Unlocking education potential by harnessing AI - Education Matters Magazine

Artificial Intelligence, Technology, The Last Word

Unlocking education potential by harnessing AI

When ChatGPT was released to the public last year, it unleashed a wave of excitement, fear, curiosity and debate. CEO of Education Services Australia Andrew Smith discusses the impact of AI-enabled technologies on teaching and learning.

As Australia’s national education technology company, the team at Education Services Australia have been following these developments closely, connecting with colleagues in Australia and across the globe, to help us better understand the technology, the arc of its development, and what this could mean for Australian classrooms.

The global education technology industry has an estimated value of over $300 billion and one billion potential consumers. An industry with this profile will attract interest and investment, and although much of it will be driven by values that align to those of our education system, this is not always the case. Driven by diverse motives, existing and emerging education technology developers will turn to generative AI models as a means of increasing their market share.

“In the interests of our students, Australia needs to take a strong policy position on shaping the design, use and governance of AI in our schools.”

Australia’s education ministers have taken an important first step on the path to harnessing AI-enabled education technology products through the establishment of a national taskforce to provide advice on the development of an evidence-informed, best practice frameworks for Australian schools to guide the use of generative AI tools.

Presently, ESA’s work is coalescing around three key themes: Make it safe, make it fair and make it work.

CEO Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith, CEO of Education Services Australia.


‘Make it safe,’ is focused on responsible and ethical approaches to the design and use of AI- enabled edtech that benefit students, schools and families. Ethical risks arising from the inherent bias contained within the datasets used to train AI models, the generation of misinformation that appears credible, and the creation of content that undermines individual autonomy can have serious consequences for our students and society.

Privacy risks associated with collection and use of sensitive personal information without consent, the misuse and monetisation of student data, and increased risk of data breaches – all put the privacy and safety of young people at risk. Establishing frameworks and governance arrangements that ensure AI-enabled edtech products comply with Australian Privacy Principles and information security standards, ensure transparency and are accountable is critical to minimising potential harm.


As E.D. Hirsch once noted: “The internet is not an equal opportunity fact finder, it rewards those in the know.” The advantages enjoyed by those already ‘in the know’ are amplified by AI-enabled edtech and presents a risk of digital divide. If we allow the usage of these emerging learning technologies to be concentrated in more advantaged schools, we will see existing equity gaps widen. This is why governments and agencies have a responsibility to ensure that equity underpins the use of AI-enabled edtech and to monitor the impact of these tools across educational settings.


From a solid foundation of safe and equitable design and use, we can collectively harness the opportunities these technologies present for positively impacting the learning trajectory of students and reducing the workload of teachers.

Co-design with educators, learning design grounded in evidence and ongoing research into what works should be the minimum standard for any education technology product that enters our classrooms. Supporting our teachers with effective and accessible professional learning that respects their expertise and supports them to integrate these technologies into their teaching practice is essential.

AI-enabled education technology can become a powerful tool in creating a more equitable and effective education system that benefits students and teachers. However, the risks associated with the misuse of data, perpetuating biases and undermining the role of educators, cannot be ignored.

Everyone in education has a role to play in establishing frameworks and practices that will allow our students and teachers to thrive in an AI-enabled world.

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