

Speaking via video link to a summit in London, Musk said he expects governments around the world to use AI to develop weapons before anything else. Elon Musk has hit out at artificial intelligence (AI), saying it is not "necessary for anything we're doing".

What is the argument against AI? ›

But there are many ethical challenges: Lack of transparency of AI tools: AI decisions are not always intelligible to humans. AI is not neutral: AI-based decisions are susceptible to inaccuracies, discriminatory outcomes, embedded or inserted bias. Surveillance practices for data gathering and privacy of court users.

Is artificial intelligence a threat to humans? ›

The analysis identified three impacts AI could have on upstream and social determinants of health (SDOH) that could result in threats to human health: the manipulation and control of people, the proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), and the potential obsolescence of human labor.

How does AI invade privacy? ›

The main privacy concerns surrounding AI is the potential for data breaches and unauthorized access to personal information. With so much data being collected and processed, there is a risk that it could fall into the wrong hands, either through hacking or other security breaches.

Will AI help the world or hurt it? ›

Artificial intelligence can dramatically improve the efficiencies of our workplaces and can augment the work humans can do. When AI takes over repetitive or dangerous tasks, it frees up the human workforce to do work they are better equipped for—tasks that involve creativity and empathy among others.

Should educators use AI in the classroom? ›

One of the key benefits of incorporating AI into the classroom is the ability to provide students with a more personalized learning experience. AI algorithms can analyze student data and adapt to their learning styles, providing feedback and recommendations that are tailored to their individual needs and abilities.

How might AI affect education in the future? ›

Educators see opportunities to use AI-powered capabilities like speech recognition to increase the support available to students with disabilities, multilingual learners, and others who could benefit from greater adaptivity and personalization in digital tools for learning.

What are the disadvantages of chatbots in education? ›

The biggest concern is cheating. More than one-fourth of teachers have caught students using the chatbot to cheat, the survey found. An influx of ChatGPT generated work has left many educators spending more time checking for AI plagiarism and revamping lesson plans to be “AI-proof”.

Are there any ethical issues with using artificial intelligence in education? ›

In conclusion, the research questions set at the beginning provide the following summary: The major ethical issues that could be observed when using AI-driven mobile apps for educational purposes include key four ethical principles that should be followed—beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice.

Do you think artificial intelligence will replace teachers? ›

Overall, while AI has a remarkable ability to supplement K-12 education, it will never be able to replace great teachers! Through the ability to adapt to every student, understand learning gaps, collaborate, and provide empathetic support during a student's learning journey, teachers will always be needed.

Can AI be used by teachers in education? ›

AI can provide customized learning for students and give teachers more time to focus on the most important aspects of education. For instance, AI can assist the following tasks: Take over teachers' routine tasks, such as marking assignments.

What are the problems with AI in schools? ›

While AI can provide personalized learning and instant feedback, it cannot replace the human and emotional support that students need to succeed, and relying too heavily on AI-powered educational tools may impact students negatively. Privacy concerns are also a limitation of AI in the classroom.

What is an example of AI in the classroom? ›

Tutoring: AI systems can “gauge a student's learning style and pre-existing knowledge to deliver customized support and instruction.” Grading: Sure, AI can help grade exams using an answer key; but it can also “compile data about how students performed and even grade more abstract assessments such as essays.”

How do you prevent students from using AI? ›

I may incorporate this technology in future courses, but for now, here are my 10 strategies that prevent the use of AI by students.
  1. Make a policy. ...
  2. Get familiar. ...
  3. Take a class field trip. ...
  4. Require course-based research. ...
  5. Unplug. ...
  6. Use the testing center. ...
  7. Assign content behind the paywall. ...
  8. Ask student to show and tell.
Jan 18, 2023

What will happen if the teachers will be replaced by robots? ›

Students respond much more to animated body language. For all these reasons, it is unlikely that software or a robot will replace human teachers any time soon. It is even less likely if you consider that implementing robots in the classroom is not economically scalable, and does not bring major financial benefits.

Why are robot teachers better than human teachers? ›

Robot teachers can be faster and can help speed up the teaching and lesson plan. Little to no errors will be made as everything is programmed into the robot teacher. Robot teachers can integrate students with different learning styles, disabilities, or who speak different languages into the classroom better.

What are the ethical issues with robot teachers? ›

The main ethical concerns associated with robot teachers are identified as: privacy; attachment, deception, and loss of human contact; and control and accountability.

Is AI a threat to education? ›

On the one hand, AI can facilitate personalized learning, improve assessment accuracy, and provide educational resources to students who might otherwise not have access. On the other hand, AI can reinforce existing biases and inequities and limit learning opportunities for marginalized students.

Which country uses AI in education? ›

China is using its centralized authority to mandate AI education in its high school curricula and for AI companies to partner with schools and universities to train students.

Can AI be used in schools? ›


Across every industry, AI has been presented as a powerful labor-saving tool. It is already being applied in educational settings to manage a number of tasks typically assigned to teachers such as scheduling, tracking attendance and managing permission forms.

