AI and Collaboration

Explore ways that both students and teachers can use generative artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate and enhance collaboration.

Grades K-12 12 min Resource by:
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At first glance, collaboration might not seem like a good fit for artificial intelligence (AI). After all, collaboration is an inherently human experience. It’s about teamwork, shared responsibility, shared ideas, and coming to group decisions. This type of interaction requires two key elements: group interdependence and individual accountability. In other words, members must rely on one another, with input from all being shared, while also contributing and pulling their own weight individually.

So then, how do computer programs—specifically generative AI tools, like ChatGPT—fit into this classically human experience? To answer this question, it’s helpful to separate the responses into two parts: teacher use and student use.

Teacher Use of AI

Below are three ways that teachers might use generative AI tools to help facilitate collaborative learning experiences.

It can be challenging to design strong collaborative group experiences that foster both individual accountability and group interdependence. Fortunately, one of the strengths of AI is that it is a great brainstorming partner, and teachers can use AI in this situation to help them come up with collaborative group experiences and scenarios.

In fact, when asked to brainstorm group experiences, ChatGPT provided some helpful ideas that could help a teacher get started. The list of ideas included an escape room challenge, designing a prototype, role-playing a historical event, conducting a science lab experiment, creating a group art project, participating in a literature circle, going on a geography treasure hunt, and conducting a mock trial. There were a few ideas that were not as strong, but as with any brainstormed list, part of the process is filtering out those weaker ideas. As the teacher and instructional designer, you get to decide what ideas will ultimately work for you. One strength of the ideas offered by ChatGPT is that all of the scenarios required students to use higher-order thinking skills to accomplish the task. That’s an important aspect when designing strong learning experiences for students.

Once a teacher chooses an idea to develop, they would still need to do some additional work to bring those ideas to life in the classroom. They would need to make sure that the learning experience aligns with learning standards, requires everyone’s input, and truly makes members interdependent. Even though an idea offered by AI might not be fully ready to roll out, the initial brainstorm can still save teachers a lot of time. Even if more development is needed, teachers can ask the AI follow-up questions to help them flesh out an activity they wish to develop more fully.

It’s important to note that educators should not enter any sensitive or private student information into an AI platform like ChatGPT. That said, AI can be helpful with processing complex information, and one way you could potentially use it is to help form groups in your classroom. If you do this, consider tagging each student with a number so that their information remains anonymous. You might collect initial information via student surveys, or you could build from your interactions with your students and create a chart representing each of their strengths and interests. You could even have AI help you generate the questions to ask.

Once you’ve collected the desired information, you could enter it into your AI platform, along with criteria you’d like to be used for forming groups, and then have the AI suggest combinations of students that would create the types of groups you desire. For example, perhaps you want to make sure that student skill sets are well distributed among the groups, or maybe you want a good mix of learning levels. Using AI could help you save time forming groups and aid in coming up with some effective combinations that can maximize each student’s gifts.

At the very least, you could ask the AI for suggestions on how to best set up groups for your specific scenario.

You could also have AI help you develop various assessment tools, such as a rubric or a reflection survey. By entering in your academic outcomes, criteria, and details about the activity, AI can save you time by putting together drafts of these resources. Of course, you’ll once again want to fine-tune the results and make sure that they fully meet your needs, but anything that can save time is worth consideration.

Reflection surveys can be particularly powerful for the student experience. They can prompt students to think deeply about their role in the collaborative experience. These reflections can help them self-analyze and grow as a group member.

Student Use of AI

How might students use AI in the inquiry process? That answer depends largely on whether your students are allowed to use AI tools or not. Be sure to review the terms and conditions before introducing any digital tool to your students. Specifically, pay attention to age-limitations and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restrictions that you must follow. If you determine that you are able to have students use AI tools, here are some potential ways that they might use AI to bring collaboration to life. And even if students can’t use the AI themselves, some of these ideas can be used with the teacher generating the content first, and then having the students interact with it.

Just as teachers can benefit from some help brainstorming, so can students. They can begin by collaboratively writing a prompt to be inputted into a generative AI tool. Once the AI has returned a list of ideas based on the prompt, students can work together to review the suggestions and determine which ideas are actually worth pursuing. This is a critical step in the process of using AI and a great collaborative thinking activity as well. We want students to learn to review AI-generated ideas with a critical eye, and this can work really well in a collaborative setting with other students.

You might even design a graphic organizer that helps guide the process by structuring the thinking process. The organizer could require each student to record their personal rankings of ideas. You could also have each student record what they like or dislike about each idea before discussing it collaboratively. In an activity like this, students have individual accountability to record their personal ideas, and they also have group interdependence because they must come up with a collaborative group decision.

On a side note, if you have students who cannot access AI themselves, they could complete this activity with a teacher-generated list.

Students can be asked to input a list of their own brainstorming and ideas into an AI tool before asking the AI to identify connections or commonalities among the generated ideas. Students can then take these suggestions and debate the AI results in order to come to a group consensus on a final plan. In some cases, this AI assistance could be used to help them develop a compromise with their solution. Students might lean on some of the AI ideas or decide they have a better one themselves. Either approach can lead to an experience that can help foster the development of collaboration skills.

In this scenario, students again critique something created by AI. However, this time, each group might be given the same product rather than having everyone generate something unique. One option is for the teacher to have AI draft a sample paper. With a rubric in hand, students can then be asked to collaboratively critique and assess the AI-generated paper. This can be a great way to have students deeply process the criteria upon which their own writing will be assessed, and it can feel safer to critique a product produced by a computer instead of a classmate. It’s less personal and might foster more honest feedback.

You could take this one step further and then have students collaboratively write their own version of the paper, or maybe revise the AI version to make it better. It could be a version of “Can you outperform the AI?”

As students work through a creative process together, they can use AI to get feedback along the way. They might submit a draft of their work and ask the AI to evaluate it based upon submitted rubric criteria. Group members could then review the suggestions and determine what, if any, revisions they wish to make based on the feedback.

One advantage of collaborating is that groups of people typically offer more diverse perspectives than an individual. This diversity of thought can help to identify blind spots in thinking. AI can potentially help with this. With this approach, students would submit drafts of their ideas and ask AI to either poke holes in their arguments or identify areas of thought that have been overlooked. As with any feedback received from an AI tool, students should not simply accept the AI responses. Instead, they should use the outputs to stimulate their own critical thinking processes and make their own determinations, and in the process, they might discover some blind spots of the AI as well.

In each of these examples and options, human collaboration is still at the core of the experience. AI simply becomes a tool used to either design the experience, enhance it, or prompt further person-to-person communication—and that human interaction is critical. If we want our students to develop as collaborators, we need to have them communicating and working together on a regular basis. No matter how we use AI in the process, we need to remember to keep human, interpersonal collaboration at the core of the experience.

Here’s one more thought to also keep in mind. If AI is to be a cocreator and work partner of the future, perhaps our students also need to learn to collaborate with the AI—not instead of collaborating with each other but in addition to it. By integrating AI into the human collaboration process, perhaps we can help our students develop both human and AI collaboration skills. While no one knows exactly what the future will hold, it’s important to give our students rich learning experiences that can help them prepare for whatever is to come.

AVID Connections

This resource connects with the following components of the AVID College and Career Readiness Framework:

  • Instruction
  • Rigorous Academic Preparedness
  • Student Agency
  • Insist on Rigor

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