#276 – The AI Revolution in Education, with Claire Zau

Unpacking Education April 3, 2024 39 min

In this episode, we are joined by Claire Zau, Vice President at GSV Ventures. In her role with the company, she does extensive research into emerging educational technology that is transforming education at all levels. In our conversation, Claire shares her insights into trends, advantages, and challenges surrounding AI-infused technology. She also provides a preview of the upcoming AI Revolution in Education AIR Show, an inaugural event hosted by Arizona State University (ASU) and GSV.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

ASU+GSV AIR Show promotional communication


The following resources are available from AVID and on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:

Amplifying Humans

Our guest, Claire Zau, does not see a future where human teachers are replaced by AI bots. Rather, she sees a world where AI amplifies the qualities and expertise of those teachers. Emergent AI technology is already beginning to automate some of the time-intensive administrative tasks facing educators, freeing them up to spend more time with students and reinforcing those ever-important human connections. The following are a few highlights from our conversation:

  • About Our Guest: Claire Zau is a Vice President on the GSV Ventures team based in New York City. She previously worked across both the GSV Ventures investment team and ASU+GSV Summit team, where she collaborated with thought leaders across the edtech ecosystem to develop program and thought leadership.
  • GSV Ventures: Claire describes her company as “an early stage edtech fund, focusing on investing in the most exciting and transformative platforms and technology tools changing the face of education across what we like to call PreK to gray.” GSV has invested in companies like Coursera, Handshake, ClassDojo, and Nearpod.
  • Trends With AI in Education: Claire explains that edtech companies are recognizing that “there’s massive opportunity in disrupting education space.” This opportunity has led to the development of AI tools, like chatbots, that can automate school tasks, improve workflow efficiencies, and be effectively integrated into existing technology.
  • Challenges for Teachers: A big challenge is simply keeping up. Claire acknowledges, “Everything’s evolving so quickly that sometimes it feels like you close your eyes for a second, and five new updates from OpenAI have come out.” One way to mitigate this sense of being overwhelmed is to recognize that AI isn’t new. Many use it daily in the form of face ID, Siri, and other common technology.
  • Challengers for Districts: At the district, state, and national levels, there has not yet been a lot of standardization in terms of AI guidelines. Claire says, “We’re flying the plane as it’s being built right now.” Work still needs to be done developing AI literacy programs and usage rules—tasks that are difficult when the future of AI remains unclear.
  • Resources: Claire points to TeachAI and aiEDU as two organizations doing great work to provide educational AI resources to educators.
  • Opportunities for Teachers: Currently, AI is being developed to reduce administrative tasks and to enhance professional development. TeachFX is a program that can transcribe and analyze the audio from an event, which can provide valuable feedback to a teacher or facilitator.
  • More Accessible Data: Natural language interfaces are allowing educators to more efficiently mine and analyze data. Rather than leaning on complicated algorithms and technical processes to retrieve or manipulate data, users can simply ask an AI assistant for the information they want. The chatbot can return this data in understandable language and in a streamlined format. Claire points out, “What AI is really good at, especially generative AI, is taking unstructured data and then synthesizing that into digestible insights and even prediction.”
  • Students Are Using AI: Whether it be in the form of a social media plug-in or a homework chatbot, students are using AI tools. They are also exposed to AI that is being integrated into educational platforms. Currently, PowerSchool is adding AI buddies into their student information and learning management systems.
  • The Future: As Claire speculates about what will be possible in the future, she says, “I do think there is a world where we can achieve what we envision as a true AI tutor—someone who can not only act as your study buddy but understand what you’re struggling with [and], even holistically, has a sense of what your career and life goals are. I think that is a long-term vision. We haven’t seen that built out yet.”
  • Limitations: One of the major limitations to developing truly transformational AI tutors is the lack of access to specific student data. That lack of data about each student doesn’t allow the chatbot to provide fully informed responses. This might be possible as things develop further, but data privacy remains a concern. Claire says, “I think once you actually have more interoperable dataflows, you can actually build a comprehensive, true AI tutor.”
  • Student Benefits: Currently, some of the most helpful uses of AI for students come from the leveling of content using tools such as Diffit or Brisk Teaching. Accessibility can also be improved with this releveling and also through translation tools. Platforms such as Ello, LitLab, and ProjectRead are beginning to “allow you to create decodables that are personalized on a student level.”
  • Leveling Performance: Claire cites research done by Ethan Mollick, which shows that AI levels the range of performance results in the workplace. Those who had been performing at lower levels saw the most significantly increased performance results, which equalized their performance in comparison to traditionally high performers. Claire says, “By giving everybody AI, they actually saw a leveling of the playing field.” In this light, she adds, “It’s not necessarily that the AI is going to take over the teacher’s workflow, but rather, I think that it almost lowers the floor and raises the ceiling for what you can do.”
  • Generational Shift: Claire notes that about every 20 years or so, society sees a significant discovery that changes things significantly. This includes the introduction of the internet, the shift to mobile computing, and now, the introduction of AI. She says, “This is one of those big, generational discovery moments.”
  • Digital Divide Flipped: As she wonders about the future, Claire thinks about the potential of a “digital divide flipped on its head, where only people from certain incomes or backgrounds have access to actual humans to do the real teaching, and then everyone else has to resort to the machine teacher.” This form of digital divide essentially would become a human divide, something we already see in customer service, where the privileged have access to human support and others must resort to chatbots.
  • AIR Show: ASU and GSV are teaming up to launch the first AI Revolution in Education AIR Show in San Diego, California, from April 13–15, 2024. The event will provide educators with opportunities to network, learn from each other, see demos, partake in hackathons and workshops, and attend sessions. The event is free, but space is limited. Tickets are available online. More information can be found on their website.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What do you know about artificial intelligence in education?
  • How might teachers benefit from AI?
  • How might students benefit from AI?
  • What AI tools have you seen introduced into schools?
  • How might AI transform education moving forward?

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