“Given the intersection of recent advancements in generative artificial intelligence (GAI) and widening learning gaps for students, a Superman may have finally arrived for education.” (Getty Images)

In 2010, the controversial documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’” examined the American public education system to understand why K-12 students were underachieving in nearly every discernable metric. The praise and criticism of the documentary largely fell along partisan lines. Teachers unions criticized the placing of blame on them for student failure, while proponents of the documentary cheered charter schools as a potential Superman that was going to fix the shortcomings of public schools.

Regardless of these reactions and the merits of the documentary’s central argument, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” did in fact touch upon a perennial concern within education: How do schools meet the needs of all learners?

This may seem like a banal platitude to be rattled off at parent teacher nights or at school board meetings, but it is the foremost concern that schools need to morally and legally address. Given the intersection of recent advancements in generative artificial intelligence (GAI) and widening learning gaps for students, a Superman may have finally arrived for education.

The landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that all classrooms present students with the least restrictive learning environment. Essentially, that means a classroom that meets every student’s unique learning needs without causing them undo impediments to achievement. In direct response to this mandate, the guiding pedagogy within nearly every American classroom is differentiation. This pedagogy utilizes a series of teaching techniques to meet each student at his or her learning level. Admittedly, doing this is significantly harder than it sounds. Even the most experienced teachers struggle to meet the unique needs of every student within a classroom.

Many students have been on the other side of this fundamental struggle for teachers. Invariably some students feel as though they are not being challenged enough by what is being taught in class, while others feel overwhelmed and miss key concepts. This leads to students leaving class thinking, “I still do not understand what is being taught.”

Unlike EdTech tools to date, GAI can be leveraged by school districts to meaningfully eliminate this struggle for teachers and students. Tools such as MagicSchool and SchoolAI can act as real-time classroom aides to differentiate and reinforce instruction at the exact learning level of each student. Apple Intelligence will soon act as a tutor for every iPhone-wielding student.

Beyond differentiation, GAI can maximize a teacher’s limited time by instantly generating quizzes, assessments, lesson plans, curriculum maps, and classroom management strategies.

The availability of these near “superhuman teaching assistant[s]” marks the most significant paradigm shift in education since the invention of the pencil. A new generation of students will emerge from the use of GAI. These students will never have to say “I still do not get it” when approaching an assignment.

When polled, over 50 percent of students nationally admit to using GAI to complete assignments, while only 18 percent of teachers claim to use GAI as a teaching tool. Unfortunately, only 60 percent of schools will be conducting GAI training for staff or developing responsible use policies by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The 40 percent of school districts not offering training will be over a year behind closing the yawning gap between teacher and student GAI usage. This gap must be closed if school districts are serious about meeting the unique generational needs of their students.

This percentage of districts choosing not to upskill on GAI is to be expected. A quarter of teachers fear GAI will cause more harm than good within the classroom. Some of this reticence is predicated on students using GAI to cheat. Students have indeed taken to ChatGPT to write whole essays, and that has reinforced a negative view of GAI among teachers. However, this view is faulty because it fails to understand that the assignment side of school needs to significantly evolve within the presence of GAI.

Rather than assigning a traditional five paragraph essay, teachers can meet students where they are with digital video natives. Assigning the production of short films or documentaries meshes well with the way Generations Z and Alpha consume information and produce media. Teachers can have students use GAIs to research a topic and even write a script for a short documentary. Students can then use another GAI tool to film and produce said documentary.

This process will activate student curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking at the same level essays do. Perhaps even more, this type of assignment will draw greater student engagement because it utilizes modalities that they are comfortable with.

Framing GAI as similar to the invention of the calculator is a limited corollary. However, the comparison allows us to examine what students gain and lose when new technologies enter the classroom. In the presence of ubiquitous calculator use, students struggle with their basic math facts and memorizing multiplication tables. However, calculators reduce the need for memorization and allow students to dive deeper into more complex math topics.

With every great technological advancement comes the outmoding of a seemingly fundamental societal tenet. The same holds true for education. Much like with the introduction of the calculator, GAI will cause students to lose something that is currently considered an indispensable part of learning.

Will students lose the ability to focus for extended periods of time? Will students no longer understand how to take notes during a lecture? Will students be unable to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources when conducting research? These are all possibilities given the unprecedented changes coming for the traditional classroom.

Technologies are only as safe and effective as the intentions behind them. This is why GAI training needs to happen for every school district sooner rather than later. Teachers, administrators, and parents cannot wait around to see what students may or may not lose and gain. If teachers upskill now, they can utilize a revolutionary tool that can help millions of students who struggle year in and year out to meet proficiency standards and maximize their full potential.

The 2024-2025 school year could be the moment when Superman arrives for education.

