AI in Education: It’s Time to Change the Perception That AI Promotes Laziness and Limits Critical Thinking Among Students

by Dr. Amina Yonis
AI in Education

In just the last year, I have noticed the emergence and rise in the number of artificial intelligence (AI) tools available for students and academics. ChatGPT was released to the public at the end of 2022 and this marked the start of AI being made accessible as a productivity tool for students. As an academic content creator, I quickly noticed that students were interested in AI productivity tools, such as Paperpal, R Discovery, ChatGPT, and Bard.  

My videos discussing AI hacks were doing incredibly well, helping me carve a new academic content niche online. However, the initial reaction within the educational space was mixed, with some embracing its potential while others expressing concerns about its impact on student learning. As AI in academia continues to evolve and integrate into various aspects of education, it is crucial to understand and address the misconceptions surrounding its use, as well as explore its capabilities in enhancing the learning experience. 

Table of Contents

The Misconceptions of AI in Education

One of the prevailing misconceptions about AI in education is the notion that it promotes laziness and limits critical thinking skills among students. My videos have been on the receiving end of older/more experienced academics, who fear that relying too heavily on AI tools could lead to students becoming overly dependent and complacent, hindering their ability to develop essential analytical and problem-solving abilities. With rapid evolution in AI capabilities, the media has begun to portray AI as a threat to human intelligence, fuelling concerns about its potential to replace human educators and undermine the value of traditional learning methods. 

How Can AI Be Useful and Used Ethically?

The misconceptions fail to recognize the transformative potential of AI in academia when implemented responsibly. There are a number of tools that can be used ethically – I have tried and tested dozens of tools and have a very clear idea of how to use these in a way that maintains academic integrity. Academic use of AI can fall into 3 main categories:  

  1. conducting research review  
  2. text analysis and summarisation  
  3. language generation and writing assistance. 

An example of a platform that supports the ethical use of AI is Paperpal, a comprehensive academic writing toolkit. Paperpal is a compelling example of how AI in education can enhance productivity, foster critical thinking, and facilitate intellectual growth among students. Having used Paperpal extensively for the past 18 months, I know it has many AI features, all tailored to enhance and support academic writing, which empower students to enhance their productivity.  

The ‘Paraphrase’ feature allows students to broaden their academic vocabulary and rephrase text using alternative expressions. The ‘Trim’ feature supports students with sticking to tight word count requirements, without changing the context or meaning. The ‘Templates’ feature provides a reliable writing assistant that can support students with generating outlines, summaries, and keywords from already written text. Lastly, the ‘Make Academic’ feature enhances written text in a subtle way, changing just a few phrases within a paragraph, to make the overall text more cohesive and clearer.  

Other AI tools, like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing offer more elementary use cases, but are still effective and ethical when it comes to using AI in education. I typically recommend using these tools to generate outlines for an essay or literature review, or to enhance an introductory sentence. For example, you could use the following input: 

  • What 3 points would you suggest to improve this paragraph [ADD PARAGRAPH]? 
  • Give three variations of this sentence: [INSERT SENTENCE] 
  • Suggest 5 titles for the following abstract: [INSERT ABSTRACT] 

These prompts are examples of the different ways in which you can use AI in academia responsibly.  

When used together, these AI tools can empower students to streamline their workflow and focus their efforts on higher-order cognitive tasks. By automating repetitive and time-consuming processes, students can allocate more time and mental energy to analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information, ultimately strengthening their critical thinking abilities. 

AI in Education and Ethics

AI-powered tools can enhance collaboration, facilitate interactive learning environments, and provide real-time feedback and support to students. There are a few ways in which the greater ethics of AI in education need to be considered. Educators, policymakers, and technology developers must prioritize ethical considerations, such as privacy, data security, and algorithmic bias, to ensure that AI systems are transparent, accountable, and aligned with educational values. 

I run monthly masterclasses on academic writing and one of my main objectives is to support students with developing critical skills, particularly with relation to AI. It is possible that an overreliance on AI could hinder the development of essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. I consistently emphasize the importance of evaluating the reliability and credibility of AI-generated content and understanding the limitations and biases inherent in these systems. I encourage students to embrace AI as a tool to augment their learning experience rather than a replacement for human expertise and intellectual effort.  

Students should ask themselves the following questions when using AI in education: 

  1. How accurate and reliable is the AI tool in its predictions, recommendations, or analysis? 
  2. How can AI enhance my learning experience and support my academic goals? 
  3. What specific tasks or activities can AI help me with, and how does it complement my own abilities and efforts? 
  4. In what ways does AI differ from human expertise, and what are the advantages and limitations of using AI in educational contexts? 
  5. What ethical considerations should I keep in mind when using AI tools for learning and academic purposes? 

We Need to Change the Perception of AI in Education

As AI in education continues to evolve, it is imperative to change the narrative surrounding its role in learning. Rather than perceiving AI as a threat, we should embrace its potential to enhance learning experiences, foster critical thinking, and promote intellectual growth among students. 

As an educator and content creator, I know that we play a crucial role in shaping this narrative by advocating for the responsible and ethical integration of AI in education. There are both opportunities and challenges presented by AI. By fostering a growth mindset among students and highlighting ethical practices, we can harness the transformative power of this technology to create more engaging, personalized, and effective learning environments. 

Tools like Paperpal, R Discovery, ChatGPT, and Bing can support students with maximizing human expertise responsibly, rather than replacing it. By adopting an approach where we can unlock the full potential of students through the use of AI, we can empower students to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven world. 

About the Author

Dr. Amina Yonis – Online Content Creator & Founder of The Page Doctor 
While studying for a PhD in Cancer Research at University College London, Amina Yonis began documenting her journey on YouTube. Driven by the desire to inspire and empower young girls and women, she has now amassed a following of over 280,000 subscribers and her content has been viewed over 11 million times. Amina was the first female scientist on YouTube and has been creating educational content for over 7 years. Amina is also the founder of The Page Doctor, an academic platform that has supported over 2 million university students by connecting them to PhD researchers for tailored support. 

Paperpal is a comprehensive AI writing toolkit that helps students and researchers achieve 2x the writing in half the time. It leverages 21+ years of STM experience and insights from millions of research articles to provide in-depth academic writing, language editing, and submission readiness support to help you write better, faster. 

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