- AI has raced to the top of education’s new tech list–here’s how to use it in classrooms
- See article: ChatGPT is the shakeup education needs
- See article: 4 exciting ways AI is a game-changer for teachers
- For more news on AI in education, visit eSN’s Digital Learning page
Since its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT and AI in education have dominated conversations in the media landscape and within the industry. A key conversation focuses on weighing its benefits versus risks, and many education institutions have been quick to implement bans on the technology altogether for fears of plagiarism in written works. Here you will find everything you need to know about AI in education so you can determine for yourself.
As technology evolves, industries must evolve alongside it, and education is no exception – especially in an era where students heavily and regularly engage in technology and its applications. Instead of being afraid of the unknown, educators and leaders should navigate these changes with curiosity and an open mind and embrace the shake up the education industry has been waiting for. ChatGPT in education can be the answer we’re looking for in our search for the ideal, personalized student experience–and ultimately student success.
Use ChatGPT as an innovative pathway in education
For students and educators alike, allowing for creativity in new types of learning in the classroom should always be encouraged. In a structured classroom setting, an educator can only be expected to teach a certain amount of curriculum, and learners can only retain so much information at one time. By harnessing the power of AI in education technology, learners can access a broader understanding of a topic, mitigating the structural bias of the institution and curriculum.
Utilizing technology and AI in schools, which generates perspectives aggregated from myriad sources, allows for an expanded understanding of a certain topic or theme, which was initially seeded within the four walls of the classroom, but now can be encouraged and further explored with support from platforms like ChatGPT.
ChatGPT in education
Take, for example, a lesson plan on the War of 1812. A professor or educator can spend a lecture or semester teaching the curriculum, but if you ask ChatGPT what the biggest takeaways from the war are, it’s possible and likely a learner is provided with even more context and historical facts via the chatbot than what is possible for an instructor to cover from a set curriculum. Is this a problem? No–not if we’re viewing it as a lens to further support learning and broaden the scope of topics that can be covered. As educators, we are trying to light that spark of curiosity that will ignite a fire of lifelong learning. ChatGPT use in education provides that adaptive capability to teach content, but at the learners’ interest to supplement the instructional direction.
How can I use AI as a teacher?
When ChatGPT was first released, questions swirled around higher ed about it stoking an increase in plagiarism, promoting a lack of critical thinking, and what the future would hold for classic functions like the college admission essay. If we go back to the War of 1812 lecture example, we can see the value of adaptive learning if we instead embrace these tech advancements. Instead of thinking about ChatGPT spitting out the answers about the biggest takeaways from the war and assuming the learner is using the tool for the sole purpose of plagiarism, we need to shift the thinking to how it can reignite curiosity in the curriculum. If one of these bullet points is different from what the learner may have originally come up with, there’s a new intrigue of the history and subsequent understanding of it, opening a new avenue for continued learning and interest.
In education, it’s about getting to the same point on the mountain, no matter where the learner starts. In this case, whether pulling insight specifically from a lecture or digging deeper into the curriculum with additional insight from ChatGPT, the learner is still understanding, analyzing, and writing the assignment. Educators can meet students where they are in viewing the tool with curiosity and encouraging it as a supplemental effort to their overall learning journey.
Which AI is the best for students?
As technology continues to evolve, the education industry has immense opportunities to harness these new applications. Thinking back, Wikipedia was the previous version of ChatGPT, assembling information more quickly and with limited control or monitoring from educators. This created a depth of knowledge at the click of mouse, which has become a valued resource for learners of all ages. This accessibility can provide different perspectives than those available within the classroom text and gives the curious mind the ability to decipher for themselves what is most valuable. Let’s face it–there will certainly be something to follow ChatGPT, just like there will undoubtedly be tools to ensure plagiarism is not the new norm. It’s imperative to start evaluating our tech stacks differently as a part of the learning journey–standardized academic assessment is not the only measure of success.
Creating personalized experiences for each learner is key. With this change to embrace advancing technology comes new opportunities for educators and students alike to create a better experience. Taking into account analytics skills, social and emotional learning, and importantly, the human experience, will always remain its cornerstone. ChatGPT is only one example of how educators and learners can start to analyze and shift grading practices, allowing for more curiosity and interest in the industry. It’s time to embrace the shakeup education has been waiting for and use AI in education as a steppingstone to reimagine what success and experience looks like.
