The Khan Lab School, a Silicon Valley private school, has recently unveiled an AI-powered tutor named “Khanmigo,” which was created with the assistance of OpenAI. While some may be hesitant to trust chatbots like ChatGPT due to their tendency to provide incorrect information and facilitate plagiarism, Khanmigo takes a different approach.
Rather than simply providing answers, its goal is to guide children toward the correct answers, serving as thoughtful tutor that helps them progress in their work.
According to Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy and Khan Lab School, Khanmigo is meant to move students forward in their learning. Julia Doscher, a teacher at the school, anticipated that her elementary students would ask Khanmigo silly questions upon its unveiling, but was pleasantly surprised to find that many of them were serious and focused on math.
“I’m still pretty new, so I sometimes make mistakes,” Khanmigo told a student in a pop-up window, according to the newspaper. “If you catch me making a mistake… press the thumbs down.”
Although Doscher warned that students could become too reliant on asking Khanmigo questions, potentially slowing them down, the upside is that students who are shy or embarrassed to ask for help may find it easier to do so through the AI-powered tutor.
While Khanmigo is still in its early stages and has some improvements to make, the students using it are already finding it useful. Khanmigo has potential and its safety is a major concern for parents and educators. It is not ideal for an AI to promote harmful behavior like drug use or hate speech to impressionable children.
“It gives more detailed description than I would have run through in my head or write on paper, which can be helpful, or it can be annoying,” opined Neil Siginatchu, an eight-year-old boy. “Because if it’s too detailed… it’s a lot to read and if I don’t need it, it’s just excessive.”
To address these concerns, Salman Khan and his team have invested thousands of hours in developing stronger guardrails for Khanmigo than those found in ChatGPT. These measures include allowing educators to monitor the input of students and flagging inappropriate content such as swear words.
“Parents for the most part are pretty excited about it,” Khan said. “Most people see the power here, they just want reasonable guardrails.”
However, the effectiveness of Khanmigo in educating children to become critical, thoughtful, and curious learners, versus simply teaching them to rely on prompts, remains to be seen.