To AI or Not to AI, that is the question….

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There has been a lot of buzz in education post New Years with some large school districts ousting the use of AI in their schools. Both professionally and personally we have been having a play with the ChatGPT from Open AI. My first impression is WOW, this pushes me as a teacher and as a learner to up my game. To do this does not feel lonely at all- instead it like I have my own Daemon like that in the series “His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman.

Knowing that some school districts i.e NYC has outright banned the use of ChatGPT saddens me though not surprising as we have outlawed the use of calculators, cell phones and probably slide rulers when they were the transformative tool. I see this new tool as one that continues to help democratize education and essential to teach students (and teachers) how to use it ethically and purposefully. There are already tools in place to help detect AI plagiarism. NPR recently reported on one that was created by a Stanford computer science graduate. OpenAI also issued a tool/detector that was shared via Higher Education constituents and I shared it with the teachers I am working with as well.

At CTL Academy we are having a play with the system and learning ways to incorporate it into our teaching and learning practice. For example I took a writing prompt that an English teacher assigned to her students and put it into ChatGPT to see the answer. Then I shared with her the answer asking if this is what she is expecting the students to write. Then challenged her to revise the prompt to make it require that the students actually think.

In another situation I thought it would be fun to see how the ChatGPT might lesson plan. I asked it to design an interdisciplinary 9th grade project and here are its results. Using the system as an initial tool to have a brainstorm or consider new ideas was beneficial and allowed me to spend my time considering deeper questions and more specifically what I want students to learn from their experience doing the assignment.

Teaching students how to use the tool is also beneficial. For example if a student is asked to create an autobiographical ethnographic study he/she might need some help generating meaningful questions. Asking ChatGPT for some ideas is a good place to start. The student would engage with the tool as a step towards accessing key information but not stop there. Even the ChatGPT sees the value of engaging with other humans.

Recently my 12 year old daughter was getting stuck on her science assessment. She is working on an online curriculum that engages with instant feedback (most likely generated by some form of primitive AI). Though she would know the concept she did not always enter the answer in the correct terminology expected by the system. So we took the science test questions and put them into ChatGPT. The tool gave her the specific answers and she would tweak them a little bit and put it into her science test. Though it did not work 100% of the time it did help her minimize the number of re-dos she had to do.

In this last example it is important to recognize the challenge with ethics. Is it alright for students to use tools to help them construct their knowledge? If they are getting caught with semantics and know the material then why not give them the translation tool? Now more than ever we need to teach students how to use tools to help them navigate their future and more deeply understand the world’s issues encouraging students to work on solutions. The power of knowledge is shifting (and has been for a while. How often do you ‘ask Google, or Siri or Alexa’?). Anyone with access to the internet, which should be the world since it is deemed a human right, can know the facts. Now it is a matter of getting learners to prioritize this knowledge and make connections to solving our challenges; perhaps we will see a shift in what we value in education and after the basic skills like reading, writing and numeracy are learned students are introduced to complex, interdisciplinary challenges to work on? Using AI will help them go further, faster and perhaps more thorough if they know how to engage with the tool.

Looking forward to this next education revolution and building it in to our Global program part of CTL Academy. Interested? Come along and sign up for more information.

Part 2:

After sharing this post I came across more resources that you might look at especially if you are a teacher. Madison Library shares several great links with tools to help you engage and shape your (and your students) interactions.

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

2 thoughts on “To AI or Not to AI, that is the question….

  1. Dear Mara,
    I love the push here for educators to embrace a reality that we cannot stop, and instead learn and grow with it. AI is part of our present and will for sure continue to be more ores t in our future. As educators, we need to step out of our comfort zone and ensure our teaching practices stay current and relevant.
    When I first heard about this, my initial thought was “oh no! How can we counter this?” Your article has pushed me to think differently, more realistically, challenge my practice and embrace the discomforts.
    Thank you again, for the push!


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