What are the best AI tools for teachers?
In the world of AI in education, where innovation and creativity are especially vital, technologies with AI-generated content are reshaping teaching and how students learn in surprising ways.
There has been no shortage of news coverage on AI in education and ChatGPT in education. However, much of that coverage has centered on the student experience. We miss a hugely important part of this conversation if we don’t also focus on how this technology could positively impact the teaching profession.
4 exciting ways AI is a game-changer for teachers
Here are just a few exciting ways that teachers can be using AI to inspire creativity and drastically improve their impact on students:
1. Lift the burden of tedious tasks: On average, teachers work more than 50 hours per week but spend less than half of that time actually teaching students. By allowing teachers to automate potentially time-consuming tasks, these technologies give them more space to focus on student learning and differentiation. Kristina Holzweiss, who is in her 28th year as an educator in New York, said she has used ChatGPT to write course descriptions and college recommendations. The ability for teachers to have AI generate an initial lesson plan or class activity allows them to shift their valuable time towards refining content using their expertise, differentiating for all learners, and tailoring lessons to fit the needs and passions of their students. AI becomes a collaborative partner, not an adversary, freeing the educator to bring engaging learning experiences to life much more easily.
2. Enable greater differentiation and more inclusive classrooms: Teachers are already using AI in education powered tools to create more inclusive learning experiences for all students. Erika Sandstrom, who currently works with students in grades 4-8 in Massachusetts, created a custom, animated template–something she calls “Breathing Bubbles”–that helps her students with mindfulness and breathing exercises. These animated templates used a text-to-image AI-powered feature to allow each student to personalize the breathing bubble they’ve conjured from their imagination. A student can dream up a memory, place, or activity that represents joy or peace and create a unique breathing bubble customized to them. This ability to personalize each exercise improved student engagement. Teachers can also leverage AI-powered platforms to more quickly adjust the difficulty of classwork based on a student’s reading abilities or level of understanding, allowing learners to progress at their own pace. Teachers can even leverage AI-generated content before a lesson, to proactively identify areas where students could struggle with a new concept and generate ideas to help them overcome hurdles. In other words, this technology has the potential to level the playing field for students and create classroom environments that make all learners feel supported.
3. Unlock creativity with new ideas: Oftentimes, the most difficult part of any classroom project is getting started. AI can help both teachers and students overcome even the nastiest case of writer’s block by analyzing enormous amounts of data and making personalized recommendations. Dr. Michael Vorasuang, director of the Office of Online Education at Thailand’s Sripatum University, said: “Leveraging AI in schools as a collaborative partner helps me add new, creative ideas to educational projects. I enjoy using generative AI to draft engaging class discussion questions and even synthesize education research. Ultimately, this helps engage and inspire my students.”
4. Prepare students for a future with AI: As AI and education becomes more commonplace–and sophisticated–it is crucial to emphasize the importance of information literacy and responsible use. It can be extremely challenging to spot the difference between fact and fiction–to identify biases and hallucinations that could inevitably come with AI-generated content. We want every learner to unlock their creativity, but educators must also empower students to become more discerning consumers and creators of digital content, teaching them to think critically and confirm information from multiple sources. Teachers will benefit greatly from high-quality professional development opportunities on how to effectively and responsibly incorporate AI tools into their educational ecosystems. It almost goes without saying that school districts and policymakers will need to both collaborate with and seek input from educators to develop effective guidelines around student use.
AI-powered platforms can help teachers more easily cultivate an environment that allows students to collaborate, get creative, think critically, and communicate visually. And, in an age where teachers are being asked to shoulder an increasingly heavy load, AI-generated content can save time, unlock creativity, personalize learning, inspire joy, and ultimately make the profession more sustainable.
Although the implementation of these technologies might initially seem like extra work to some and flat-out scary to others, they have the power to create a more inclusive world by expanding the way students learn–and just as importantly, the way teachers engage and support them.
How can I use AI as a teacher?
Using AI-generated content can eliminate much of the time teachers spend on preparation and grading—reducing their week by as much as 30 percent—and giving them more time for what they do best: teaching students. AI can also provide schools tools to foster a less stressful, more flexible work environment. Here’s how.
AI tremendously cuts down on lesson prep.
