The Learning Accelerator Blog/Generative AI in Schools: Leaders Ask for Guidance

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Generative AI in Schools: Leaders Ask for Guidance

by Jin-Soo Huh on April 6 2023

While artificial intelligence (AI) has been present in schools for years through adaptive learning and feedback tools, this new wave of generative AI tools, headlined by ChatGPT, feels different due to their ability to make unique, sophisticated responses and answer a wide range of prompts that can do the heavy lifting of critical thinking instead of students. A survey from the Walton Family Foundation released last month found that 51% of teachers surveyed reported using ChatGPT, with 40% using it at least once a week.

The Learning Accelerator (TLA) convened its Innovation Directors Network (IDN) — a community of practice composed of school system leaders from across the nation who foster innovation in their systems in areas including instructional models, tech integration, and professional development — a couple of months ago for roundtable discussions about generative AI, potential benefits of these tools in schools, and concerns and challenges these tools raise. As they consider how to introduce these tools effectively in schools, system-level leaders focused on expanding innovation efforts across their systems told us they need:

  • Concrete examples to show how AI can be used in schools
  • Guidance on generative AI that engages stakeholders

Examples Needed to Show What AI Looks like in Classrooms

We’ve seen some examples of early adopter teachers using ChatGPT in their classroom. The Walton Family Foundation has been showcasing ways teachers have been using ChatGPT with case studies on differentiating support for students in math class and drafting sample essays that students can critique together. There are also articles that provide ideas for how teachers can use the tool (e.g., ISTE compiled recommendations for teachers to use ChatGPT). Given the teacher shortages in many schools across the country, generative AI has the potential to make teaching a more sustainable career by saving teachers time on processes like grading and lesson planning. These resources are great springboards for early adopter teachers.

But, for teachers who are unsure of how to use generative AI or do not have capacity to think about how to use these tools, we need to reduce the friction for teachers to use these tools by providing guidance that provides clear steps to follow and artifacts like lesson plans and assignments that incorporate generative AI. For example, ChatGPT can help teachers with lesson planning, but this is only effective if teachers know how to write strong prompts. We can help teachers by showing examples of outputs with weaker prompts (e.g., write me a lesson plan on adding fractions) and those with stronger prompts (e.g., write me a 60-minute lesson plan for a fourth-grade classroom with the objective that students will be able to add fractions with like denominators and incorporate small group instruction and universal design principles while including ideas for differentiating for different levels of students).

Guidance to Engage Stakeholders Needed

ChatGPT is still so new, and the implications for education are not yet fully understood. IDN members oversee some of the most innovative school systems in the country. So if they are asking for guidance, schools across the country surely need it too. Guidance is needed on how to talk to stakeholders about AI, including potential concerns about using AI tools and potential benefits. Here are some recommended guiding questions for school system leaders:

  • What does it look like to introduce these tools to students and share how they are developed, what biases these tools may have, and how they can be used effectively?
  • How do schools share with parents and guardians how to support students as they engage with these tools?
  • What policies should school system leadership be reviewing? What privacy concerns are there? Do plagiarism and cheating policies need to be revised?

Typewriters, calculators, the Internet, Google, and cell phones are just some of the inventions that caused panic, and schools evolved to incorporate them as tools for learning. Generative AI is the latest in this line. Tools like ChatGPT are available to students now, and those who are able to successfully harness it effectively will have an advantage in career paths. So, it is critical that students of all backgrounds learn to use these tools effectively. In order to do that, we need to make it easier for teachers to learn how to teach with them.

This post was the third installment in a blog series on AI and K-12 education. Catch up on the series, here:

Have a learning or idea about generative AI tools in education that you’d like to share? Tag us on Twitter, we’d love to hear from you: @LearningAccel

About the Author

Jin-Soo Huh is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. He brings over a decade of experience implementing and scaling innovative education models that incorporate blended and personalized learning.