AI and the 4 Cs: Communication

Explore strategies for using artificial intelligence tools to improve communication in K–12 education.

Grades K-12 17 min Resource by:
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This is the first article in a four-part series exploring how artificial intelligence can be used to strengthen the transferable life skills often referred to as the 4 Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. This first article will focus on communication.

Recognizing that a strong set of communications skills is an important asset in life is not new, as most people acknowledge that communication is vital to nearly every human undertaking. It helps us connect to our loved ones. When used well, it prevents misunderstanding and helps us work collaboratively with others. Professionally, the ability to effectively share ideas with colleagues and team members represents a vital component of almost every career, and education is not possible without effective communication.

Because of the importance of communication, educators have helped their students develop these skills as long as schools have existed. With the recent introduction of artificial intelligence into the equation, teachers’ toolboxes have expanded. Not only do AI tools offer new possibilities in the teaching of communication, their use is also quickly becoming essential in many occupational settings. As AI continues to become infused into our daily lives, students who have experience with these tools will have a significant advantage over those who have not. In that light, it is important that schools offer students opportunities to become proficient with AI and to learn how to use these powerful tools to enhance their communication skills.

Through the use of AI tools, educators can empower their students to become better communicators.

Using AI to improve writing is not new. Spellcheckers and grammar checkers have been integrated into almost every word processor for quite some time and are used regularly by millions of people every day. Not only do these tools improve the final product, but they also help people recognize and learn from their mistakes. By having mistakes flagged immediately, writers can recognize their missteps, especially if they occur repeatedly. This timely feedback can lead to immediate revision and improvement. Essentially, AI tools function like an editor looking over a writer’s shoulder and spotting mistakes in real time.

The following list calls out several highly reviewed, AI-powered writing apps that can take editing assistance to the next level. Because new tools are being released regularly, it will be important to keep an eye on innovative and improved options as they become available. Consider this list a small sample of what is possible, rather than an all-inclusive list:

  1. Grammarly: Grammarly is probably the most popular virtual editor and proofreader on the market. While their premium version offers advanced writing assistance, the free version will help you with grammar, spelling, punctuation, conciseness, and tone detection. There is also a free Google Chrome extension that integrates the Grammarly feedback tools into online platforms and word processors like Google Docs. When using the extension, a little number will appear in the Grammarly icon indicating that it has a suggestion for you. You can pin the extension to your browser toolbar for quick access.
  2. Hemingway: While Grammarly focuses largely on grammar checking and proofreading, Hemingway is more focused on helping writers improve their clarity and readability. This app identifies potential issues with sentence complexity, word choice, and passive voice. The free version provides a readability score and highlights areas of concern for both readability and style. The free version does not suggest specific corrections; it identifies potential problem areas. This potential limitation might actually be a benefit in the classroom setting because it requires students to think for themselves. They must consider the flagged area and then use what they know about quality writing to decide whether or not an edit is warranted.
  3. QuillBot: Most of the QuillBot features can be used without setting up an account or logging in, which can be beneficial when students are too young to create online accounts. Even without logging in, the free version offers many useful writing tools, including a paraphraser, grammar checker, summarizer, citation generator, and translator. For most of these applications, students paste their writing sample into the app and then choose an action from the menu. In some instances, users can upload a document, and there is a free Google Chrome extension available. One potential drawback of QuillBot is that users can easily accept all suggestions without really thinking about the impact of those changes on their writing. To make sure that students use the app thoughtfully, teachers may want to set expectations with their students before having them use this tool.
  4. Quill: This tool is a little different from the first three on the list. Rather than using AI to edit and proofread your writing, it leverages AI to teach you how to edit and write better yourself. Quill describes itself as a nonprofit whose mission is to “help all students become strong writers, readers, and critical thinkers.” In that context, Quill provides free literacy activities that build reading comprehension, writing, and language skills for elementary, middle, and high school students. Currently, there are 817 independent practice activities, 16 diagnostic assessments, and 43 collaborative full-class lessons. Quill is both COPPA and FERPA compliant.

Accessibility is an area of communication that often gets overlooked, yet is incredibly important. When students cannot access words, they can’t send or receive messages—they can’t communicate. AI can be an incredibly powerful partner in opening this accessibility doorway for students who need this type of assistance. There are three areas where accessibility tools can be especially helpful:

1. Voice-to-Text

These are tools that convert audio or spoken words into written text:

  • Otter: Otter is a highly rated transcription tool. To use it, simply upload an audio clip, and in a few minutes, Otter will transcribe it into text. If there are multiple speakers, it will even time-stamp each passage and tag it to a speaker. Users can go in and add a name for each speaker and correct any errors in the transcripts. For those experiencing hearing loss or needing to translate words into another language, this can be a lifesaver. Users needing a translation can copy and paste this text into a translation tool of their choice. Users currently get three, 30-minute uploads per month with the free version of Otter.
  • Google Voice Typing: Rather than uploading an audio file like with Otter, this option lets you speak in real time and have your words converted into written text within Google Docs. This can be really helpful for students who process better verbally than in written form. It’s also useful if students are not fast typers since verbal input can be much faster. This tool can be particularly helpful for getting ideas recorded quickly and for creating initial drafts of writing.

 2. Text-to-Speech

These tools do the opposite of voice-to-text tools; they convert text into spoken word. Most text-to-speech readers allow users to adjust the speed and voice to meet their personal needs.