Preparing lessons is one of the more time-consuming parts of a teacher’s job. According to a McKinsey’s study, teachers spend over 20 percent of their time just preparing for class. That’s over ten hours a week. An AI tech company can help by giving teachers the power of AI to scan text and turn it into well-designed slides. By simply sharing a link to a textbook or by uploading a PDF, the AI then auto-creates well-designed slides that teachers tweak to use for sleek lesson presentations. This could save teachers substantial time — while also creating more aesthetically-pleasing results—as most teachers aren’t designers!
AI reduces challenges with time off.
The substitute teacher shortage is dire and hinders a school’s ability to function. Far too often, teachers come to school sick due to the lack of substitutes. Schools must support teachers as humans; AI can help them reduce preparation time and act as an instruction supplement.
“We’re seeing a major shortage of substitute teachers,” says David McGrath, headmaster of Paragon Prep, a high school in Austin, TX. “Rather than putting a pause on instruction, how marvelous would it be if a teacher could program their own avatar to teach a lesson on a day they have to be out sick or at a conference? A staff member can sit in the room while the avatar plays on the screen.”
Schools can leverage the teacher’s AI-generated lesson on the same subject, while teachers can track and monitor a student’s progress. This gives teachers and the administration more flexibility when missing school days—whether it’s the teacher or a student missing class.
“As long as the teacher can shape the message and is programming the avatar to do their job for them, I think teachers would see this technology not as a threat but as an amazing tool,” explains McGrath.
AI transforms textbooks into interactive study guides.
As Gen Z prefers learning via video platforms like YouTube over reading, it’s clear that textbook publishers need to innovate and evolve in order to help students and teachers. New AI technologies can be used directly by publishers to auto-convert textbooks into engaging video lessons. This could save teachers tremendous time, allowing teachers to edit and personalize lessons for their classes without starting from scratch.
Students can read while listening and pause or rewatch when needed—making the interactive videos particularly helpful for those struggling with traditional studying forms. These videos benefit teachers who incorporate the “flipped classroom” methodology, which is increasingly popular and promising. With this technology, teachers could also leverage AI-generated avatars in their videos to make the lessons more interesting. For example, teachers could have Pythagoras explain his own theorem in ancient Greece, for example.
AI helps with automatic grading and assessment creation.
Teachers spend between five to seven hours a week grading. This is widely known as the worst part of teaching. AI can eliminate much of this.
With AI tools, grading becomes automatic. And with instant answers, students can better understand the concepts. AI can also reduce the teacher’s time creating questions, as it automatically generates possible learning assessments.
Furthermore, when it comes to subjects like math, AI education tools can quickly adapt to a student’s level, so homework becomes a way to have a deeper understanding of a student’s mastery of a subject. For instance, AI can challenge certain students who need a challenge and slow down for students who need more time understanding the subject. In turn, this generates better insights into the teachers’ understanding of the student’s efforts.
Many fear that computer-generated grading would only perpetuate the education system’s reliance on multiple-choice questions. But with AI in schools, that is simply not the case. When answering basic questions, AI can read a student’s answers. Perhaps it’s not ready to read a 5-paragraph essay on To Kill a Mockingbird, but it will know if a student paid attention when asked who Boo Radley is.
AI could transform tutoring.
A 2017 study found that tutoring is the most effective way to improve learning outcomes among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. But most teachers, particularly in public schools, don’t have the time for one-on-one instruction with every student.
AI edtech companies like Hypatia are already making this incredible technology a reality. Technologies have tremendous potential to assist with tutoring as well. Will this replace the need for human tutors? Well, as a mother of two rambunctious kids, I think certainly not. After all, it’s widely agreed that lasting relationships are the key to the efficacy of tutoring. The idea that a robot can replace teachers is laughable. But can it be used as a low-cost, highly scalable tutoring supplement? Absolutely
Is there any AI for teachers and lesson plans?
Much of the education narrative around ChatGPT has focused on the potential downsides of the AI tool (think Skynet from “The Terminator”). But as a high school teacher who has experimented with the sophisticated word predictor app in my economics, U.S. History, and speech and debate classes, I’ve found that ChatGPT in education provides opportunities to engage the students in class activities. Here’s how I’ve harnessed a tool that is here to stay (no matter how many school districts try to block it).
I welcomed our first “speaker,” ChatGPT.
Our student learning is anchored around Harkness discussions, an educational approach in which students discuss class readings, course material, and other texts. Students learn how to prepare for a discussion, have difficult conversations, understand different perspectives, and meaningfully participate. While many students grasp the notion of voicing their ideas, teaching them to build upon another student’s point is more difficult.
