Artificial Intelligence Has Arrived

Written by Eric Hills

Last published at: December 19th, 2023

This blog post serves as an introduction to Artificial Intelligence. You can read more about ways to use AI in the classroom in our next blog post here

 

Every so often, a new innovation or invention comes along promising to change the world. By extension, these new tools or devices will REVOLUTIONIZE EDUCATION. It was once suggested that the radio could replace teachers, allowing an expert to lecture and broadcast their lecture to thousands of students simultaneously. The television had similar promises. The Internet could disseminate information to the world and allow us to access infinite knowledge with just a few keywords and clicks. And smart phones allowed us to access that infinite well of knowledge from anywhere. Smaller innovations like the calculator, spell/grammar check on word processors, and Google Translate also raised academic concerns in their own ways.

All of these inventions clearly have disrupted the world we live in today, but at least we could rest assured that a human being was integral to the functioning of these systems. Enter: Artificial Intelligence. With the launch of ChatGPT, a Microsoft-backed chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, a wave of hysteria excitement has swept across the Internet. AI tools can do everything from writing a detailed essay, developing computer code, to creating works of art in seconds. And this is only the beginning.

I was a bit skeptical at first that something like ChatGPT could write a decent academic essay. I had to see it with my own eyes. Want a quick preview of what ChatGPT can do?

 

 

It is very likely that you have used AI, perhaps even without knowing it. FaceID on iPhones, voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, and even social media algorithms are powered by AI. And it is likely that many of your students, especially high schoolers, have used AI for school assignments. This understandably brings up academic dishonesty concerns. And while AI may require us to rethink what tasks we assign students to assess their knowledge and skills in the future, what do we need to know right now?

 

What to Know Now

Let’s start with the first question you might be asking yourself: Can we block these AI tools? The answer is no. They will only become more and more prevalent in the tools we frequently use, including Google Docs and Canva. We could play digital whack-a-mole, but students will find ways around these roadblocks and can access them on phones or computers at home. And, as we’ll cover in a different section, there are a lot of legitimate uses for you and your students. 

When students submit academic work, we should expect that it is their original work unless you explicitly told them to incorporate the use of AI. To that end, we hope to have Turnitin available soon (FYI they bought out Unicheck) before the end of the school year or to start next year. It will have an AI checking tool that will be integrated with Canvas. If you suspect that students are being academically dishonest, there are websites such as CopyLeaks and AI Content Detector. I will caution you that these AI detectors are not fool-proof as they only provide a probability that text was generated by AI. The same rules of academic dishonesty with cheating and plagiarism should apply when you are asking students to submit their own original work. And if students are using AI as a part of an assignment, I would highly recommend having them disclose what tool they used, what prompts they entered, and how they incorporated it into their work. 

 

What to Know for the Future

I will admit that I’m a bit of a futurist. I think AI, specifically generative AI (that outputs text, images, or media based on written prompts), will have a drastic impact on many industries. And with the ever-expanding quantity of tools out there, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. It’s here to stay.

Our job hasn’t changed. Our goal as educators is to teach students how to be successful adults in college and their careers. This comes with the understanding that the world we see now will be vastly different when our students graduate. Imagine how drastically AI tools will have changed from now until 2035 (when our Kindergarteners graduate high school). Early versions of ChatGPT finished in the bottom 10% on law school exams and newer versions released just months later have gone on to place in the top 10%. If these tools aren’t going away and are only going to continue to improve, we will need to adapt and find ways to show students when and how they can use these tools productively and appropriately.

Additionally, we can provide tasks to students to either utilize AI or make them demonstrate their learning in more creative ways. Similar to when the Internet became more ubiquitous, our assessments should not be able to be answered/copied/created with a quick Google search. The same goes for AI. Our assignments should not be able to be completed with a quick prompt entered into an AI chatbot. Our next blog post will focus on ways to reimagine our summative assessments in the era of AI. 

 

Reaping the Benefits

If you are willing to wade into the AI waters right away, here are some ways it could be used. First, you’ll want to select your tool. There are many free/freemium tools available. Check out the resources at the bottom of this page. Be sure to read AI responses carefully, vet them for quality, and make sure they align with your instructional outcomes. 

By Teachers:

  • Get feedback on your own writing, such as emails to parents or administrators. 
  • Change text readability: have an article that might be too tough to read for some of your students? Copy/paste the text into ChatGPT (or the tool of your choice) and ask it to rewrite it for a specific reading level.
  • Use AI to generate examples of work to help guide students.
  • Ask for lesson plan ideas and activities by topic. You’ll be amazed at the suggestions!

With Students:

  • Students could use AI tools to gain additional feedback on their writing prior to submission. Remember to have them document and reflect on changes they make!
  • Students can use AI tools such as the Text to Image app in Canva to create images for a presentation, video, or storybook project. 
  • Have students debate with AI on a controversial topic. Students will need to research and be prepared!
  • Compare/contract AI written work with student written work. Have students grade the work of an AI against your rubric. 

 

Long-term Considerations

There are many legitimate reasons to be concerned about artificial intelligence. Will these tools hurt the development of a student's literacy skills long-term? What are the sources that AI tools use and who vets those sources? Does AI violate the intellectual property rights of creators? Can you copyright/publish AI-created art or writing? What careers will be disrupted or eliminated entirely by AI? Will all the AI tools form a hive mind, obtain the nuclear codes, and bring about the end of humanity as we know it? … Probably not that last one. We don’t have the answers to all these questions right now and that’s okay. What we do know is we want our students to be able to think critically, work collaboratively, demonstrate learning creativity, and communicate effectively.

 

Additional Resources to Explore: