Change is always unsettling, and it is not surprising that the conversations around artificial intelligence (AI) can often feel scary and overwhelming. The future is uncertain, and AI seems to be making it even more unclear. Yet, one thing that does appear to be certain is that AI will impact education.
So, how do educators get started when they’re unsure where they’re going?
Learn About AI
To access ChatGPT, you’ll need to set up a free account at openai.com. For Microsoft Bing Chat, you’ll need to use the Microsoft Edge browser, go to bing.com, and click “Chat” in the top menu. Finally, to access Google Bard, go to bard.google.com in your favorite browser. Each of these chatbots is fairly intuitive. Simply enter your question or query and click enter.
If you’re looking for a good starting point for using these chatbots, consider asking for lesson plan ideas. The more context you provide (like academic standards and grade level), the better results you will receive. Then, play around and experiment. Enter different prompts and see what you get. This will help you see the strengths and limitations firsthand. It’ll also help to demystify the experience.
If you’re looking for good, general information to provide context, consider reviewing some of the following resources.
- AI in the K–12 Classroom (AVID Open Access Collection)
- The AI revolution: Google’s developers on the future of artificial intelligence (60 Minutes)
- AI Toolkits (aiEDU)
- Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning (U.S. Office of Educational Technology)
Design Rich Learning Experiences
Because students will need to be adaptable and empowered in the AI workforce, we must provide them with opportunities to develop the necessary skills while they are in our classrooms.
At the most basic level, offering students choice and autonomy whenever possible is important. This will give them opportunities to make decisions and own the results of those decisions. While releasing some of our control as teachers can be a little unnerving, it is vital to our students’ development.
Of course, this release should come with some guidance, scaffolding, and guard rails. You won’t want to turn your students completely loose on the first day. Begin with small choices like the choice of a topic or the option to work either with a friend or individually. Then, gradually release more decision-making to your students as the year progresses. To get some ideas, you can review the AVID Open Access collection, Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice, or the Ed Tip: Student Voice and Choice.
As your students become more independent, consider a more immersive, student-centered learning experience like project-based or inquiry learning. These student-centered experiences provide students with authentic spaces to develop the soft skills they will need to be flexible and independent on the job.
With these opportunities, consider ways that the work can be done collaboratively. Working together is a great way to develop skills that are uniquely human.
In an Education Week article discussing the skills students will need in an AI world, Josh Wöhle, the CEO and co-founder of online learning platform Mindstone, says we should help students develop soft skills, interpersonal attributes, empathy, the ability to learn and problem solve, and the ability to collaborate. By providing students with collaborative learning situations, we can create the classroom environment for this to happen.
Another way to prepare your students for a tech-rich work environment is to engage them in educational technology in your classroom. If your school has a one-device-per-student (1:1) program, this will be fairly easy. If you do not have ready access to a classroom set of computers, check if there is a computer lab or a classroom set of devices that you can borrow. Even if your students can only use the tools occasionally, it will still be beneficial. Of course, the more you can design lessons that make the use of technology natural and meaningful, the better. Rather than making technology an “event,” try to make it a normal way of doing business in your classroom. This will make the experience authentic and meaningful, just as it will need to be in a future job environment.
Introduce Your Students to AI
The degree to which you can introduce your students to AI will depend on your school’s policies regarding its use. As a result, it can be helpful to consider a sliding scale of AI introductions. The further along the scale you can proceed, the richer your students’ experience will be.
Level 1: Talk About AI
If you cannot access AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing Chat, or Google Bard in your classroom, you should consider discussing it to raise awareness. You may want to begin by learning what students already know and what questions they have. Perhaps some of your students have tried AI tools and can share their experiences. If you have access at home but not at school, consider capturing screenshots and developing a short presentation to show your students what the tools look like. Ideally, find a way to integrate this conversation into course outcomes. For example, if you’re a social studies teacher, consider discussing social implications. An English teacher might create a writing prompt. Think about your area of study and find a meaningful connection.