In Economics, we spent one class analyzing the dot-com bubble at the turn of the millennium. To prepare, I asked ChatGPT what caused the bubble, and here was the response:
“The dot-com bubble was caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Irrational exuberance: Investors were overly optimistic about the potential of internet-based companies, leading to a huge influx of investment capital.
- Overvaluation of tech startups: Startups with no revenue or profits were valued at extremely high prices, leading to a bubble.
- Lack of regulation: The SEC failed to adjust its regulations to the new realities of the internet and the stock market.
- Hype around internet technology: There was a lot of hype around the potential of the internet, which fueled the bubble.
- These factors combined to create the Dot-com Bubble, which burst in 2000-2001 causing many internet-based companies to fail, leading to a significant loss of investment capital.”
In class, I asked the students to respond to or build upon the ChatGPT answer in 2-4 sentences. Next, the students considered what facts or context would make the ChatGPT response more accurate or complete. Then, the students created three Harkness questions based on the ChatGPT response: a clarifying question, a curiosity question, and a probing question.
Student questions included: How could the government help prevent a future dot-com bubble? What are the measurements that determine whether the stock price of a company matches its value? How would an investor utilize bubbles to increase the value of their investment before leaving when the going is good?
Finally, I input the student questions into ChatGPT, projected the app’s responses live on the board, and asked the students to build upon the app’s response in a live discussion.
After going back and forth with ChatGPT, the class reflected on how the AI tool produced its content. We discussed, for example, whether the word predictor technology focused on certain keywords to produce generalized information regarding a financial crisis, most of which could be generalized to any financial crisis, including the 1929 stock market crash. Through this exercise, students learned to build on a prior discussion point, think on their feet, and better develop arguments.
I asked teens to fact-check ChatGPT’s answers.
Right now in my U.S. History class, we are studying Reconstruction. During a recent lesson, I asked ChatGPT, “What is Radical Reconstruction?” The app replied:
“‘Radical Reconstruction’ refers to the period of American history from 1867 to 1877 in which the federal government, under the leadership of the Republican Party, actively sought to rebuild the Southern states that had seceded during the Civil War and to provide civil rights and political representation for the newly freed slaves. This period was marked by the passage of several important pieces of legislation, including the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which granted citizenship and voting rights to African Americans. The period was also marked by conflict and violence, as white Southerners resisted the changes and the federal government’s efforts to enforce them.”
I then asked the students, working in pairs, to critically analyze the ChatGPT response. What is accurate about this response? What is inaccurate? What facts or context could be added to the response to make it more complete?
Working in pairs, some students observed that though the start and end dates were accurate, the response was very vague and could benefit from referencing notable people, quotes, amendments, and laws. Other students noted that because Radical Reconstruction was more of a movement rather than an event, it is difficult to establish the exact dates. Many online sources report that it ended in 1872 rather than 1877. Why is there a discrepancy regarding the exact dates? That prompted a discussion around historical accuracy, historiography, and how we choose to report and sequence events. Further, some students noted the 15th Amendment only applied to African American men.
This lesson reinforced that one must always view online content with a critical eye. One of the most important skills to teach students today is how to discern which online sources are credible, and which are not.
I had students debate the app.
In Speech and Debate, one of the hardest skills to teach students is to think on their feet and deliver rebuttals. In Parliamentary debate, students are given a topic and a short time to conduct quick research before the debate begins. This format requires participants to construct arguments on the spot and respond immediately to their opponents.
To practice for the upcoming debate tournament, I fed sample debate resolutions to ChatGPT, projected the app’s responses, and had the students respond in real time.
To begin, I gave ChatGPT the resolution, “Should 16-year-olds have the right to vote?” Students were quick to identify weaknesses in the app’s argument, and they delivered their rebuttals. For example, one of my students argued that 16-year-olds should not be able to vote because their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed (a keen observation from a fellow 16-year-old). Other students argued that 18 is an arbitrary age that confers the maturity of an adult (if not yet the ability to purchase alcohol) — so why not 16?
Students reflected that using ChatGPT in debate prep was valuable because the app was able to launch the debate, outline arguments, provide a foundation of the issue, and retrieve useful points that the students could later adapt and refine.
