In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (2023)



Supported by


Newark public schools are cautiously trying out a new automated teaching aid from Khan Academy. The preliminary report card: “could use improvement.”

  • 140

In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (1)

By Natasha Singer

Natasha Singer, who covers education technology, reported from Newark.

On a recent morning, Cheryl Drakeford, a third-grade teacher at First Avenue Elementary School in Newark, projected a challenging math question on her classroom’s whiteboard: “What fraction of the letters in the word MATHEMATICIAN are consonants?”

Ms. Drakeford knew that “consonant” might be an unfamiliar word to some students. So she suggested they ask Khanmigo, a new tutoring bot that uses artificial intelligence, for help.

(Video) how to catch students using ChatGPT!! #teachers #chatgpt

She paused for a minute while about 15 schoolchildren dutifully typed the same question — “What are consonants?” — into their math software. Then she asked the third-graders to share the tutoring bot’s answer.

“Consonants are the letters in the alphabet that are not vowels,” one student read aloud. “The vowels are A, E, I, O and U. Consonants are all the other letters.”

Tech industry hype and doomsday prophesies around A.I.-enhanced chatbots like ChatGPT sent many schools scrambling this year to block or limit the use of the tools in classrooms. Newark Public Schools is taking a different approach. It is one of the first school systems in the United States to pilot test Khanmigo, an automated teaching aid developed by Khan Academy, an education nonprofit whose online lessons are used by hundreds of districts.

Newark has essentially volunteered to be a guinea pig for public schools across the country that are trying to distinguish the practical use of new A.I.-assisted tutoring bots from their marketing promises.

Proponents contend that classroom chatbots could democratize the idea of tutoring by automatically customizing responses to students, allowing them to work on lessons at their own pace. Critics warn that the bots, which are trained on vast databases of texts, can fabricate plausible-sounding misinformation — making them a risky bet for schools.

Officials in Newark, the largest district in New Jersey, said they were cautiously testing the tutoring bot in three schools. Their findings could influence districts across the United States that are vetting A.I. tools this summer for the upcoming school year.

“It’s important to introduce our students to it, because it’s not going away,” Timothy Nellegar, the director of educational technology at Newark Public Schools, said of A.I.-assisted technology. “But we need to figure out how it works, the risks, the good and the bad.”




Khan Academy is among a handful of online learning companies that have created new tutoring bots based on language models developed by OpenAI, the research lab behind ChatGPT. Khan Academy, whose high-level tech donors include Google, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Elon Musk Foundation, received access to the A.I. models last year.

Designed specifically for schools, the tutoring bot often takes students through the sequential steps needed to solve a problem.

(Video) Chat GPT Tutorial For Teachers

When Khan Academy began looking for districts to pilot test its experimental tutorbot this spring, Newark volunteered. A number of local elementary schools were already using the education organization’s online math lessons as a way to track students’ mastery of concepts like grouping numbers. And the A.I. tool would be free for those schools during the initial pilot-testing phase.

District officials said they wanted to see if Khanmigo could enhance student engagement and math learning. Schools like First Avenue, attended by many children from lower-income families, were also eager to give their students an early opportunity to try a new A.I.-assisted teaching aid.

Districts like Newark that use Khan Academy’s online lessons, analytics and other school services — which do not include Khanmigo — pay an annual fee of $10 per student. Participating districts that want to pilot test Khanmigo for the upcoming school year will pay an additional fee of $60 per student, the nonprofit said, noting that computing costs for the A.I. models were “significant.”

Newark students began using Khan’s automated teaching aid in May. The reviews have so far been mixed.


In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (2)In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (3)In Classrooms, Teachers Put A.I. Tutoring Bots to the Test (4)


One recent morning, sixth graders at First Avenue Elementary were working on a statistics assignment that involved developing their own consumer surveys. Their teacher, Tito Rodriguez, suggested the students start by asking Khanmigo two background questions: What is a survey? What makes a question statistical?

Mr. Rodriguez described the bot as a useful “co-teacher” that allowed him to devote extra time to children who needed guidance while enabling more self-driven students to plow ahead.

“Now they don’t have to wait for Mr. Rodriguez,” he said. “They can ask Khanmigo.”

