AI teaching

AI can humanize teaching—if we let it

Educators should ignore the 'fear factor' around AI robots taking over teaching, and should harness the technology to improve their craft

While the scientific nature of artificial intelligence (AI) has frequently been used as a marketing term in recent years, AI does have some fascinating implications for instruction.

But perhaps one of the biggest things to remember about AI is that it will not eliminate teaching—it will humanize it.

“We hear that AI will take away faculty—AI is, in fact, going to supplement the work we already do,” said Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of teaching and learning with technology at Penn State. In that role, she focuses on innovation and technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

During EDUCAUSE, Sparrow, along with Kyle Bowen, director of innovation for teaching and learning with technology, shared how AI can help with teaching from different points of view, including ideation, design, assessment, facilitation, and reflection.

“We see [teaching] as a key area where AI can have influence. It changes how we think about supporting or empowering our teachers,” Bowen said.

Sparrow likened using AI tools in teaching to the way a jazz band interacts—as one instrument winds down, another picks up, much like different AI tools function for different instructional needs.

“The idea is that we grow together, build on ideas, and we come to a better result,” she said.


An AI tool can be taught to focus on certain facts or aspects of a larger idea to help educators target specific concepts.

Using Eureka!, a tool built at Penn State, educators can start with a search for a concept. Eureka! returns results, and educators select the results that best reflect the ideas they want to highlight within that concept. This teaches Eureka! to refine its original definition of the idea, leading to streamlined results and more relevant information for the instructor.

Laura Ascione