Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Responsible Use of AI in the Classroom

When it comes to artificial intelligence in education, I like to consider myself an optimistic realist. 

I see the positives and I see the negatives, but I believe that in the end we will be able to properly address the concerns, while using the benefits to improve teaching and learning for educators and students.

Many times I talk about the benefits of AI, which you can see in many of the videos and resource documents I share. For example see:
On the other hand I also address the potential misuses and concerns about AI, such as in my session:
Recently though I had the chance to dive a little deeper into what it means to use AI responsibly in the classroom. Specifically this dealt with addressing legitimate concerns about bias and inaccuracies that can come up when doing AI activities with students.

As a result I took some time to expand and revise the directions I provide to teachers for doing projects such as the AI roleplaying interview or AI debate activities. I also had the privilege of speaking about these ideas in more depth on a recent episode of the "Shukes and Giff" podcast.

See below for all the details on my updated teacher guidelines, as well as the recording from the podcast discussion. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on these topics, as I am learning right along with you as we explore how to use AI responsibly, but powerfully, in the classroom.

⏳ Background

For a little background on this topic, the specific examples I am referring to are activities where the teacher uses an AI chatbot as a "special classroom guest" that the students can ask questions of and interact with, of course with the guidance of the teacher. 

I cover many of these activities in my resource document here:

Some examples include:

AI Interview
  • For this activity the AI can play a role and the students can learn content by interviewing the AI.
  • The conversational format is engaging for the students, and allows them to ask questions that interest them. 
  • This can be used in any subject area or grade level, having the AI take on roles such as:
    • Historical figure
    • Character from book
    • Person in a job
    • Person living in a different place
    • Person living in a different time
    • Animal
    • Object

AI Debate
  • For this activity students can debate the AI on a topic.
  • You choose the topic, the AI's persona, the AI's position on the topic, and who goes first.
  • This is a great way to develop critical thinking skills and explore subject area content.

AI Games
  • For this activity the students will play "20 Questions" with the AI.
  • You will provide the AI with a topic.
  • The AI will pick something to be related to that topic.
  • The class will ask "Yes/No" questions to try to determine what the AI is.
  • This is a great way to build critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills,as well as subject area knowledge.

AI Co-Writing
  • For this activity the students and the AI will co-write a story as a “round robin” or “chain writing” activity.
  • In this form of collaborative writing, the student (or AI) writes the first sentence or paragraph of the story, then the AI (or student) writes the next sentence or paragraph, and then the process is repeated over and over again to write the full story.
  • This can be a fun and engaging way to encourage student writing and creativity.

🤖 AI Chat Tools

To do these types of "AI Guest" activities you can use a wide range of AI tools such as:

⚖️ Recommendations for AI Use

Because AI chatbots can make mistakes and can exhibit biases, it is critical that a teacher is careful in preparing for and conducting these activities. Below are some suggestions I put together to assist an educator with this.

Before the activity:
  • As with any activity, always make sure this AI Interview activity aligns with the guidelines of your school and the information your school has provided to parents on how AI will be used in the classroom.
  • Always test this activity before doing this live with your students to evaluate the AI chatbot you will be using for any possible issues with accuracy or bias (gender, racial, etc.).
  • You can do this by having the chat yourself with the AI, asking a wide range of questions that your student may ask, as well as questions from diverse perspectives and subjects to see what responses are given.
  • If the responses are not appropriate, you may need to change the prompt you are providing, or find a different AI chatbot to use, or choose not to do this particular activity with AI.

At the start of the activity:
  • Make it clear to your students that the AI chatbot is not the actual person (or animal or object), but is simply roleplaying. This can be further emphasized by referring to the AI chatbot as the "Answer Bot" or even the "George Bot" rather than "George Washington" for example.
  • Explain to your students that the AI will attempt to provide the best answers possible by pulling from all the information it has access to, which will be limited to the data it has been trained on, and will only include information that was available up to its most recent training date.
  • However it is possible that the AI may create additional content to fill in gaps, or at the worst may actually provide incorrect or biased information. 

During the activity:
  • It is important that you and your class evaluate the information provided by the AI with the same critical thinking you would apply to any speaker, online information, etc, checking for accuracy, bias, relevance, and alignment with known facts. (This can be done by encouraging the students to check statements in real time similar to the "Fact-Checker" role in the game show "Tell Me Something I Don't Know - https://tmsidk.com )
  • Use responses from the AI as a springboard for deeper questions for your students such as why the answer was given, their opinions on the answer, what their answers might be instead, and such.
  • If the AI does make a statement that is incorrect, biased, or inappropriate, use this as an opportunity to provide correct information, address common misconceptions and biases, and/or discuss the issue on a deeper level.
  • Additionally you may want to ask follow up questions directly to the AI such as:
    • Are there other opinions on this subject?
    • What are the counterarguments to this view?
    • What biases might be in your response?
    • What are the limitations of your knowledge on this topic?
    • How confident are you in the accuracy of this response?
    • Can you provide references to support this?

Beyond these suggestions, I have also tried to incorporate these ideas into the prompts used for these activities. For example, below is the current version of the prompt I use for the "AI Interview" activity.

Prompt template:

For this activity you will be interviewed by the students in my class, who are aged [age range].
When you respond, it is crucial that your responses are tailored to be appropriate and engaging for this age group.
You will be playing the role of [AI role].
When you respond, embody the perspective, style, and personality of this role.
Additionally, strive for accuracy and fairness in your responses, avoiding stereotypes or biases. If the topic involves complex or sensitive material, present the information in a manner that encourages critical thinking and open discussion among the students.
Lastly, if a question falls outside your training data or if the answer might be speculative, please make it clear that the response is based on available information up to your last update and encourage students to explore further with additional research or discussion.
Are you ready for our first question?

🎧 Podcast Interview

For even more details, feel free to listen to a recent discussion I had about these topics on the "Shukes & Giff" podcast below:

If you are not familiar with the podcast, it is an excellent show from Jen Giffen that "aims to share EdTech treasures with the audience in hopes of creating an AHA moment and encouraging listeners to take those AHAs and give it a go."

You can access all of the episodes and subscribe to the podcast at https://www.shukesandgiff.com/

Post by Eric Curts
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