The Ethical Considerations of Using Generative AI in Education

March 27, 2024 • April Miller


Whether or not you’re ready for artificial intelligence, it’s already made its way into schools. What are the ethical considerations of using generative AI in education? 

1. Unrestricted Data Collection

Schools using generative AI to answer questions, track progress or customize lessons have to obtain your information. Whether they only record input or go as far as to collect behavioral data, they need personal details. This can become intrusive and uncomfortable.

In the United States, there are virtually no widespread standards on AI data collection in education — it’s part of why cyberattacks are targeting schools more often. In fact, 80% of K-12 schools were hit with ransomware in 2023, up from 56% in 2022. Breaches could expose personally identifiable information like your name and address.

2. Recycled Educational Material

If you use generative AI to make lesson plans or teach, you risk copyright infringement, bias and inaccuracy. Since many popular models train on copyrighted work and can hallucinate facts, you could end up with a flawed copy of someone else’s work and not even realize it.

3. Plagiarism Accusations

If you’ve ever used AI detection software to combat generative AI, you should know they’re widely inaccurate. On average, they’re less than 80% correct when detecting AI-written text. Imagine being accused of plagiarism and potentially failing because of a faulty program.

4. Academic Dishonesty

In the past, technology was only helpful for solving basic math problems or giving book summaries. AI gives you more ways to cheat — it can write essays, answer exam questions and finish assignments. Already, nine in ten students say they’ve used ChatGPT for homework.

The same concept applies to anything written, including scholarship essays and college applications. Someone could be passed up for a grant or not get into the university of their dreams because someone else’s AI-generated story sounds better than a lived experience.

5. AI-Generated Learning Material

AI-generated learning material probably doesn’t come to mind when you think about the ethical considerations of generative AI. However, it poses a real issue — what’s stopping people from using algorithms to make fake educational sources?

What Is the Most Ethical Way to Navigate Generative AI in Education?

In all likelihood, generative AI is here to stay whether educational institutions like it or not. Educators, students, and administrators should work together to find a way to use it ethically.

Leverage Hands-On Learning Activities 

Using generative AI to cheat on interactive lessons is impossible. Since learning platforms have hands-on educational activities designed for both elementary and high school students, most grade levels can take advantage of these alternative learning opportunities. 

Raise Awareness for Ethical AI Use 

You can navigate generative AI’s ethical concerns better if you know what’s at stake. Raising awareness of the implications of unethical AI use can help you understand the risks of using it despite a school-wide ban. For example, getting disciplined for cheating or being expelled for academic dishonesty are two likely possibilities. 

Set Course Policies and Expectations

Apparently, 75% of college students say they’ll keep using generative technology even if their professors ban it. Realistically, the only reliable workaround is to set expectations around AI use, outlining consequences for disobedience.

Only Collect Necessary Student Data

You shouldn’t ever be at risk of having your personally identifiable information stolen before you graduate high school. Strict protocols around data collection, storage, and use are essential for ethical generative AI use in schools.

The Future of Generative AI in Education 

Generative AI is here to stay, even if the education sector does its best to stop it. For now, the best way to navigate this technology’s ethical concerns is to be flexible and adaptive.