What are the negative effects of robot teachers? ›

Robot teachers can not develop creative or innovative ideas for teaching the material in a new way, It can not comment on the papers to provide the students with valuable positive feedback or critiques.

What are the advantages of robots replacing teachers? ›

Here are 6 benefits of using robots in your classroom:
  • Robots Enhance Engagement.
  • Robots are Adaptable and Can Support Different Learning Levels.
  • Robots Encourage Creativity.
  • Robots Teach Soft Skills.
  • Robots Can Nurture Struggling Students.
  • Robots can be programmed to support individual needs.

Why virtual teaching will never ever replace classroom teaching? ›

The virtual classroom cannot replace the traditional classroom because it is by its very essence or nature not completely 'real. ' Teaching on the Internet is teaching in virtual reality, but not in reality. Does that mean that any type of education given or received on the Internet is not real? Absolutely not.

Is Grammarly an AI? ›

Grammarly's AI system combines machine learning with a variety of natural language processing approaches. Human language has many levels at which it can be analyzed and processed: from characters and individual words through grammatical structures and sentences, even paragraphs or full texts.

What is one advantage of an AI based educational assistant? ›

Idea & content generation: AI can save teachers time in creating content, ideas and even learning objectives for teachers to review, amend and use creatively in the classroom, project work or assignments. Answering student questions: In using AI as a personal tutor, students not only benefit but teachers too.

What is the biggest disadvantage of artificial intelligence? ›

The biggest disadvantage of Artificial Intelligence is its lack of creativity. Artificial Intelligence is a technology that is completely based on pre-loaded data. However, Artificial Intelligence can learn over time with this pre-fed data and past experiences, but it cannot be creative like humans.

What are some risks or potential dangers of AI? ›

Some of the major dangers of AI include misinformation (including creating convincing fake images and video known as deepfakes), privacy concerns, the loss of jobs, bias and discrimination, market and financial volatility, and a so-called singularity in which AI surpasses human intelligence.

Why AI could be a threat? ›

We describe three such main ways misused narrow AI serves as a threat to human health: through increasing opportunities for control and manipulation of people; enhancing and dehumanising lethal weapon capacity and by rendering human labour increasingly obsolescent.

What are 3 advantages of AI? ›

The following are the primary advantages of AI:
  • AI drives down the time taken to perform a task. ...
  • AI enables the execution of hitherto complex tasks without significant cost outlays.
  • AI operates 24x7 without interruption or breaks and has no downtime.
  • AI augments the capabilities of differently abled individuals.

How to overcome the disadvantages of artificial intelligence? ›

How to overcome Artificial Intelligence challenges: take-home message
  1. Address an AI vendor with the relevant portfolio and expertise.
  2. Work with a skilled business analyst to determine which of your processes and IT systems could benefit from AI.
  3. Consider how ethical issues might prevent you from using AI to the fullest.
Jan 21, 2021

What are the disadvantages of robot teaching? ›

Robot teachers can not develop creative or innovative ideas for teaching the material in a new way, It can not comment on the papers to provide the students with valuable positive feedback or critiques.

What are the three limitations of AI? ›

AI's three biggest limitations are (1) AI can only be as smart or effective as the quality of data you provide it, (2) algorithmic bias and (3) its “black box” nature.

Should teachers be replaced by robots advantages? ›

Students respond much more to animated body language. For all these reasons, it is unlikely that software or a robot will replace human teachers any time soon. It is even less likely if you consider that implementing robots in the classroom is not economically scalable, and does not bring major financial benefits.

What is the negative impact of robotics? ›

Robots can create economic problems because they continuously replace humans. Robots can only do what they are told to do, meaning they can't do more than expected without any command (by the way, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are working on it).

What is the biggest danger of AI? ›

Some of the major dangers of AI include misinformation (including creating convincing fake images and video known as deepfakes), privacy concerns, the loss of jobs, bias and discrimination, market and financial volatility, and a so-called singularity in which AI surpasses human intelligence.

What is the Goldilocks rule of AI? ›

In machine learning, the Goldilocks learning rate is the learning rate that results in an algorithm taking the fewest steps to achieve minimal loss. Algorithms with a learning rate that is too large often fail to converge at all, while those with too small a learning rate take too long to converge.

How is AI used in the classroom? ›

AI can automate many time-consuming administrative tasks in teaching and learning. Think about grading assignments, providing feedback on student work, or even detecting plagiarism. Machine learning algorithms and natural language processing can help teachers quickly identify patterns in student performance.

How can AI be used in schools? ›

Examples of how artificial intelligence is currently being used in higher education include:
  1. Plagiarism Detection.
  2. Exam Integrity.
  3. Chatbots for Enrollment and Retention.
  4. Learning Management Systems.
  5. Transcription of Faculty Lectures.
  6. Enhanced Online Discussion Boards.
  7. Analyzing Student Success Metrics.
  8. Academic Research.

How does artificial intelligence affect learning teaching and education? ›

With the ability to analyze data on student performance and preferences, AI can help educators to create customized lesson plans and assessments that align with each student's unique strengths and weaknesses. This can improve student engagement and motivation, and ultimately lead to better academic outcomes.


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