#282 – Educator Voices: Artificial Intelligence, Part II

Unpacking Education April 24, 2024 33 min

In the second episode of our Educator Voices: Artificial Intelligence series, K–12 educators from across the United States share further insights and experiences about AI. Topics are wide-ranging, including comments about embracing AI as a resource, teaching students how to use it, guardrails for use with students, specific AI tools that teachers have found to be helpful, benefits, and concerns. Their comments again shine a light on where things currently stand with AI in our schools and serve as a springboard to our conversation about the best ways to move ahead. These recorded comments were captured during educator interviews at the 2023 AVID National Conference in San Diego, California.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

It’s a disruption, but we’ve had these disruptions time and time again.

Aaron Maurer, STEM Lead for multiple school districts in Iowa


The following resources are available from AVID and on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:

Exploration and Discovery

Even in the midst of their busy day-to-day routines, educators are exploring generative artificial intelligence and discovering ways that it can be leveraged. This includes both professional applications for themselves and educational uses for their students. The teachers we spoke with will acknowledge that they haven’t mastered generative AI yet, but they are making efforts to learn more, and they are getting better at using it. This learning has often led to saving time, generating improved lessons, and introducing positive uses of AI to their students. Listen to this episode to hear more details about their journeys. The following are a few highlights from our conversations:

