Michigan Virtual study balances risks, rewards of AI integration for teachers

LANSING—Education researcher Nikolas McGehee and Michigan Virtual announced the completion of a new study about artificial intelligence technology’s application in the classroom, with implications for how Michigan teachers can use AI to personalize learning for students.

McGehee’s study found that for educators, parents and students, AI technology can serve as a welcome tool to increase productivity, diversify learning approaches, and help adapt cutting-edge technology within classrooms. Michigan Virtual’s AI Lab has been training districts statewide on the responsible integration of AI for personalized learning and data analytics for student performance, teacher learning, and operations. AI’s full potential and effectiveness, however, depends significantly on how the tools are used by teachers, feelings around the technology, and the extent to which educators leverage AI capabilities within the classroom.

“Understanding AI technology is a valuable skill for students that is only growing in its application beyond the classroom, so it’s critical that educators are able to lean in and work with students to succeed in this space,” McGehee said. “We recognize the need to understand how teachers are choosing to work with AI and where there are concerns—around privacy, job displacement, or any other barrier—so that we can strengthen our supports for educators to overcome these hurdles and ultimately, best support students in preparing for the future.”

These tools have the potential to broadly enhance teaching and learning experiences, as well as promote equitable access to education. The research showed that students using AI-powered tools show significant increases in academic achievement and modest improvements in learning perceptions. While the study showed teachers’ hesitations about learning outcomes based on AI technology, many students thrive with the additional supports.

McGehee has been an education researcher at Michigan Virtual since 2021. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and education, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in education from Tennessee Technological University.

“Michigan educators are actively engaged in understanding the potential of AI—the advantages and challenges—with the goal of ensuring we are best-preparing students to be as successful as possible in life beyond the classroom doors,” said Jason Mellema, superintendent of Ingham Intermediate School District. “Research and support from Michigan Virtual’s AI Lab is vital to building cutting-edge AI expertise in our state to do just that.”

The study also highlighted AI’s role in reducing teaching workloads and enhancing information literacy, which leads to increased levels of professional development for educators. There was a direct correlation between teachers who were familiar and comfortable with AI technology and those who felt positively about it and were better able to integrate it into their classrooms.

Knowing that students and educators can succeed with additional AI support systems, it’s critical that Michigan educators work to build comfort with AI technology and continue to integrate it into classrooms as the technology develops.

This research is the first to come from Michigan Virtual’s new AI Lab, part of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, which studies the effectiveness of online and hybrid learning models and provides training, and in some cases teachers, to support online learning programs in Michigan school districts.

To read McGehee’s study, visit www.michiganvirtual.org/research/publications/balancing-the-risks-and-rewards-of-ai-integration-for-michigan-teachers. To learn more about Michigan Virtual’s AI Lab, visit www.michiganvirtual.org/resources/ai.

Michigan Virtual is a nonprofit educational organization that is leading and collaborating to build learning environments for tomorrow. Driven by student success, we have a strong record of supporting Michigan education that spans more than two decades. While many know us for our research-based, quality online learning options for students and professional development for educators, we also do a great deal of work behind the scenes to conduct original research, test innovations in learning, and provide consulting partnerships to promote effective practices.

Education is changing faster than ever. To learn about new models and resources to move learning forward at michiganvirtual.org. For recent news and press releases, visit michiganvirtual.org/news.

(Above image from Pixabay via Wikimedia Commons._)

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