How to (safely) use AI in education

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become one of the hottest topics in education. You’ve probably been asking yourself questions like, Will students use it to cheat? Will they lose their ability to think and write on their own? Will AI take over my job?  

As AI is becoming increasingly prevalent in our everyday lives, we’re here to assure you of a couple of things. First, no machine (no matter how smart and fast) can replace a great teacher. Second, there are actually some exciting ways you can leverage AI in education. Check out the ideas below.  

But first, what is AI?  

We asked ChatGPT to explain AI in simple terms, and here’s what it returned: “In its simplest terms, artificial intelligence is like having a smart computer that can learn and make decisions on its own. It uses large data sets, which are like collections of information, to understand things better and provide a personalized experience. Just like when you tell a friend what you like and they remember, AI uses data to learn about you and give you suggestions or recommendations that are tailored just for you. It’s like having a helpful digital friend that knows what you might enjoy or need!” 

You might not realize it, but you probably use AI all the time. Tools such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Now are all examples of intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) that adapt to their user’s preferences to provide a personalized experience. If you use social media sites such as Facebook, you’re experiencing a personalized feed produced by AI.  

More recent tools like ChatGPT or Bard have the ability to generate written work from prompts and are highly accessible to students. Consequently, some teachers worry that students might rely on these tools instead of producing original work. In addition to cheating concerns, using AI language generators for writing assignments raises several other issues.  

Issues with AI language generators  

When given the right prompt, ChatGPT and other tools like it can spit back a convincing essay or research paper. However, because the tools have been “trained” on the wide variety of information on the internet, they can have some of the following issues:   

  • They cannot truly understand the subject matter or the complexity of the human language, which means they can provide out-of-context answers. 
  • They often offer outdated or incorrect information (in fact, users are warned about this when they log on).   
  • They cannot vet their sources, which can result in biased information.  
  • Some AI generators cannot cite sources and those that can aren’t always accurate.  

With all these flaws, you may be considering banning the use of AI tools altogether. But the reality is, AI is everywhere and it’s not going away. Teaching students how AI works will build their digital literacy skills and prepare them for future careers. Learn about the 5 big ideas in artificial intelligence to better prepare yourself for those conversations.  

After gaining an understanding of your district’s ground rules for using AI in education, try these ideas for helping students learn how to use AI responsibly to enhance their education.    

9 ways to use AI in the classroom

  1. Discuss responsible AI use: Engage students in discussions about the benefits and limitations of AI tools such as ChatGPT. Explore topics such as bias, ethical considerations, and the significance of human input and judgment in the writing and editing process. 

    Throughout these activities, emphasize the importance of using ChatGPT as a support tool rather than a substitute for independent thinking and academic integrity. Promote discussions on responsible AI use, source verification, and the importance of honing their own writing and critical thinking skills.
  1. Become an AI programmer: Give students a deep understanding of how AI tools work by letting them train KAI: The Artificial Intelligence Robot! With this hands-on kit, students build and program an intelligent, six-legged robot and then record physical gestures and sounds that the robot then “learns.” The more data your students collect, the better KAI learns from it. The 64-page manual provides step-by-step instructions and teaches lessons in AI and robotics. 
  1. Become fact-checkers: Provide instruction on how to evaluate sources. Then, explain that many AI generators produce unreliable content. Encourage students to prompt ChatGPT to generate a response about something specific that would require valid sources. For example, “Write a 200-word explanation of the current research on brain cancer using bullet points for each fact.” Then, challenge students to validate the facts it produces by finding reliable sources for each one.  
  1. Talk to a fictional character: Khan Academy’s AI tool, Khanmigo, requires a monthly fee; however, it’s designed for educators and has some interesting features. One way to engage students with the tool is to turn Khanmigo into a fictional character. Students simply write a prompt such as, “I’d like to speak to Tom Joad from the Grapes of Wrath.” The tool will respond with, “Hi, I am now Tom Joad.” Students can continue the conversations with prompts such as, “Why did your family move to California?” or “What does Rose of Sharon symbolize?” to gain a deeper understanding of the novel.  
  1. Learn how to create better prompts: Describe a problem scenario for students such as this: The community has one major park with a baseball diamond and playground. However, the city wants to sell the land to a developer who is going to turn the property into luxury apartments that only high-income residents can afford. Have students ask ChatGPT to write a letter to the newspaper against the development.  

    Once they have their letters, ask them if they think the letters have the right tone. Are they passionate enough? Do they sound friendly or angry? Have them revise their prompts to specify a tone, such as “You are an angry resident who is accusing the city of fraud …” or “You are a gentle senior citizen writing this letter in a sweet, friendly tone …” Which letter was more persuasive? What is important to remember when crafting prompts? 
  1. Ask the editor: Have students input one of their writing assignments into Bard and prompt it to provide recommended revisions and identify grammar mistakes. Then, have them evaluate its suggestions and journal about it. Did they feel it had helpful suggestions? What areas did it identify in their writing that needed the most revisions (intro, conclusion, etc.)? Did they agree or disagree with its suggestions? Having them journal about the experience improves metacognition and helps them understand areas they made need to work on in their writing.  
  1. Be the editor: Have students prompt ChatGPT to generate a first draft of a research paper on a science topic. Have them grade the essay according to a prepared rubric. Then, have them edit the draft with critiques, corrections, and additions.  
  1. Hold a scientific or historical debate: Using a historical scenario or a controversial science topic, have some students prompt ChatGPT for bullet points in favor of one side of the issue and some students ask for bullet points in favor of the other side. Ask them to revise their prompts until they feel they have enough credible evidence to back up their claims. Then, pair students up to practice debate techniques, using their AI-generated prompts as discussion points. Once students get good at prompting AI for talking points, have them do a weekly 10-minute debate with different partners to hone their public speaking skills.  
  1. Personal math tutor: In a room of 25 or more students, it’s hard to be available for multiple students needing extra help. Your students can utilize AI to explain math concepts or to help them understand the next step to take to figure out a problem. Some AI tools will provide instructions; however, they will also reveal the answer. Education-focused tools such as Khanmigo will provide step-by-step math instruction without revealing the answer so students can use it as support instead of a crutch.  

More ideas and guidance from ChatGPT

Open AI recently released an educator‘s guide to Teaching with AI. In it, you‘ll find more ideas for using AI in the classroom and prewritten prompts to help you use ChatGPT to write lesson plans and activities for the classroom.

How will you use AI in education? 

As AI continues to advance, its integration into education becomes inevitable. By prioritizing digital literacy and responsible AI use, you can harness the potential of AI tools to enhance student learning, promote critical thinking, and prepare students for the future.  

How do you plan to use AI in your classroom? Tell us in the comments below.

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