Down the hall in Ms. Drakeford’s math class, the bot’s responses to students sometimes seemed less like suggestions and more like direct answers.

When students asked Khanmigo the fraction question posted on the classroom’s white board, the bot answered that the word “mathematician” contained 13 letters and that seven of those letters were consonants. That meant the fraction of consonants was seven out of 13, the bot wrote, or 7/13.


(Video) How to Use ChatGPT as a Free AI English Teacher

“That’s our biggest concern, that too much of the thinking work is going through Khanmigo,” said Alan Usherenko, the district’s special assistant for schools, including First Avenue, in Newark’s North Ward. The district did not want the bot to lead students through a problem step by step, he said, adding, “We want them to know how to tackle the problem themselves, to use their critical thinking skills.”

In an email, Khan Academy said students often needed initial support getting through problem-solving steps, and practicing could help them learn to automatically go through the steps, without assistance.

The group added that the tutoring bot was designed to help students solve problems, not give them the answers. But in the case of the fraction problem in Newark, the organization said, Khanmigo “helped too much, too fast.”

“Our engineering team corrected the A.I. a few weeks ago,” Khan Academy said in an email on Tuesday, “so that it no longer gives the answer to this question.”

On Wednesday, a reporter asked Khanmigo the same fraction question. In student mode, the tutoring bot explained the steps and then directly provided the answer: “the fraction of consonants in the word ‘MATHEMATICIAN’ is 7/13.”



In teacher mode, which is designed to walk educators through problems and answers, the bot provided a different — incorrect — response. Khanmigo said erroneously that there were eight consonants in the word “mathematician.” That led the bot to provide a wrong answer: “8 consonants/ 14 total letters = 8/14”

In an email, Khan Academy said that it had fixed the issue within its “tutor me: math and science” section for students, noting that the reporter had asked a question in a different part of the site. “As for the teacher mode giving the incorrect answer,” the email said, “sometimes Khanmigo makes mistakes.”

Even so, Mr. Usherenko said he was hopeful. The district had suggested to Khan Academy that, rather than relying on students to ask Khanmigo the right questions, it would be more helpful if the bot asked students open-ended questions and analyzed their responses.

“It’s not where I want it yet,” Mr. Usherenko said of Khanmigo. “But when it can find students’ misconceptions, that will be a game changer.”

(Video) AI TOOLS that make you SMART! (Academics, Education, Teaching, Learning, Students,...)

Khan Academy said that the tutoring bot often asked students open-ended questions and that the group was working on getting the A.I. models to accurately identify misconceptions. The nonprofit added that it was continuing to improve Khanmigo with feedback from school districts.

Whether schools will be able to afford A.I.-assisted tutorbots remains to be seen.

Khan Academy said that it would offer a discount for districts in which more than half of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Even so, the financial hurdles suggest that A.I.-enhanced classroom chatbots are unlikely to democratize tutoring any time soon.

Mr. Nellegar, Newark’s ed tech director, said his district was looking for outside funding to help cover the cost of Khanmigo this fall.

“The long-term cost of A.I. is a concern for us,” he said.

Natasha Singer writes about technology, business and society. She is currently reporting on the far-reaching ways that tech companies and their tools are reshaping public schools, higher education and job opportunities. More about Natasha Singer

A version of this article appears in print on , Section


, Page


of the New York edition

with the headline:

Tutoring Bots Get a Tryout in Newark Classrooms. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


  • 140



(Video) Using ChatGPT to grade essays and give detailed feedback: For Teachers


How is AI currently being used in the classroom? ›

Automation. AI can automate many time-consuming administrative tasks in teaching and learning. Think about grading assignments, providing feedback on student work, or even detecting plagiarism. Machine learning algorithms and natural language processing can help teachers quickly identify patterns in student performance ...

Can AI be used by teachers in education? ›

AI can provide customized learning for students and give teachers more time to focus on the most important aspects of education. For instance, AI can assist the following tasks: Take over teachers' routine tasks, such as marking assignments.

How do teachers use artificial intelligence? ›

Data and Learning Analytics: “AI is currently being used by teachers and education administrators to analyze and interpret data,” enabling them to make better-informed decisions. Scheduling: Helping administrators to schedule courses and individuals to manage their daily, weekly, monthly or yearly schedules.

