“The Homework Apocalypse” – Ethan Mollick: educators need to be ready

The original article is by Ethan Mollick, Professor at University of Pennsylvania. It can be found here.

Not enough educators (and parents) are preparing for the Homework Apocalypse that is coming this Fall, as AI becomes ubiquitous among students.

Of course, the ease of cheating with AI is a part of the Homework Apocalypse, but only one part. Cheating was already common in schools. One study of eleven years of college courses found that when students did their homework in 2008, it improved test grades for 86% of them, but only helped 45% of students in 2017. Why? Because over half students were looking up homework answers on the Internet by 2017, so they never got the benefits of homework. And that isn’t all. By 2017, 15% of students had paid someone to do an assignment, usually through essay mills online. Before AI, 20,000 people in Kenya earned a living writing essays full-time. Yes, cheating will be easier with AI, but it was easy before, and cheating is not the only reason that AI challenges the idea of homework

Instead, think of how the calculator completely changed what was valuable to teach, and the nature of math teaching overall - huge modifications that were mostly for the good. But calculators started off as expensive and limited tools, giving schools time to integrate them into lessons as they were slowly adopted over a decade (as I wrote about previously). But now, what happened to math is going to happen to nearly every subject in every level of education, a transformation without the delay: it is going to start as soon as school is back in session.

Students will cheat with AI. But they also will begin to integrate AI into everything they do, raising new questions for educators. Students will want to understand why they are doing assignments that seem obsolete thanks to AI. They will want to use AI as a learning companion, a co-author, or a teammate. They will want to accomplish more than they did before, and also want answers about what AI means for their future learning paths. Schools will need to decide how to respond to this flood of questions.

The challenge of AI in education can feel abstract, so to understand a bit more about what is going to happen, I wanted to examine some common assignment types.

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