Friday, December 16, 2022

Some Thoughts About AI in Education

On Tuesday I published a short overview of ChatGPT which is a free artificial intelligence writing tool. I followed that up with a post on Wednesday morning about Canva’s new artificial intelligence writing tool called Magic Write. In both instances I mentioned that I think there are some good things that could come from these kinds of AI tools and there are some bad things that could come from these kinds of tools. Let’s take a look at some of each.

The potential good things about AI writing tools:
Earlier this week I had a meeting with the CEO of a company that is developing a new tool that utilizes AI to generate lesson plan ideas based on some basic input from you. For example, you can enter grade level and topic or standard to have a lesson plan generated. The lesson plan can be modified by simply entering the length of time that you want an activity to be. For example, the lesson plan changes based on whether you enter 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. For the teacher who has run out of ideas for a lesson plan, this use of AI could be a good thing.

Next week I will publish a blog post about Canva’s new AI feature that turns your documents into slideshows. The potential good of a tool like that is the ability for teachers who have lots of lesson outlines to quickly generate some slideshows that are easy to incorporate into online and in-person classes.

AI writing tools could be the answer to the age-old “I don’t know what to write about” lament of students in language arts classes who have been given a block of “free write” time. A quick entry in either ChatGPT or Canva’s Magic Write will generate a list of creative writing prompts.

On a similar note to generation of writing prompts, an AI tool can generate lists of related research topics for students who have hit a dead-end as well as those who need a little help forming their first queries.

The potential bad things about AI writing tools:
I’ll bet you a year’s supply of my favorite Christmas cookies that there are students who have already used a tool like ChatGPT or Canva’s Magic Write to generate an entire essay and passed it off as their own work. And I’ll bet my favorite bicycle that there will be many more who try to do the same.

As handy as it is to have a list of writing prompts or research queries generated for you, I fear that we’re outsourcing our creativity to an algorithm. That kind of easy resolution when you’re “stuck” doesn’t help to build perseverance or problem solving ability. On a similar note, I worry about collections of AI-generated lesson plans getting packaged together by a big publisher who then sells it as a canned curriculum that every teacher in a school or school district has to follow verbatim.

I’ve seen mention of AI being used to generate narrative report cards about students. On the surface it seems like a time-saver for teachers. Unfortunately, it removes true personalization from the process.

Living With AI
I’m old enough to remember teachers telling students that they couldn’t use internet sources in their research papers. And I remember many raging debates about whether or not students should look at Wikipedia. Hopefully, I’ll live long enough to remember the current debates about the use of AI in education.

AI isn’t going away so we need to figure out how to teach knowing that it exists. I’ve seen some people suggest requiring students to include a level of personalization in their writing and or presentations that “proves” they didn’t use AI. The trouble with that is the AI is improving all the time and soon personalizing via AI will be easy to do.

I’m still thinking about how AI will fit in the context of classrooms. I don’t have a perfect answer and I might not ever get to a perfect answer. But that’s okay because “perfect” is a moving goal anyway when we’re trying to figure out what’s best for the kids in our classrooms today.

By the way, after writing all of the above I asked ChatGPT to write something about the pros and cons of AI in education. The screenshot below shows what it generated. (Click the image to view it in full size).