Although AI-driven EdTech is still in the earliest stages, there’s no doubt that its possibilities are already changing the landscape of K–12 education. What once seemed like a far-off, futuristic dream for educators is coming closer every day: A classroom in which smart automation eliminates burdensome admin tasks, empowers meaningful instruction and creates impactful and inclusive learning opportunities.
As AI steps into its emerging role in the K–12 classroom, here are four major trends I’m seeing — and that I expect to grow rapidly in the coming months and years.
Students Are Getting More Personalized Learning
Compared to decades past, technology has already come a long way toward allowing differentiated instruction for students. Students have always had different strengths, weaknesses and interests, and modern EdTech tools make it easier for students to learn in ways that suit their needs — whether that’s visual learners engaging with video or audio learners leveraging podcasts.
AI is taking this positive trend much further, as it can instantly parse huge amounts of student data to generate personalized learning paths, from traditional lesson plans to homework assignments to project-based learning ideas. Through its data analysis, AI tools can raise red flags for early intervention as well, allowing for quicker remediation and greater odds of success.
Today, “differentiated learning” might mean (in practical terms) three or four different instructional paths per lesson, where different types of learners receive slightly tailored assignments, instructions or scaffolding. In the future of AI-driven EdTech, it might mean something far more powerful: A different learning path for every lesson and every student.
Teachers Are Able to Allocate Time More Effectively
By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, AI is helping educators manage their ever-growing workloads. For example, educators can leverage AI to generate and grade assessments in real time, to automatically suggest content for remediation, or to handle admin tasks such as reporting, record-keeping and scheduling.
With less time spent on burdensome admin tasks, educators have more time to devote to what they do best: Meaningful instruction.
Perhaps even more importantly, AI is creating a multiplier effect in which this time-saving technology, in turn, makes it easier for educators to adopt new time-saving technologies. What once took 10 steps (for example, learning, setting up and implementing a new EdTech tool) might now take only five, thanks to the power of AI-driven automation.
Classrooms Are Becoming Much More Accessible
One of the most exciting prospects about AI is the possibility for greater accessibility in K–12 education. With the right AI-driven EdTech tools, students with sensory impairments, learning disabilities or other neurodivergences will be able to participate more fully alongside their peers, even within the same classrooms.
The roster of accessibility-enhancing edtech already includes impressive capabilities like optical character recognition, gesture recognition, speech-to-text transcription, AR and VR, simultaneous language translation, emotion mapping, real-time closed captioning and more. As the technology matures, we can expect new ways of facilitating accessible instruction.
As long as these technologies are harnessed safely and appropriately, they will pave the way to a more equitable and inclusive learning experience.
Genuine Engagement Is Making Learning More Effective
Through the power of AI, students are beginning to play a greater role in shaping their own learning.
Not only is educational content becoming more personalized (which is inherently more engaging), but students can actually interact with the technology to guide their own learning experiences. For example, AI-driven tutor chatbots can now carry on two-way conversations. Students can pose questions to explore new paths and receive smart recommendations for related topics to dive into next.
The more control students have over their learning trajectory, the greater their sense of agency and engagement — and the more effectively they learn and retain concepts.
AI in the Classroom: Incredible Potential Requiring Thoughtful Regulation
As AI continues to improve, school districts have a significant opportunity to leverage these tools for higher-quality instruction across grade levels and subject areas.
However, as with any emerging technology, safeguards must be in place — to protect student data privacy, to ensure the accuracy of AI outputs, to address the risk of plagiarism and to mitigate the consequences of bias. Moreover, edtech decisionmakers, as always, need to be strategic in the adoption of new technology, ensuring that any AI tools brought into their districts are actually making educators’ lives easier.
Forward-thinking school districts are already working on guidelines to ensure the safe and productive use of AI, and I encourage all EdTech providers to take the potential risks seriously. It’s only through intentional, well-regulated application that we can unlock the 21st-century skills empowered by AI technology: Critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.