On October 25, 2022, the European Commission published an extensive set of guidelines regarding the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence and data in teaching and learning. This document is addressed to all educators across the EU members states and describes how AI and data can be used in the most ethical way possible. With the growing number of AI solutions targeting the Education sector, these new guidelines come at the right point to prevent misuse of the emerging technologies and the data already available or generated in the future.
This new set of guidelines are part of the Action 6 of the Digital Education Action Plan of the European Union and was developed with the support of an informal Commission expert group. The expert group prepared a final report as well as an executive summary of that final report, documents that are available on the website of the European Commission.
The Guidelines contain a section that debunks some common misconceptions about AI that stop educators from using it in facilitating their work at class and outside the class. According to the authors of these Guidelines, AI is not difficult to understand, it can play an important role in education, it can be inclusive and trustworthy, and it will not undermine the role of the teacher.
The Guidelines provide use-cases for four different types of teaching and learning activities that might benefit from the use of Artificial Intelligence:
- Student teaching activities, where an AI can help teach students about particular subjects (student-facing);
- Student support activities, where an AI supports students’ learning activities (student-facing);
- Teacher support activities, where an AI supports teacher’s teaching and administrative activities (teacher-facing);
- System support activities, where an AI is involved in diagnosti and system-wide planning of educational activities (system-facing).
Here is an example of use-case for the system support activities based on AI:
An interesting element related to these Guidelines is related to the approach: the authors intended to help primary and secondary school teachers no matter, if they have experience with digital education or not, with simple, clear examples of how AI can make their life at school easier, in a safe and protected conditions both for them and for their students.
Regarding the ethical side of these Guidelines, the document reiterates the key EU requirements for Trustworthy AI: (i) Human agency and oversight, (ii) Transparency, (iii) Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness, (iv) Societal and environmental wellbein, (v) Privacy and data governance, (vi) Technical robustness and safety, and (vii) Accountability. All these requirements were already set by the European Parliament and Council through their Proposal for a Regulation Laying Down Harmonised Rules on Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) and Amending Certain Union Legislative Acts COM(2021) 206 final.
The difference consists in the fact that the implementation of these seven key requirements is illustrated in the Guidelines by simple and clear statements that exemplify the use of ethical AI in education. This helps dissipate the current rejection or low acceptance of AI in this sector.
The Guidelines are also connected to the Digital Competence Framework of the European Institutions. In the recommendations section, the authors have shown how AI is related to the digital competences of educators, providing “potential indicators” for clarifying these competences. For further illustration, we recommend you to check out the Digital Competence Framework for Educators (DigCompEdu), issued by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, as well. Here is an example of these “potential indicators”:
- Executive Summary of the final report;
- Final Report;
- The Ethical Guidelines on the Use of Artificial Intelligence and Data in Teaching and Learning for Educators.
The European Commission have also published a set of documents accompanying the Guidelines:
Other relevant documents:
- European Strategy on AI: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee Of The Regions — Artificial Intelligence for Europe (COM(2018)237);
- Guidelines for Trustworthy AI: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Building Trust in Human Centric Artificial Intelligence (COM(2019)168);
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Fostering a European approach to Artificial Intelligence (COM(2021)205 final);
- The European Commission’s White Paper on AI;
- The European Commission’s Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence.