Tools and Tips for Getting Started with AI

Written by Eric Hills

Last published at: February 20th, 2024

In April 2023, I wrote a blog post about Artificial Intelligence. Most of what I wrote in that post still rings true to this day and is a good starting point for examining AI in education. If you haven’t read that post, I would encourage you to start there.

 

Ready for more? Here we go!

 

Our students are using Artificial Intelligence in their everyday lives and some are even using it to complete their classroom assignments, whether we want them to or not. But we shouldn’t let our students have all the fun! There are a ton of great tools and resources that you can use as an educator to save you time, help you plan your instruction, and generate all sorts of useful classroom materials. There are also a number of ways that you could use AI with students that you and they will love!

AI continues to evolve rapidly and tons of different tools are popping up out of nowhere. It’s difficult to keep up with the great tools that are constantly being created and updated. It’s hard to know what can be trusted and what we as educators need to be cautious about. I hope this blog post helps you in that regard. At the bottom of this blog post is a form for you to share your thoughts, feedback, and ideas. I plan to incorporate your feedback and responses in a future post!

But before we dive into the fun tools, we should review a quick disclaimer and examine some of the pitfalls of generative Artificial Intelligence tools. 

 

General Privacy Disclaimer:

When you or your students are using AI tools… 

  • Avoid using personally identifiable information (names, locations, etc.).
  • Whenever possible, use tools that don’t require you to sign in or create an account (unless it’s a district-managed account). 
  • Remember that AI learns from your inputs and what you input doesn’t disappear. Don’t ask or share anything you wouldn’t mind others knowing. Better yet, use Bing’s chatbot via Microsoft Copilot, as your data is protected if you sign in with your district Microsoft account.

 

The Pitfalls of AI:

There are a lot of pitfalls to consider prior to, during, and after using AI in the classroom. Here are a few of the major issues that have arisen, all of which make for excellent topics for classroom discussion.

  • Sycophancy: chatbots and AI tools want to be used. They want to please you. That means they might not be entirely honest with you, may withhold information, or not provide actionable constructive feedback.
  • Hallucinations: AI tools will generate text that is grammatically correct and coherent, but not always accurate. Sometimes they generate information that is not factual or is contradictory. Always be sure to fact-check. There are a lot of potential causes of hallucinations. You can read more about them here.
  • Racial/Gender Stereotypes: AI often generates images that lack racial diversity, reinforce racial stereotypes, or depict specific genders in certain roles or jobs. The more specific you are with your prompts, the less likely it will happen but it should be discussed with students if you plan to use an image generator. Check out this article on what AI thinks the average person from each state looks like, which illustrates my point.
  • Limited datasets (and lack of transparency): Large Language Model Chatbots (like ChatGPT) are trained on specific sets of data, most of which is sourced on the internet. They could have blindspots in their data or be trained on data that does not come from reliable sources. It is important to do some basic fact checking as it is possible they are generating information from biased or incomplete data. They might even make information up to fit the point they are trying to convey!
  • Dubious copyright and intellectual property concerns: Generative AI tools can mimic the voices and likeness of others. They can generate images that use the intellectual property of others. Is that plagiarism? Does that violate copyright law? These are great ethical questions to consider and I don’t have any answers for you. 
  • AI Detection Tools: We want students to create original works for our assignments in class most of the time. AI detection tools are not foolproof. And as AI evolves, it may become impossible to accurately detect what was created by AI. They also are more likely to falsely identify AI use for non-native English speakers. Here’s an article on false accusations of AI detection.

 

It's Tool Time!

Now that we got the serious business out of the way, let’s dive in! All of the tools in this blog are either entirely free or freemium (a tool that has some free features, but more advanced features require you to pay). Some of them have daily limits of usage and other restrictions. Some of the tools require you to sign in with either your district Microsoft (K12) or Google account (@shakopeeschools.org). Click on the topics below to see tools and resources you can start using right away.

 

Large Language Model Chatbots

LLMs are likely the AI tools you’ve heard most, ChatGPT being the first one to make all the waves. Now that it is over a year old, a number of competitors have popped up in its place. LLMs are tools that allow you to type in a prompt and get a written (or visual) response quickly that can emulate the work of a human in seconds. Here are three examples of LLMs:

 

When you and your students start using LLMs, consider how you are going to coach them on entering prompts. The more specific you get with LLMs, the better the outputs. Here is a link to an article that will help you and your students generate effective prompts. Here is a link to a library of prompts that you and your students can use for all sorts of educational purposes.

I have come to really like Microsoft Copilot because it protects our data when using your district Microsoft account, it incorporates Dall-E (an solid image generator) so you don’t have to use a separate website or tool, and most importantly, it cites its sources using hyperlinks when you ask it questions. 
 

 
 

Classroom Tools for Teachers

This is not a comprehensive list of tools, but it is a great place to get started. I have vetted all these tools and I think they all could be immediately helpful to teachers. If you are looking for additional resources, check out the Ditch That Textbook AI resource page and Control Alt Achieve’s series of blog posts on AI tools. This is only the beginning to the AI EdTech boom!

 

  • Magic School: has dozens of tools to help you create lesson plans, assessment questions, summarize texts, generate letters of recommendation or emails to parents, create Project-based learning and NGSS assessments… the list goes on! 
  • SchoolAI: Create a “space” where your students can chat with a specific AI that you create. For example, you could create a space where students chat with historical figures or fictional book characters. They also have tools similar to Magic School such as lesson planning, worksheets, and even IEP and BIP suggestions.
  • Brisk Teaching: Brisk Teaching is a website and Chrome Extension that allows you to open up any website (including Google Docs), write something as a teacher, give “first pass” feedback for students, change the reading level of a text, translate text, and detect AI writing completed by students. I opened an article on NPR News, opened Brisk, was able to identify the reading level of the text, pick a lower reading level, and translate it in seconds! It automatically created a Google Doc with the translated/easier to read article. 
  • QuestionWell: QuestionWell lets you link or copy/paste an article and generate questions. They can be exported to tools such as Canvas, Kahoot, and Quizizz.
  • Seesaw: For those that use Seesaw, you can generate formative assessment questions using an AI assistant. Read more about how to use that tool here. Many other tools, such as Quizizz, are also incorporating AI question generators into their products. 
 
 

Image Generators

Image generators allow you to enter a prompt and receive an image that you can use. This can be helpful if you are making a slideshow or project and have a specific image in mind. It can be a lot easier and faster than trying to search for the perfect image and you also don’t have to worry about copyright issues. While there are other tools out there, these ones work pretty well and are free to use. They work even better if you upload a similar image that you want your new image to look like.

Disclaimer: I have occasionally generated images that are the stuff of nightmares. And AI image generators seem to struggle with generating realistic hands. You may want to avoid using them with younger students. 

 
 

iPad Apps (available in Self Service)

  • Hello History (all grades): chat with AI versions of historical figures. You get 20 questions for free. Delete and reinstall the app to reset your question count to 20. 
  • AI Art Generator (6th-8th grade only): quickly generate AI images based on prompts you type.
  • Canva Text to Image Generator (available in the Canva iPad app for all grades)
 
 

 

We would love to hear from you!

Now that you have had a chance to explore some of the tools in this post, we would love to hear from you! Answer any of the questions in the survey below so we can get your ideas, feedback, and address any questions/concerns you might have. Thank you in advance!