  • Speechify: While there are other products on the market that do this as well, Speechify is a quick and easy place to start. With its web interface, browser add-ons, mobile apps, and Google Chrome extension, Speechify is available on nearly every digital platform and provides spoken word versions of nearly any printed text you might access. This can be a really powerful tool for students who can process content but have difficulty reading and accessing the information.
  • Integrated Text Readers: Many digital applications have text-to-speech functionality integrated directly into their products. Before seeking out a third-party app like Speechify, browse the tool that you are using and determine if there is already an integrated option available. This is especially common in research databases and other subscription services.

3. Translation and Language Access

These tools translate one language into another. While AI is beginning to offer real-time audio translation, text-to-text translations are still the most common and accessible option. Translation tools, like the ones listed below, can improve communication by breaking down language barriers:

  • Google Translate: Google Translate is probably the most well-known of the free translation tools. Users input text in their native language, choose an output language, and click to have the passage translated. It’s quick and easy. Google Translate currently supports 133 languages.
  • ImTranslator: This option works similarly to Google Translate. Users can copy and paste text on the ImTranslator website or use the browser extension to facilitate translations. ImTranslator supports 90 different languages.
  • AI Chatbots: As an alternative to dedicated translation tools, like Google Translate and ImTranslator, students can also use generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Gemini, Claude, and Copilot. To do this, they can type or paste text into the submission field and then ask the chatbot to translate the content into a specified language. If one chatbot doesn’t work well, you might want to try another, as different chatbots may have access to different languages.
  • Duolingo: If students want help with learning a new language, AI-empowered tools like Duolingo can be excellent learning partners. In fact, these applications are often considered some of the most promising uses for generative AI technology and have been shown to aid in speeding up the language acquisition process.

Historically, if someone wanted feedback on their speaking skills, they’d either need to speak to a mirror or find another human to listen to them. Those strategies are still available, but AI is changing what is possible and providing new options. Here are a few representative examples:

  1. ReadM: This is an example of an application that helps students learn to read. It listens and provides real-time feedback to students as they read aloud passages on the screen. When they get it correct, they are congratulated. This type of technology can free up teachers to spend more time with individual students, while still offering personalized, instantaneous feedback to all students in the classroom.
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint Speaker Coach: This AI speech coach is integrated into Microsoft PowerPoint. Users select “Slide Show” from the top menu, and then click “Rehearse with Coach.” From there, they can practice their presentation, and the assistant provides feedback in real time through a little chatbot in the bottom corner. At the end of the practice session, the virtual coach offers an overall summary with feedback on things such as pace, filler words (like “um” and “ah”), repetitive language, pronunciation (with follow-up practice), inclusiveness, originality, and pitch.
  3. Yoodli: Yoodli is another speech coach, but it’s not dependent on PowerPoint. With this tool, you record video and audio of yourself speaking. Based on that recording, you are given suggestions and analysis on things like word choice and delivery. Yoodli advises that it is not intended for users younger than 16. Users get five practice sessions with the free version.

Rather than focusing on one aspect of communication, the following tools offer multiple-use functionality and can be helpful in developing a wider variety of communication skills:

  1. MagicStudent: This is the student-facing partner to the popular app MagicSchool for teachers. It offers over 30 different tools powered by generative AI. These tools are COPPA and FERPA compliant and allow teachers to push out and monitor specific options for their students. A number of the applications in this collection focus on communication. Options include “Raina for Students,” an interactive chatbot, Writing Feedback, Language Learning Tutor, Translate It!, Idea Generator, Summarize It!, and Sentence Starters. Teachers can either single out an app to use as a full class or offer a broader palette of choices to their students, so they have voice and choice.
  2. Generative AI Chatbots: AI chatbots—like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google Gemini, Anthropic’s Claude, and Microsoft Copilot—can do many of the same things as MagicStudent. However, because they are not designed specifically for educational use, users must construct their own prompts. While MagicStudent guides users by asking targeted questions, generative AI chatbots are much more wide open and offer little guidance. This flexibility puts more responsibility on the user and requires a higher degree of skill, but it also opens up many more options. Users are limited only by their ability to ask creative questions and generate prompts. These tools can be used for editing and proofreading by pasting in a selection of writing and then asking for specific types of feedback, like “How might I improve the fluency of this writing?” or “What additional supporting details could strengthen my argument?” The key to using these generative AI chatbots effectively is asking the right questions about your writing, and that’s a great skill for students to practice. Students can even have a conversation with the chatbot by asking it to respond to their questions and statements in conversational form. This can be a great way to process an idea, find gaps in reasoning, or practice for a debate.

Communication is an expansive umbrella topic, and these examples only scratch the surface of how AI might help you and your students further develop communication skills. While you may consider some of these ideas and tools as starting points, don’t stop there. Use your own imagination and creativity to come up with additional ways to leverage these powerful new tools. And, of course, with any digital tool that you select, be sure to review the terms of use, as well as your own school policies, to make sure it’s acceptable to use these tools with your students.

If you’re nervous that AI will simply communicate for your students, rather than helping them grow their own skills, consider having them share how they use AI in the creation of their work. Rather than just turning in a final writing sample, students can be asked to explain their process, what they learned, and how AI helped them improve their work. This puts the focus on the process and analysis, rather than just the final product, and reduces the benefits of using AI to cheat. With this strategy, students can be rewarded for their honesty and self-analysis.

AVID Connections

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

  • Instruction
  • Rigorous Academic Preparedness
  • Opportunity Knowledge
  • Student Agency
  • Break Down Barriers

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