Sunday, January 21, 2024

Augment teaching with AI - this teacher has it sussed...

You’re a teacher who wants to integrate AI into your teaching. What do you do? I often get asked how should I start with AI in my school or University. This, I think, is one answer.

Continuity with teaching

One school has got this exactly right in my opinion. Meredith Joy Morris has implemented ChatGPT into the teaching process. The teacher does their thing and the chatbot picks up where the teacher stops, augmenting and scaling the teaching and learning process, passing the baton to the learners who carry on. This gives the learner a more personalised experience, encouraging independent learning by using the undoubted engagement that 1:1 dialogue provides. 

There’s no way any teacher can provide this carry on support with even a handful of students, never mind a class of 30 or a course with 100. Teaching here is ‘extended’ and ‘scaled’ by AI. The feedback from the students was extremely positive.

This is what she reported:

It's midterm we supplemented our review with the chatbot tutor...the one-to-one interaction and engagement with each student is notable. It picks up right where the educator leaves off, like carrying the torch. Perhaps, the foremost feature is that it provides a curated experience for each, individual learner. It's as if they're being provided with the extra help you'd be hard pressed to deliver to 25 students simultaneously. Feedback and comments varied from "This is unbelievable!" to "I can't believe it tries to have emotion using exclamations!" and "This slaps".. the AI journey continues...and so do the experiments!”

The trick is not to abandon learners completely at this point but give them directions of travel, tasks and deadlines to focus their dialogue. I think there are four stages to this:

1. Amaze to engage

2. Define and refine

3. Back to business

4. Self-testing

Be clear about the topics you are teaching, keep them not on one railway track but in the valley down which they need to travel, albeit using different roads. List the main subject and topicc at hand. This is so important.

Amaze to engage

Let them experiment initially, as it is clear that this tech can impress and engage. But engagement is not enough and is a poor proxy for learning. You still need a formal, guided approach to the learning process. Let them ask it to adopt different voices, do weird stuff, write a story, poem, but stick to the material at hand. 

Get them to use image generation to represent the topic. Working towards one definitive image for the topic focuses their mind and creates something that can be used as a springboard for further learning. That needs to be iterative.

Even better get them to use the voice facility, speak to it and it speaks back. This forces learners to be focused and precise in their articulation of what they want to learn.

Finally, get them to feed back what they did, tell stories about what they achieved to each other.

Define and refine

Now get back to more formal leaning. It is here that the AI tutor can provide several formal, but still dialogic, approaches to learning. It becomes a teacher.

List basic vocabulary and get the AI tutor to clarify basic terms they don’t understand. Make sure the learner understands that this is ‘dialogue’ and that you can refine and get it to restate until you are happy with its definitions and explanations. Supplement with examples, if necessary.

Get the learners to ‘fix’ these definitions for revision purposes and create fill-in-the blank, MCQ or open input questions for their own revision purposes. It is important that they capture this for future use.

Back to business

Now for the meat of the extended teaching. Allow them to focus on things they found difficult, get alternative explanations, dig deeper, keep going. The dialogue helps, as it can, up to a limit, remember what has been asked as the learner proceeds. This is so important - that they see this as ‘dialogue’ and carry on.

Help with prompts where the learner can ask the tutor to:

Be a tutor and teach

Give you examples, worked examples and cases

Give you more detail and depth on individual topics

Give you something new and extend the learning

Apply what you’ve learnt

Solve problems

Again, I’d go further and get learners to create their own self-tests for retrieval practice and revision.


Finally, get them to create a final self-test, with the right answers

Also, a set of flashcards for revision. Get them to design a flashcard image that is personal to them using image generation. One learning outcome per card, plenty of fully worked examples, even mnemonics for remembering. 

All of this extends learning, gives the learner and opportunity to learn more, increases retention and provides material for revision.

Sharing these across the group or class can be useful – get the best of breed questions and flashcards.

Don’t start with content creation

Don’t start by using AI to create content. You can do that later, and it works, whether it’s creating fresh conte, refining content, critiquing content, summarising content, creating formative assessments and their rubrics.


There is one major problem with this model - hardware and software. How many classrooms have computers at all or on this scale? One solution is to use smartphones, which tons of kids are proficient at using. Another is to see this as an extension outside of the classroom, either in specific rooms or at home, as after school work (I hate the word 'homework'). Either way this tech WILL be used by learners. It already is. This process gives the teacher some control of that process. The important lesson is doing things, using the technology, allowing learners to use the technology.


In most educational institutions, schools and tertiary education, it is unlikely that the existing norms will change, teachers will teach, lecturers will lecture. That is not to say that AI should not be used. It can. It's power, for now, is enhancing and scaling teaching through individualised learning, making learners more autonomous. To be honest, learners are doing this already. We can choose to leave them to it, which is happening, or provide guidance for them and align this with teaching.

At this stage, weave AI tutor support into existing structures and teaching practices. Extend teaching. Take the weight off the teachers’ shoulders. Give learners a personalised, extended learning experience where they themselves can explore and get more depth through personal agency.

This is also a way to get teacher or faculty up to speed in using AI for teaching and learning. Did this recently with a large publisher in Higher Education, also with teachers in Berlin. Get them to do things with clear goals in a workshop - it works!


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