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    AI is Transforming STEM Studies: Here’s What to Know

    Posted by Sarah Stoller

    AI is rapidly transforming the way we use and interact with technology ー including in the classroom. Students entering STEM studies today can find themselves in a new landscape where AI increasingly affects both how educators teach and how students learn. As AI continues to develop, it is set to become a key technological feature of many STEM jobs of the future. While AI promises incredible opportunities to develop STEM education and work for the better, its precipitous rise and ongoing evolution also presents new challenges and ethical considerations.


    What is AI?

    You probably hear about AI everywhere you turn. In fact, we live with AI all around us in tools we use every day, from Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa to more recently, Chat GPT. But what exactly is AI? In short, AI can be defined as computer-simulated human intelligence used to perform human-like tasks. As a budding STEM student, you may well already be familiar with and excited about the profound impacts of natural language processing, speech recognition, machine vision and more. 


    How Can AI Improve STEM Education?

    The AI tools we have at our disposal enable us to automate routine and even complicated tasks, including optimizing aspects of teaching and learning. The potential benefits of AI for STEM studies are profound. New AI-driven adaptive learning platforms are already making a splash by organizing and personalizing educational materials to meet individual student needs. This can, among other things, enhance accessibility for students with specific challenges or learning considerations. At the same time, AI is enabling educators to make sense of student learning data on a new scale in order to identify patterns in student performance and develop insight-driven strategies for instruction. 

    New AI technologies are also making learning more fun and accessible for STEM students. Virtual reality applications can provide immersive experiences that help elaborate complex concepts in an engaging way. AI chatbots and virtual assistants provide students with immediate support, tutoring and feedback, and promote independent learning. New AI tools also support rich collaborative learning experiences among students even outside of the traditional classroom. When it comes to experimental projects, AI can also enable virtual simulations and laboratories, thereby expanding and enriching the traditional realm of scientific experimentation. 

    Perhaps the greatest promise of AI in STEM studies today is that it offers future STEM leaders the chance to experiment creatively with an emerging and quickly changing technology. This includes the opportunity to reflect about and shape our collective understanding of the benefits, but also the limitations and potential pitfalls, of AI in STEM education and in STEM fields more broadly. 


    Concerns about AI in STEM and Beyond 

    While there is little doubt that AI can benefit both students and educators in a multitude of ways, adopting AI in all of its complex forms does not come without some potential concerns. Rather than a straightforward “Yes, let’s use AI,” or “ No, let’s keep AI out of the classroom,” STEM students and professionals need to consider important questions about how AI systems are designed and used, whether in the classroom or beyond. 

    A major consideration surrounding the use of AI tools in education is about potential bias. AI tools may manifest as super-human machines, but they are still built by humans ー humans who are susceptible to perpetuating existing inequalities and stereotypes. Leaders in AI and education have urged educators and their institutions to ensure that AI systems are built and applied with transparency and inclusivity. 

    Another set of concerns surrounding the use of AI in the classroom is ethical in nature. Administrators and instructors are already confronting the issue of how to verify the authenticity of student work ー and this is likely to continue to be a major challenge. What happens when students use forbidden AI tools to complete assignments? How can instructors and institutions ensure academic integrity when AI is involved?

    These questions have no simple answers, but instead point to the exciting frontier of AI for those studying and pursuing careers in STEM fields. Whether weighing up the benefits and drawbacks of AI in the classroom leaves you stoked or skittish, to excel as a STEM student, you’ll need to continue to think deeply about AI in the years to come. 

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    Sarah Stoller