School AI technology and ChatGPT are not the end of creativity or originality in classrooms. Rather, says one education expert, it should allow educators to reach new heights with project-based learning, personalized instruction, and other innovative K12 concepts.
“Only teachers—only human beings—know the students, and what works and what doesn’t work,” says Betty Chandy, the director for online learning at Catalyst, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s center for education innovation. “Artificial intelligence and ChatGPT are going to be tools to empower teachers to meet students’ needs more efficiently and effectively.”
The AI getting the most attention right now is, of course, ChatGPT, which, because it can read, understand in context, and respond in human-like ways, is intensifying fears of plagiarism, cheating, and misinformation. Chandy points out that educators of the past had the same concerns about the use of the internet and Google in classrooms.
“Education is the process of getting there,” Chandy says.”For teachers whose focus is on the learning process and supporting their students to learn and improve, for them it’s less of a concern that students will plug something into ChatGPT and turn it in for a grade.”
AI’s ability to write essays and complete other tasks should inspire teachers to further shift their focus away from rote instruction and move toward multi-disciplinary, project-based learning assignments that help students develop higher-level skills. Students will be even more engaged (and less likely to use technology to cheat) when projects allow them to find solutions to issues they find meaningful and in ways that improve their communities, Shandy explains.
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AI should also elevate teachers’ ability to differentiate and personalize instruction by crunching data and recommending assignments targeted to each student’s ability. “I do not see a future in which any kind of technology replaces the teachers,” Chandy says. “I think these technologies have the capacity to be great teachers’ assistants.”
Ideas for using school AI
Chandy has five guidelines for how teachers can bring AI into their classrooms:
- Use ChatGPT as a starting point. ChatGPT-generated essays can sometimes be superficial, boring, and redundant. Teachers could have their classes generate ChatGPT essays and then guide students in improving the texts with deeper analysis.
- Ask ChatGPT to generate articles on topics at each student’s reading level. Teachers can ask ChatGPT to “translate” news articles into a second- or sixth-grade reading level to provide the same content for students at varied reading levels.
- Ask ChatGPT to suggest activities. AI can generate entire lesson plans if teachers provide the standards and grade level. Teachers can also have the AI produce lessons with games or other activities built into them.
- Focus on the process instead of the final product. Using tools like Google docs that track the development and evolution of students’ work can ensure they are not copying and pasting from ChatGPT.
- Provide project-based learning scenarios. Projects focused on local and authentic contexts will discourage students from reporting to ChatGPT. They might use AI to inform their work—just like they use the web now—but well-developed projects require them to think through ideas and extrapolate to their own contexts.
“Schools can now move away from an instructional pedagogy to a constructionist pedagogy where teachers and students are making things together,” Chandy adds. “I’m very excited about the possibilities of what this technology can do.”