Make the Most of AI in the Classroom

Teachers — while summer break is nearing its end, you might be fretting over how you’ll ensure students won’t use artificial intelligent (AI) tools like ChatGPT to cheat this year. Others might be gleefully leveraging AI to generate new curriculum ideas. Whether you’re a fan of it or not, you can be assured that students are going to use AI in the classroom this September.

A recent poll commissioned by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing safe media experiences for children, found that 50% of students aged 12–18 have used ChatGPT for school.

Some readers might recall the public concern when calculators first entered the classroom. As a Science News article from 1975 reported, “Opponents of calculators say that kids won’t know how to count if their calculator batteries ever go dead.” But much like the calculator, AI has its pros and cons.

With the power of AI, students can access private tutoring tools and benefit from sophisticated language learning aids. Teachers can streamline assessments with automated grading systems and quickly brainstorm new lesson plans with AI-powered idea generators.

Concerns surrounding AI in the classroom include students outsourcing writing assignments and math problems, thereby squandering their academic development. At the center of these worries is ChatGPT, an AI language model-based chatbot that can crank out written responses to prompts convincingly well.

To show you what we mean, we gave ChatGPT this prompt: “In one succinct paragraph, explain why teachers are concerned about students using ChatGPT for school work.” Here’s how it responded:

Teachers are concerned about students using ChatGPT for school work due to potential issues such as increased plagiarism risks, diminished critical thinking and problem-solving skills, reliance on potentially inaccurate information, a decline in originality and creativity, data privacy concerns, and the possibility of creating inequitable access to technology, all of which could hinder the students’ academic growth and development.

Not too shabby, right? You can see why some educators might tremble with fear when they realize ChatGPT is free and available to anyone with internet access.

As this technology is becoming more freely available to students, it seems inevitable that it’ll continue to make its way into classrooms — the question then shifts from if your students will use AI to how.

Many math teachers have had to explain how to use yardsticks and rulers properly in their classroom, and probably even had to explicitly prohibit wielding them like swords. This is a good analogy for AI. Though vastly more complex than a ruler, it is another tool that when used properly can be a significant boon to a child’s academic journey, but if used improperly can be a major disruption.

The Office of Educational Technology (OET) has several recommendations for leading educators when it comes to using AI in the classroom. Their overarching advice is ensuring that teachers and students are fully aware of how AI is being used in the classroom, and fully in control of it.

At the Journalistic Learning Initiative (JLI), we are always looking for opportunities to inspire self-directed learning among students. We find this is most effectively achieved when students are asked which current issues or topics interest them, then guiding them to research and investigate those topics through a journalistic lens. In the process, students learn to embrace the nuances of current issues.

The Common Sense Media study noted earlier also found that more than half of students have heard of AI and 85% believe it will have a positive impact on education. As AI is a topic of interest among the majority of students this year, teachers have the opportunity to investigate the topic with their students, interview the experts on the matter, and explore the potential implications using AI can have on their education.

AI could also be an additional topic of discussion in our Social Media Mindfulness lesson, available to download for free on our website. This lesson plan, and one’s like JLI’s Effective Communicators course, not only inspires students to embark on a self-directed journey but also empowers them to discover their voice, all while improving academic outcomes.

When it comes to answering how AI should be used in the classroom, consider inviting your students to explore the question with you

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