Why AI cannot replace teachers in the future? ›

Limited creativity: AI is designed to work within specific parameters and algorithms, which means that it can only provide limited creativity and innovation compared to human teachers.

Should students be allowed to use AI in school? ›

Incorporating AI into the classroom provides an opportunity for students to develop a critical perspective on this technology and its impact on society. Teachers should encourage students to think critically about the ethical implications of AI and to consider the potential consequences of its widespread use.

What is an example of AI in the classroom? ›

For example, if an AI-powered system detects that a student is having difficulty completing a certain task (including tests and exercises), it can recommend them additional material to study. At the same time, the system can also advice tests for self-examination based on the materials the student learned.

How AI is affecting schools? ›

The Impact of AI on Traditional Education Models

AI models can track the progress & generate tailored methods to teach and reinforce each student, allowing teachers to have a more detailed and in-depth understanding of individual students' needs.

Can we replace teachers with robots? ›

Will robots completely replace teachers? While AI has the potential to revolutionize the education industry, it is unlikely that robots will completely replace teachers. Teachers provide a personal touch that AI cannot replace, and they bring creativity, passion, and emotional support to the classroom.

What are the disadvantages of AI in education? ›

A disadvantage of AI in education is the potential for ethical and privacy concerns. AI systems collect and analyze a significant amount of data on students, including their performance, behavior, and personal information.

What are the benefits of AI in the classroom? ›

It allows teachers to design and assign tasks, give feedback, and effectively control classroom interactions. The Google Classroom AI algorithms can support automated grading, make individualized recommendations for learning materials, and examine student data to provide insights on performance and growth.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of artificial intelligence in education? ›

AI has the ability to revolutionize schooling. It can be used to customize mastering, offer comments, automate tasks, and create new mastering stories. However, there also are a few challenges related to the usage of AI in education, consisting of fee, bias, privateness, and task displacement.

Why we should replace teachers with AI? ›

In most classrooms, there simply aren't enough hours for a teacher to spend one-on-one time with each student. Some students may go home each night without understanding the concepts taught in class. AI can help address this problem by analyzing student performance data and creating a more efficient lesson plan.

Why shouldn t teachers be replaced by robots? ›

Students respond much more to animated body language. For all these reasons, it is unlikely that software or a robot will replace human teachers any time soon. It is even less likely if you consider that implementing robots in the classroom is not economically scalable, and does not bring major financial benefits.

Why AI can never replace a good employee? ›

AI can't replace human talent

Artificial intelligence is superlative at certain tasks, but it can only "think" in terms of its training data. An AI tool can't innovate or create, so businesses will still rely on humans for fresh ideas. Another thing that humans do best is communication.

Will professors be replaced by AI? ›

In fact, educators may not be at risk of being replaced by AI at all. Instead, they face the prospect of being superseded by their counterparts who effectively utilize AI in their teaching methods.

In what ways is AI being used today? ›

Already, AI- and machine learning-enabled technologies are used in medicine, transportation, robotics, science, education, the military, surveillance, finance and its regulation, agriculture, entertainment, retail, customer service, and manufacturing.

How AI is currently being used in higher education? ›

AI also assists with additional tasks such as processing visas, student housing assignments, and course registration, all customized for each student. The goal is not only to streamline activities but to create better matches between students and universities.

What are some applications of AI in education? ›

AI in education delivers an enhanced experience for both students and teachers. It offers several benefits, including improved accessibility, tutoring, automated grading and administration, and streamlined workflows. These provide students with high-quality education and relieve teachers of fatigue.

How do we use AI in society right now? ›

AI-powered technologies such as natural language processing, image and audio recognition, and computer vision have revolutionized the way we interact with and consume media. With AI, we are able to process and analyze vast amounts of data quickly, making it easier to find and access the information we need.


1. English Teacher Grades Homework By ChatGPT | WIRED
2. How is artificial intelligence (AI) used in education?
(Bernard Marr)
3. How AI Could Save (Not Destroy) Education | Sal Khan | TED
4. How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms | WSJ
(Wall Street Journal)
5. 50 Ways Teachers can use Chat GPT to Save Time
(Etacude English Teachers)
6. Can A.I. teach me to pass a real College History Exam?


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated: 11/09/2023

Views: 6300

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.