  • Heather Cress, Assistant Principal, Tecumseh North Elementary School, Shawnee Heights Unified School District 450, KS: “I personally am still at the learning stage,“ says Heather. “I want to learn a lot more about it . . . because I know that it’s here. Our kids are using it; they probably know more about it than I do. And I don’t think it’s going to go away in any way. And so we just have to figure out how to embrace it [and] how to teach knowing it’s a resource. I feel like we need to teach our kids how to use it in a way that benefits education and where they’re headed with their future.”
  • Sheila Lewis, Instructional Coach, Tecumseh North Elementary School, Shawnee Heights Unified School District 450, KS: Sheila admits that she has been apprehensive about artificial intelligence and its impact on learning. However, after recently learning more, she says, “I feel like I’m in a different place and more accepting of it. I could see how I could use it to enhance my instruction and also to enhance student learning.” She offers an example of how she used AI to plan lessons about a book her students were reading, The Tiger Rising. It helped her find themes and quotes to support those themes as well as a way to differentiate content for different skill levels. After her initial experience using AI to plan, she says, “I felt like I could use this in my classroom as a teacher.”
  • Debbie Hall, AVID Coordinator and English/History Teacher, Goddard Middle School, Glendora Unified School District, CA: “I finally tried Claude, and I asked it to design a lesson based around the Great Wall of China,” Debbie shares. “It’s extremely thorough [and] came up with an assessment. I was pretty impressed.” As for student use, she feels that teachers should spend time exposing students to AI but not necessarily policing its use. “I don’t know how much I can chase them down 24 hours a day. I don’t think that’s my role.” She believes, like they’ve done with many previous forms of technology, that educators need to find a common understanding of acceptable student behaviors. She also believes that students can discover how to use many new technology tools if we give them a chance to explore it under our guidance.
  • Jeff Henley, Principal, Greece Odyssey Academy, Greece Central School District, NY: Jeff shares, “There’s an old quote about technology, and I forget who says it, but it’s about learning, unlearning, and relearning, and AI is one of those things that we’re going to have to unlearn some things of the past and learn some new things to make sure that we’re up to speed with what it can do. I think that those who don’t use it will get left behind, and those who harness it can do great things.” He adds that after experimenting with AI chatbots, he believes, “It can help teachers think of new ways to teach lessons that they’ve taught for many years and refresh some of those old ideas into new types of lessons and new ideas. Education doesn’t move quickly. It never has in any way, shape, or form. But it’s going to have to learn how to harness this technology and use it for the good.”
  • Trina Dickerson, Teacher, Dent Middle School, Richland School District Two, SC: Trina says that we’ve been using AI already, even though we haven’t always been calling it by name. She points out the use of translation tools as an example. She is excited about how students might benefit from new AI tools. She says, “They’re going to be global learners and global participants. This is the world, and so I think it’s incumbent upon us to be comfortable teaching the students how to use it responsibly.” She adds that we can begin to do this by providing parameters to keep them safe and by “giving them productive ways to use it, modeling that, and just encouraging them to make good choices. You have to trust them.”
  • Katrina Sisneros, Principal, Hayes Middle School, Albuquerque Public Schools, NM: Katrina is excited for the possibilities of AI. She sees it as a communication tool where teachers can modify language to be more age appropriate for students. She also believes it can help English language learners. She says, “If they can put in a prompt for an extended response and get a rough draft of that, and then adjust it, change it, and make it their own—and practice that skill set—their work would look very similar to native English students. I think that there’s some cool possibilities with that. It kind of levels the playing field a bit.”
  • Donna Goode, Spanish and AVID Teacher, Perris High School, Perris Union High School District, CA: While admitting that some people focus on the negative aspects of AI, like cheating, Donna likes to focus on its potential. She says, “I use it as a time-saver. As a teacher, it’s a way for me to lesson plan.” Donna adds, “And for students, it’s a way to effectively research so that once they have the information in front of them, then they can go into the process of critically thinking, evaluating, and reflecting, and we can spend more time on that instead of just researching to get the information in front of them.” She continues, “It’s a teaching tool. So that way, they will be critical thinkers, not only when they’re using artificial intelligence, but when they’re watching the news, when they’re on social media, [and] when they’re doing their daily lives, they can say, ‘Wait, hold up, let me double-check that and get a little more information about it, instead of taking it at face value.”
  • Kylan Kottenstette, Physical Education Teacher, Eagle Valley High School, Eagle County School District, CO: Kylan says that he’s hearing about concerns from teachers. He says, “I think the concerns are that students are not using their own thoughts, and they’re not needing to use their own thoughts because AI is contributing that for them and telling them what to think, so teachers are nervous that students are no longer going to be thinking for themselves.” He believes there are ways to mitigate those concerns and says that teachers can do this by requiring students to “make connections to their personal life, connections to experiences, [and] asking them to analyze it in comparison to real-world current events that are closer to today’s date and time that AI doesn’t have as much knowledge of.”
  • Rachel Fierros, AVID and Social Studies Teacher, Kino Junior High School, Mesa Public Schools, AZ: Rachel discusses two AI tools that she really likes: Brisk Teaching and QuestionWell. She describes Brisk as “a Google Docs extension that gives students feedback if they’re writing essays or answering questions.” She explains, “What I like about it is it’s a good starting point to give students that feedback that they need.” After typing content into a Google Doc, students can click Brisk It, “and then it will give a glow, something that they did well with, a grow, something that they can improve, and then something that you’re wondering. So I think it’s a good starting point to give students really rich feedback.” As for QuestionWell, Rachel says, “QuestionWell is another AI tool that is used to create multiple-choice questions, essential questions, and learning objectives for students, so it’s also a good starting point for when you’re starting a new unit or lesson plan or want to review. You can download all of the questions, and then upload it into a Kahoot! or whatever gaming tools you want to use.” She says it’s a big time-saver.
  • Michelle Magallanez, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, AVID Center: Michelle shares, “I think that a lot of teachers want to learn more about it, but it seems to be an overwhelming topic, especially when they are beholden to so many other things that they need to do in the classroom, that it becomes that one more thing. And I would love to figure out how to help more teachers access it so that they can bring it into the classroom so that their kids can learn from it. I think we have to start with administration and overcome some of the hurdles that have encouraged people to put up firewalls against AI in their schools and districts. And then once they see that their administration is bought into the topic, that queues to teachers that it’s something that they can do, and those who are curious are going to lean in and do it. And once they see other teachers on their campus exploring with it, and the engagement and excitement that their kiddos have, I think it’ll take off.”

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What do you currently know about AI?
  • How do you see students using AI?
  • How can educators effectively use AI?
  • What is a new consideration for you about AI after listening to this episode?
  • At this time, what are the strengths and limitations of AI?
  • How do you see AI being used in the future?

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