Level 2: Demonstrate
In some schools, teachers have access to AI chatbots, while students do not. If this is your situation, consider using them as a class. You can be the driver, and students can help you navigate by providing suggestions, prompts, and directions. In this way, they can see them in action and begin to gain an understanding of the tools. It can also go a long way to demystifying it. You might use AI to generate content that the class will build upon or use it to generate a writing sample that the students will critique. Another option is to ask the chatbot a question and have students fact-check the response. This engages students and helps develop an awareness of the digital literacy skills necessary to think critically about any online content they might access.
Level 3: Assign Student Use
Continue Learning and Using AI
Once you have introduced yourself to AI tools and feel somewhat comfortable using them, don’t consider the journey finished. On the contrary, this is just the beginning. A solid introduction to AI can help you feel confident enough to begin using it in more practical and meaningful ways.
Consider how AI tools can help you save time in your classroom. Can it help you develop lessons, assessments, and other learning activities? Can it assist you in creating classroom materials or in refining communication? If you can use AI to save time, it will free you to spend more time interacting with your students (and with your family in the evening).
Beyond teacher efficiency, consider how AI might facilitate a transformation of the learning process. In his blog post Catastrophe / Eucatastrophe, Ethan Mollick, a leader in AI and education, insists that the stakes are high. He says, “AI obsoletes a lot of older learning techniques, either because of the rapid expansion of cheating or because it is weird to teach people how to use skills that have become superseded by our newer AI tools.”
Mollick adds that teachers must become leaders in the quest for better instruction. He says, “Educators need to start testing, and sharing, what they learn, so we can understand who is left out, and who is helped, by the rapid embrace of AI in education. We can live in a world where AI helps personalize learning for students of all ability levels and backgrounds, or we can continue using long-standing inequities.”
In the Axios article, Code.org leads “TeachAI” push, ISTE chief executive Richard Culatta says, “AI has the potential to be the world’s most powerful learning tool, but only if educators and students understand how to leverage AI to support their learning needs.”
Education thought leaders have already begun to envision how AI might improve teaching and learning.
In the public listening session for the U.S. Department of Education titled AI and the Future of Teaching, Kristina Ishmael, Deputy Director from the Office of Educational Technology, insists, “AI is not to replace teachers.” However, she does believe it can be transformational, with the ability to personalize education, something she says “we can’t do without technology.” She goes on to say that AI can help us capture and understand data that we can use as feedback on student progress and can be used to save teachers time.
During the webinar Exploring ChatGPT and AI in Education: A Paradigm Shift for the Classroom, Dr. Julene Reed, an international consultant and educator, outlines a number of powerful uses for AI, including the following:
- Assistive technology to improve equity
- Streamlined workflows
- Summarized texts
- Creation of rubrics
- Lesson plan development
- Outline generation
UNESCO also outlines some potential applications in AI and education: guidance for policy-makers. Their suggestions include the following:
- Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS): These programs feature adaptive learning paths that automatically redirect students based on their performance.
- Dialogue-Based Tutoring Systems: These involve the use of natural language processing where students can ask questions in a conversational format. They can even be used to facilitate Socratic dialogues. Khan Academy’s Khanmigo is one example of this type of system.
- Exploratory Learning Environments: While these are not yet well developed, they allow for student-guided inquiry and constructivist approaches.
- Automated Writing Evaluation: In most cases, these are currently used to reduce costs, but they have the potential to provide meaningful feedback in the future.
- AI-Supported Reading and Language Learning: Language recognition has enabled language learning platforms like Duolingo to revolutionize the learning of another language.
- Automated Discussion Monitoring: Powered by large language model chatbots, this has the potential of being a time-saver for teachers while providing students with immediate feedback.
These are great ideas to get you started thinking about integrating AI into education, but it’s important to remember that the best ideas are very likely still to come. As AI continues to evolve, new possibilities will become increasingly apparent, and we will improve by learning from our experiences. This is just the beginning of AI’s impact on the classroom, and it’s important that we all continue learning.
Extend Your Learning
- AI and education: guidance for policy-makers (UNESCO)
- Educator Considerations for ChatGPT (OpenAI)
- Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning (U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology)
- One Useful Thing (Ethan Mollick)
- ChatGPT Prompt Engineering For Developers (DeepLearning.AI)
- Free Artificial Intelligence Courses (edX)