As Merion Mercy Academy’s Director of Innovation, Teaching and Learning, Philip Vinogradov equips faculty with the tools they need to remain on the cutting edge of education. Today, that calls for conversations and resources around the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom.
Artificial intelligence, which works by mimicking the cognitive processes and decision-making abilities of the human brain, has many implications for education. Programs like ChatGPT—the most prominent of a new breed of artificial-intelligence chatbots—can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos.
Interestingly, Chat GPT recognizes its influence on education. When asking the platform how it will impact the classroom, Chat GPT replies, “It is important for teachers to carefully consider the benefits and potential limitations of using AI in their classrooms, and to ensure that it is used in a way that enhances, rather than replaces, human teaching and learning."
Nationally, more teachers are saying yes when asked if it’s okay for students to use the technology. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Teachers and professors across the U.S. are realizing they can’t ban or ignore a tool that many of their students are eagerly using.” In response, two states—California and Oregon—have issued policy guidance for schools on artificial intelligence platforms. According to Axios, “Teachers and administrators are eager for guidelines on how to use AI—and how to quash misuse. But the field is moving so rapidly that governments have been loath to issue pronouncements.”
That’s where educational leaders like Vinogradov come in. He says, “Students deserve schools that prepare them to engage with the world that is, not the world that was.”
With that in mind, Vinogradov hosted “Teaching and Learning in the Age of AI,” a Merion Mercy faculty session on this topic that included:
A vision for teaching and learning in an AI world
Creating a framework for prompting AI
Learning to use AI as a partner, so that teachers can model the skill with students
Exploring and refining a theoretical lesson
Theology teacher Marianne Rule took Vinogradov’s lessons to heart and immediately began reimagining the writing process by creating resources and strategies to support this work in her classes. She says, “An emerging skillset for students is how to use AI as a tool for personal growth instead of as a replacement for their own original work. We want them to be creators, not consumers.” Rule teaches her students how to seek AI-generated feedback based on their goals and then analyze the results to inform their essay revisions.
Her examples of goals with AI prompts for feedback include: :
Add transitional phrases to the following passage.
Revise the following passage so every sentence begins in a different way, or provide a variety of sentence structures to the following
Evaluate the paragraph structure of the following passage.
Improve the readability of the following.
Rule then challenges students to compare and contrast their original writing with the AI-generated feedback they received, paying particular attention to what she has termed “NOTE”:
Number of sentences
Organization of information
Ultimately, the students choose what they like about the AI feedback and want to incorporate into their writing, for example, a word choice or sentence structure. Both the AI-generated content and the student’s work are viewed side-by-side so Rule and the students can see the differences. It’s this level of partnership with the technology that Rule thinks will keep students from cheating, which is a natural concern for many teachers. “If you show them how to use it,” she says, “it becomes an exciting journey,” thereby eliminating the desire to use it inappropriately. She adds, “If you’re guiding them through an assignment and have checkpoints at every step, it takes the possibility of cheating out of the picture.”
Concerns about cheating—and bias and misinformation—aside, many teachers are hopeful about the benefits of ChatGPT, including its ability to help students learn faster and bolster basic skills. One thing Rule particularly appreciates is how AI levels the playing field for all students. “It provides a personalized learning experience for anyone with internet access, offering immediate feedback that might not be available outside of the classroom.”
It’s not lost on Rule that future employers will expect students to have learned how to use these bots effectively. Avoiding the technology is simply not an option. Head of School Marianne Grace says, “Our students need to be skilled in AI in order to thrive in this rapidly changing technological landscape. Our focus is on forging 21st century levels of collaboration, communication, creativity, and digital citizenship, and as such we continually develop, evaluate, and refine approaches to education that leverage emerging technologies, support collaborative learning, and bridge the physical/digital realms.”
Vinogradov concludes: “Educators have always been on the front lines of navigating technological change with students. In partnership we can equip them with the tools for lifelong learning that will allow them to thrive today and in the future."
To read more on this topic, see the Wall Street Journal article “Is it OK for Students to Use ChatGPT? More Teachers Say Yes," "How states are guiding schools to think about AI” from Axios, and TeachAI.org in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Last year, Merion Mercy Academy also posted on our blog on this topic: “The Effects of AI-Assisted Writing on Education.”