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Key Principles for Integrating AI into Your Lessons

It seems like every day there is a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool out there, just waiting to be used and integrated into the classroom. Before you get completely overwhelmed with all of the options out there, however, here are some key overarching principles to keep in mind.

1. Start with the goals.

Yes, there are lots of fun AI tools out there that will create images and video and computer coding and original songs. But I highly doubt that your goal for the lesson is, “Let students have fun and see what they can create.” What skills and content are you trying to teach? What dispositions and mindsets are you trying to foster? What’s really important that your students take from this lesson? Be clear about your goals for the lesson and start there.

2. Consider where on the SAMR model you want to be.

The SAMR model was first created by Dr. Ruben Peuntedura in 2010 to categorize the different degrees of integration of technology into education, starting with substitution (direct substitute with no functional change), moving to augmentation (direct substitute with functional improvement), then to modification (significant redesign), and finally redefinition (previously inconceivable tasks). While no stage of the SAMR model is “better” than any other, it’s a helpful framework to use when considering your purpose for using AI in your lesson. Are you just using it as a substitute (using ChatGPT to gain background knowledge instead of Wikipedia) or are you totally redefining what’s possible through the use of these tools? Be intentional about the purpose of AI in your lesson.

3. Align your selection of AI tool(s) with your goals and SAMR positioning.

New AI tools are being developed and launched every day. At the time of my writing this, I know of tools that fall in the following categories: text to text, text to images, text to video, text to audio, text to code, text to 3D image, audio to text, audio to audio, and image to text. That’s a lot, and there is more coming. Having a clear understanding of your goals and the role you want AI to play in moving towards those goals helps to narrow down the options. Be strategic in choosing your tool(s).

4. Consider the role of the student.

Are you selecting an AI tool for you to use and bring elements of into the classroom? Are you choosing a tool for students to use themselves? Do you want something passive where you ask the AI tool to create something, and it does or something more active where you (or your student) act as a partner with the AI to co-create in an ongoing project. As you’re considering how to integrate AI into your lesson, be mindful of what you want the role of the student to be in the experience.

5. Take time to craft your prompts

AI tools can do pretty impressive things, but only if you know how to ask for what you want. Crafting a prompt is kind of like using the right search terms when looking for something on Google – it’s your key to unlocking everything, but only if you do it right. So whether you are using the tools yourself or you are integrating student use into your lesson, make sure you’re crafting your prompt to get the best possible results. Be specific with the AI tool about what, exactly, you want it to do and what you want that output to look like.

6. Employ concepts of responsible AI

Responsible AI refers to the practice of designing and using AI with good intentions and to positively impact society. In order for the development and use of AI to be conducted responsibly and ethically, we all play a role. Do your part by checking for bias and misinformation, being transparent about your use of the AI tools, confirming that your use of AI tools conforms to any policies in place at your organization, and ensuring that you are using AI with best intent. Be responsible in your AI usage.

7. Avoid key mistakes such as:

  • Over-reliance on AI tools - Good education still centers around the human touch that teachers provide, though building relationships, personalizing experiences, and adding your voice to the process. Don’t hand over too much to AI.

  • Forgetting AI’s limitations - While different AI tools are great (and getting better) at different tasks, they each have their limitations. Make sure to understand the specific purpose of any AI tool you are using and how these tools can work together and/or work in partnership with human work.

  • Not providing training and guidance for those using the AI tools - Whether it’s being used by you or your students, using AI effectively requires guidance and practice. Make sure you’re clear on how to use any tools brought into your lessons, including the limits and potential challenges.

8. Be open to what might be.

We’re all new at this and pretty much learning as we go, so start small and experiment. Document what works for you and what doesn’t. Evaluate and iterate. Collaborate with others in your organization and around the world who are also open to trying new things. Get your students’ feedback and ask for their ideas. Just keep trying and learning. Be open.

Ultimately, good education still (and will always) rest on the foundation of good teachers and good pedagogical practices. While the presence of AI tools can and should change certain aspects of what education looks like, our teachers remain at the core of an effective and joyful learning experience. No one is an expert at this, and we’re all in this together!

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