In 2010, the controversial documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’” examined the American public education system to understand why K-12 students were underachieving in nearly every discernable metric. The praise and criticism of the documentary largely fell along partisan lines. Teachers unions criticized the placing of blame on them for student failure, while proponents of the documentary cheered charter schools as a potential Superman that was going to fix the shortcomings of public schools.

Regardless of these reactions and the merits of the documentary’s central argument, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” did in fact touch upon a perennial concern within education: How do schools meet the needs of all learners?

This may seem like a banal platitude to be rattled off at parent teacher nights or at school board meetings, but it is the foremost concern that schools need to morally and legally address. Given the intersection of recent advancements in generative artificial intelligence (GAI) and widening learning gaps for students, a Superman may have finally arrived for education.

The landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that all classrooms present students with the least restrictive learning environment. Essentially, that means a classroom that meets every student’s unique learning needs without causing them undo impediments to achievement. In direct response to this mandate, the guiding pedagogy within nearly every American classroom is differentiation. This pedagogy utilizes a series of teaching techniques to meet each student at his or her learning level. Admittedly, doing this is significantly harder than it sounds. Even the most experienced teachers struggle to meet the unique needs of every student within a classroom.

Many students have been on the other side of this fundamental struggle for teachers. Invariably some students feel as though they are not being challenged enough by what is being taught in class, while others feel overwhelmed and miss key concepts. This leads to students leaving class thinking, “I still do not understand what is being taught.”

Unlike EdTech tools to date, GAI can be leveraged by school districts to meaningfully eliminate this struggle for teachers and students. Tools such as MagicSchool and SchoolAI can act as real-time classroom aides to differentiate and reinforce instruction at the exact learning level of each student. Apple Intelligence will soon act as a tutor for every iPhone-wielding student.

Beyond differentiation, GAI can maximize a teacher’s limited time by instantly generating quizzes, assessments, lesson plans, curriculum maps, and classroom management strategies.

The availability of these near “superhuman teaching assistant[s]” marks the most significant paradigm shift in education since the invention of the pencil. A new generation of students will emerge from the use of GAI. These students will never have to say “I still do not get it” when approaching an assignment.

When polled, over 50 percent of students nationally admit to using GAI to complete assignments, while only 18 percent of teachers claim to use GAI as a teaching tool. Unfortunately, only 60 percent of schools will be conducting GAI training for staff or developing responsible use policies by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

The 40 percent of school districts not offering training will be over a year behind closing the yawning gap between teacher and student GAI usage. This gap must be closed if school districts are serious about meeting the unique generational needs of their students.

This percentage of districts choosing not to upskill on GAI is to be expected. A quarter of teachers fear GAI will cause more harm than good within the classroom. Some of this reticence is predicated on students using GAI to cheat. Students have indeed taken to ChatGPT to write whole essays, and that has reinforced a negative view of GAI among teachers. However, this view is faulty because it fails to understand that the assignment side of school needs to significantly evolve within the presence of GAI.

Rather than assigning a traditional five paragraph essay, teachers can meet students where they are with digital video natives. Assigning the production of short films or documentaries meshes well with the way Generations Z and Alpha consume information and produce media. Teachers can have students use GAIs to research a topic and even write a script for a short documentary. Students can then use another GAI tool to film and produce said documentary.

This process will activate student curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking at the same level essays do. Perhaps even more, this type of assignment will draw greater student engagement because it utilizes modalities that they are comfortable with.

Framing GAI as similar to the invention of the calculator is a limited corollary. However, the comparison allows us to examine what students gain and lose when new technologies enter the classroom. In the presence of ubiquitous calculator use, students struggle with their basic math facts and memorizing multiplication tables. However, calculators reduce the need for memorization and allow students to dive deeper into more complex math topics.

With every great technological advancement comes the outmoding of a seemingly fundamental societal tenet. The same holds true for education. Much like with the introduction of the calculator, GAI will cause students to lose something that is currently considered an indispensable part of learning.

Will students lose the ability to focus for extended periods of time? Will students no longer understand how to take notes during a lecture? Will students be unable to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources when conducting research? These are all possibilities given the unprecedented changes coming for the traditional classroom.

Technologies are only as safe and effective as the intentions behind them. This is why GAI training needs to happen for every school district sooner rather than later. Teachers, administrators, and parents cannot wait around to see what students may or may not lose and gain. If teachers upskill now, they can utilize a revolutionary tool that can help millions of students who struggle year in and year out to meet proficiency standards and maximize their full potential.

The 2024-2025 school year could be the moment when Superman arrives for education.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: info@newhampshirebulletin.com. Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and X.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website. AP and Getty images may not be republished. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of any other photos and graphics.

Tyler Paré, a New Hampshire native and ardent supporter of civic education, teaches history for the Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District in Hollis.

The independent, nonprofit New Hampshire Bulletin is guided by these words from our state constitution: “Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive.” We will work tirelessly every day to make sure elected officials and state agencies are held to that standard.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website.

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