33 navigating AI landscape with the personal touch

Navigating the AI Landscape in Education: Balancing Technology with Personal Touch

I do get pretty angry as I go on forums about Artificial Intelligence in Education. It seems often that the attitude is one of “gotcha” in terms of “catching” students using AI to “give them the answers.”

The problem with this is that we're missing the whole point of AI. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a tool that can help us, not replace us. I'm finding that the most powerful uses of AI in the classroom is in the form of a feedback and brainstorming tool.

Furthermore, as I add another feedback mechanism into my classroom, I find that my students are advancing and learning much faster than ever before. My ninth-grade app builders are more rapidly iterating and creating their app pages, not because AI is writing anything for them but quite the opposite. AI is helping determine what gaps they have in their organizational structure and suggests ideas that might be missing in their app from a basic structure.

Each page in their app not only requires citations of sources of information and contextual links, but I require AI feedback citations giving any chats with AI tools that gave them feedback or ideas for a page. AI (except Perplexity, perhaps) is pretty terrible at accurate content; however, it is often great at helping connect content that is already known and verified by the students.

As an educator, striking a balance between leveraging AI while still nurturing personal relationships is crucial. In this blog post, I'll continue to share my experiences in this emerging area of learning and pedagogical evolution.

Building Personal Connections Remains Essential

The day at my classroom begins with a simple routine: greeting each student at the door. This practice is more than just a warm welcome; it's a moment to gauge each student's emotional state. I've found that acknowledging students' personal lives helps create an atmosphere conducive to learning.

As I look each student in the eyes and call them by name, I notice changes from day to day. I ask how students are doing and note anything I notice. I ask about how they are doing if they have been absent or have gone on a recent trip. I welcome them back and help them get connected quickly. I've long blogged about this essential practice and in an AI environment, the human connection is even more important than ever.

AI may help with learning, but I, as the teacher, am still essential at helping students with relating. Relating to one another. Relating to me. And relating to the content at hand and connecting it to the real world. I not only help them know that the content matters, but I also help them know that they matter.

Integrating AI for Feedback and Brainstorming.

In my classroom, AI is primarily used for peer feedback and brainstorming rather than content creation. This approach ensures students engage with the material at a deeper level and develop critical thinking skills. For instance, while working on an app-building project about fly fishing, a subject I'm not an expert in, AI tools provided valuable insights that covered knowledge gaps. (I love to fish, but I am not coordinated enough to fly fish!)

That said, I make sure that valid sources of information underlie any content and assertions.

Encouraging Responsible Use of AI

To ensure the responsible use of AI, I've instituted a policy where students must hyperlink their AI interactions for attribution. This practice teaches them about the importance of proper sourcing and encourages transparency. Additionally, I constantly monitor their AI usage to guide them in effectively attributing AI as a source of peer feedback.

Coaching Students on AI Interactions

As I've often shared, AI is part of the conversation, not just a one-time prompt. However, we do not naturally know how to converse with AI tools. (Unless they just paste in a question the teacher has asked, which is, perhaps, why AI is being so misused.)

Chat GPT providing feedback on a logo for a student app. It discussed typography, color scheme and other suggestions.

I can't tell you how many times I hear students say, “Wow, I didn't know AI could do that!” or “Really? AI can do that for me?”

Or when I teach students to get feedback but to revise their work directly (and not let AI do it), students can do like I'm doing on this post. While I prompted AI to ask me questions about the human interactions in my classroom as they relate to AI, the topic I wanted for this post, and I did have it draft blog copy, the blog copy was a starting point and not something I would dream of pasting in directly into this post. If you review my chat conversation creating this post, you can see the interview questions and my conversations with AI, but you can also see what it drafted and compare it to what I've written here. For purposes of transparency, I've been including the links to my AI chats used to create posts at the end of posts where they are used. I've written about this before!

You can see how feedback is provided on typography, color scheme and imagery for the uploaded font.

NOTE: you'll see that I'm having some issues with my custom GPT remembering what I've programmed it do. Read about creating custom GPT's and this specific issue.

You can see, in this case, my custom CAT GPT that I programmed seemed to “forget” how I wanted it to respond. Read the full chat to see what happened.

Initially, it makes sense that many students struggle with understanding how to use AI for peer review. I address this challenge by coaching them, providing sample prompts, and modeling effective AI interactions. This guidance is crucial in helping them comprehend how to treat AI feedback as a peer review tool. I also prefer that when students are working in teams that AI use voice and not just text. (I've blogged about this as well.)

Maintaining Academic Integrity

To maintain academic integrity, I emphasize the importance of original content creation. Students are encouraged to type in any content themselves and incorporate AI feedback only as a supplementary source. Furthermore, I require a certain number of sources for each app page to ensure the validity of the information.

Classroom rules for ChatGPT and AI
My Classroom Rules for Generative AI

Challenges and Solutions in AI Integration

One of the challenges in integrating AI is teaching students to differentiate between AI feedback/suggestions and authoritative sources. I address this by reserving the right to question the content, especially if there are no hyperlinks or sources. This practice not only reinforces the importance of citing sources but also encourages students to engage critically with the information they receive from AI.

I liken this to when I give students information. For example, today I was talking to some students who are building an app to help teenagers with emotional struggles about some research I had read on Instagram addiction and the impact on teenage girls. After mentioning it, I said, “but I need you to look up the research and see what you find to make sure you can verify that information. Remember, you need to cite sources.”

This is a perfect example of how AI provides feedback. It, like me, can suggest a direction for research and learning but the student should verify and read original source information. In some cases, I may provide a hyperlink, but I prefer to point students in a direction. AI often gives different comments than I do providing other diverse perspectives.

Fallibility of AI

As part of using AI in the classroom, I'm very open and frequently commenting that AI has flaws. AI can have flawed information. Just like search engines can turn up inaccurate information, and some web pages can have fact errors, how much more can AI have flaws. That said, while content can have issues, AI is very good at providing feedback and suggestions.

I found it very useful for providing student feedback about time zones in their 8th-grade travel project. It also had suggestions for many locations where I had not traveled.

Impact on Student Learning

Integrating AI in my classroom is accelerating the pace of student projects. I am seeing an enhanced ability to delve deeper into subjects and foster a more comprehensive understanding. Combining AI feedback and my personal input creates a rich learning environment where students can explore and grow.

Organic Ethical Conversations

I literally learn more everyday about this topic. Along with using AI, the ethical conversations happen daily. Just today we were learning about the new generative features in Photoshop 2024. Literally, I had students with their mouths wide open. Then, they wanted to talk about ethics, deep fake, and the use of generative tools in art. It was an organic outgrowth of using the tool. We also discussed the importance of being able to verbalize about art and art theory as well as knowing how to do it yourself.

Conclusion

In conclusion, incorporating AI in education can enhance learning experiences. As the teacher, I continue to focus on building relationships. We as educators can create a dynamic and effective learning environment by using AI as a tool for feedback and brainstorming and ensuring responsible and critical engagement with technology. However, a big part of classroom management is having positive relationships with my students. We still have to relate to educate. And when we have a strong, positive relationship, AI, under my supervision as the teacher, can be a positive tool for feedback, brainstorming, and to help accelerate learning.

I used a chat with a custom ChatGPT to support the creation of this post. Here's the link to that conversation: https://chat.openai.com/share/952305c4-1726-46a6-9101-0cef50b0a3a6

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere