If it seems as if everyone is suddenly talking about artificial intelligence (AI), it’s because they are. This spike in interest and attention is largely due to the launch of a number of really impressive products, including ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion from Stability AI.
In the three months since ChatGPT by OpenAI has been made publicly available, its popularity has exploded. It’s estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users in January 2023, just two months after launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Microsoft has invested $10 billion in OpenAI and has set a breakneck pace for the tech industry to follow.
But what exactly is ChatGPT, and why are we talking about it in K–12 education?
ChatGPT is an example of artificial intelligence. While most of us think of AI as J.A.R.V.I.S. from the Marvel Universe or HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey, it’s something you’ve been using in some form or another for a while. It’s already living in your pocket and backpack. Your phone uses AI for face recognition and predictive texts. What’s new in AI, however, is the generative component. That means, ChatGPT—a chatbot—can simulate conversation with a human-like tone at the click of a button. Short for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, ChatGPT uses a Large Language Model (LLM aka lots of data) to produce unique text from a user’s specific input based on existing content from the internet.
ChatGPT has been banned by some schools and districts across the U.S., and even countries. But more and more, educators are trying to figure out how to use this technological advancement to improve learning outcomes for their students. AI in education can produce powerful teaching resources in a fraction of the time and effort.
As you think about what is on the horizon and how AI may positively impact your students’ learning experiences, the following AI products that focus on reading and writing skill development offer a glimpse into the rapidly shifting educational technology landscape.
AI and Early Literacy
There is an enormous science of literacy movement in the U.S., with 18 states having passed science of reading laws since 2021 and nine states with legislation. Educational technology companies have taken note, investing in start-ups that are offering voice.ai—the next big thing to impact early literacy development. Voice.ai enables digital devices to interact and respond to human voice commands in natural language.
- Amira is a speech recognition-based platform that listens as your student reads aloud, providing interactive tutoring and building literacy skills using the power of engaging stories. Features include personalized learning journeys tailored to your student’s unique learning style, a robust library of stories, and progress reports that provide real-time data on where your student is succeeding and struggling. Independent research has found that using Amira for 20 minutes per day, 3 days a week, doubles reading growth.
- Ello provides a subscription to physical books that your student reads aloud to Ello, an animated elephant who roots for their success and coaches them into becoming a confident, capable reader. Ello uses patent-pending speech recognition and adaptive learning technology to help students develop critical reading skills.
- Ready4Reading, powered by SoapBox and offered by Scholastic, is a K–3 supplemental print and digital phonics system operated by voice.ai that allows students to practice and learn independently while giving teachers the down-to-the-phoneme level analysis they need to personalize instruction for each student.
AI and Writing
One of the first concerns to emerge about ChatGPT was the fear that it would be used by students to write essays and enable other forms of cheating. In quick response, ed techs developed AI detectors, such as Turnitin’s AI detector and IdentifAI from Bartleby. “Fundamentally, we believe that AI can be a positive force and that equitable access to AI tools is vital. When used responsibly, AI has the potential to support and enhance the learning process. However, we recognize that for educators, there is a more pressing and immediate need to know when and where AI and AI writing tools have been used by students,” shares Turnitin CEO Chris Caren. Each of these companies, and many more, are committed to developing innovative ways to use AI to support students and their writing process.
Other ed tech players active in the writing skill development space include Packback and Pressto.
- Packback provides AI writing support for students to learn to develop their unique writing personality and the skills to express it, while also giving teachers an AI grading assistant with customizable rubrics to shorten the time it takes to provide individualized, guided feedback for every student. Deep Dives is Packback’s award-winning platform, which guides students through an iterative writing process that provides feedback based on specific assessment criteria, such as grammar and mechanics, flow and structure, research quality, and more.
- Pressto puts generative AI in the hands of elementary teachers to help them teach elementary students to write. By offering clickable text blocks to prompt students to structure their ideas, Pressto eliminates the fear of starting with a blank page. Pressto’s topic generator shares personalized prompts that appeal to kids to engage them in the writing process and tools to help teachers with lesson plans.
AI Tools to Explore in Your Classroom
As you explore what AI can do for you and your students, here are a few apps to help you get started:
- ChatGPT: Ask a question or input a request, and ChatGPT will respond. Explore examples of how teachers authentically incorporate it into their classrooms.
- DALL·E 2: Write a description of the image you want to create, and DALL·E 2 will generate it for you. Check out these six tips for getting started in writing prompts.
- Perplexity: Another generative AI chatbot is Perplexity, which sets itself apart by citing sources that are clickable, allowing you to validate research and explore context.
Extend Your Learning
- ‘Kids Can’t Read’: The Revolt That Is Taking on the Education Establishment (The New York Times)
- ChatGPT will fundamentally change how we teach writing; that’s a good thing (EdSource)
- A Conversation with Bill Gates and Jessie Woolley-Wilson (2023 ASU+GSV Summit)