AI isn’t going anywhere, which means it’s up to us, educators, to find creative ways to engage with it in our classrooms. We are still smarter than the machines, for now!
How to use AI tools in teaching –here’s a to-do list
The AI revolution is here, and educators are feeling the impact. For many, it is exciting, unsettling and overwhelming all at the same time.
The key to successfully navigating this maelstrom of emotions is to start small, break the challenge down into achievable tasks, and begin with actions that will have the most impact. This five step to-do list can help educators engage in artificial intelligence and begin using it to positively impact both teaching and learning.
1. Learn about AI.
Begin by gaining a basic understanding of AI in education. Read news stories, follow the conversation on social media, and explore some of the many free resources available online. Here are a few good options to get you started.
- The AI Revolution: Google’s Developers on the Future of Artificial Intelligence (60 Minutes)
- AI in the K-12 Classroom (AVID Open Access)
- Artificial Intelligence (U.S. Office of Educational Technology)
- Recommendations on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (UNESCO)
Beyond understanding the big picture, one of the best ways to demystify artificial intelligence is to set up a free account with one of the leading generative AI chatbots (ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing Chat, Google Bard, or Claude) and start experimenting with it.
If you’re unsure where to begin, ask the chatbot for help brainstorming lesson ideas and then ask follow-up questions until you get something you can use. This hands-on experience will help you better understand generative AI tools within a practical context, and it can save you time.
2. Engage in the conversation.
Educators are the experts in teaching and learning, and they need to be at the center of conversations about how artificial intelligence will be used in education. Their input is vital in order to guide schools toward practices that will be the most beneficial to students. Questions such as these can help guide the conversation:
- What do you need to learn about AI, and how can you gain that knowledge?
- What potential benefits and challenges might AI present to teaching and learning?
- How might you need to modify current practices because of AI?
- How can you leverage AI to improve teaching and learning?
- How can you empower your students for success in an AI world?
Whenever possible, schools should integrate these conversations into professional learning opportunities and staff meetings so educators can engage with one another and collaboratively develop an action plan.
3. Teach students about AI in education.
Today’s students will graduate into an AI world and an AI-infused workforce. To be prepared for that reality, they need to learn about it now. Several organizations have developed free instructional resources to assist teachers with this task. These materials can be especially helpful for educators who are beginning to learn about AI and may not yet feel prepared to teach it.
- The AI Education Project (aiEDU). This website offers an introduction to AI, AI Snapshots (5 minute student activities), AI challenges for students, an AI in 5 minutes primer, and even a 10 week project-based course in the project dashboard.
- Day of AI is an annual event sponsored by MIT RAISE and i2 Learning. Their website is packed with teacher-ready curriculum and activities that can be used throughout the year with students ages 5-18.
- Hands-On AI Projects for the Classroom is a guide for elective teachers from ISTE and General Motors. This document provides everything you need to implement four AI themed projects in your classroom. Projects are aligned with current ISTE standards.
4. Help students develop workforce AI skills.
Artificial Intelligence is impacting the workforce skills our students will need. The Future of Jobs Report 2023 from the World Economic Forum has identified the skills that companies believe will be the most important for an AI workforce.
- Analytical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Resilience, flexibility, and agility
- Motivation and self-awareness
- Curiosity and lifelong learning
- Technological literacy
To prepare students for this type of workforce, educators must design impactful learning opportunities that require the use of these AI in education skills. Listening to a lecture, writing notes, filling out worksheets, and taking tests will almost surely not be enough. To develop these higher order thinking and self-management skills, students will need to engage in rich learning experiences like inquiry learning, project-based learning, creative projects, and other forms of authentic problem-solving.
5. Engage students in using AI in school.
If your students are not allowed to use the tools themselves, consider modeling their use. If you are allowed to use an AI account at school, project it on a screen in front of the class and have students help you generate prompts, evaluate responses, and use the generated content. Even if you’re still learning yourself, engaging in the experience with your students is a great opportunity to model a growth mindset, introduce AI in education, and involve your students in the learning journey.
Finally, educators should identify AI education tools as they and their students use them. Artificial intelligence is all around us, and students are likely already using AI tools like spell checkers, predictive text, grammar checkers, mapping programs, self-paced learning modules, and video games. Calling attention to these common applications can make the topic of AI feel less overwhelming and help students better understand the role that this transformative technology is already playing in their daily lives.
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