Teachers in Ireland have mixed views on the use of AI in education.

Teachers are unsure about AI in education

Irish teachers’ response to artificial intelligence (AI) in education is both curious and cautious according to a new survey.

Published this week by the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), the survey found 22% of Irish teachers use AI in their classroom and almost a third use it in their planning and preparation work.

The Digital Technology and its Impact on Teachers’ Working Lives survey found that 91% per cent of teachers want to know more about AI and education. However, more than 80% have concerns including data harvesting, the potential of AI to undermine professional teacher autonomy, and increased teacher workload.

ASTI President Geraldine O’Brien said: “Teachers find there is already little room in the school day for them to engage in planning and tailoring digital content, administer e-platforms and carry out other digital tasks. For many teachers, this work is undertaken in the evenings or at weekends. As technology evolves, including AI, we must ensure there is adequate professional time in every teacher’s working day to engage with, reflect on, and embed technology into their teaching practice in an educationally sound way.”

Approximately one quarter of all teachers surveyed identified access to computer devices and technical support/maintenance as poor. One in four teachers have daily problems with computer room availability while around one in seven experience daily issues with technical assistance and internet connectivity/speed.

Ms O’Brien continued: “While teachers are generally positive about integrating new digital technologies into teaching and learning, the survey found that they are being held back by lack of basic resources. This must be addressed if education in Ireland is to keep step with the rest of the world.”

The survey comes in the lead-up to the 2024 ASTI Annual Convention which takes place from 2-4 April in Wexford. The event will see 500 second-level teachers from all over the country gather to discuss the future of education and teaching in Ireland. One of the main topics to be discussed will be student wellbeing. Delegates will hear that student and teacher wellbeing must be supported by adequate investment in schools and school communities.

The ASTI said this must include properly resourced psychological support services for students. Separately, delegates will call for a survey of teachers on the psychosocial stressors they experience in their working lives. Another motion will consider the need for stronger legislation to deal with online harassment.

Another key motion at the convention will explore the potential impact of AI on the Leaving Cert, while other motions will examine the possible unintended consequences of curricular and assessment policy changes for students and education.