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AI Learning with Holly Clark: Three Take-Aways for Educators

By: Lauren Gould

Last month, Holly Clark, a leader in technology integration and the author of The AI Infused Classroom, came to visit us for a few days at The Reading & Writing Project at Mossflower. The first day, we gathered to study the newest capabilities of AI in education. Holly helped us to break new ground: We built our own bot* that was capable of giving feedback on student work, based on our mentor texts and checklists! The second day, we headed to the classroom to test the bot, inviting ~25 administrators and district leaders from schools across the area to join us in 2nd grade and 5th grade classrooms. Here are three takeaways for educators from our AI learning: 

  1. Mitigate the process- Picture this: a teacher is seated next to a child. A computer is in front of them, the AI bot on the screen, ready to give feedback.  The teacher feeds the child’s work to the bot along with a prompt that indicates what the teacher and student are looking for feedback on. The bot pauses, and then responds with ideas for how the child might revise. The teacher reads these ideas aloud, and asks the child, “Which of these do you like? Where do you want to start?” The child responds, explaining what they will write next, and the teacher offers support and targeted teaching. AI has helped facilitate a beautiful writing conference; the child’s writing and the child’s bond to the teacher have both been strengthened. The bot has supported both teacher and student, but not replaced the thinking of either. As you experiment with AI in your classrooms or schools, think about how you can mitigate the process. Remember, for now, students must be at least 13 years old to use ChatGPT themselves!

  2. Prompt engineer: To discourage students from “prompting and pasting” (ie. write my essay for me), we can coach them to prompt engineer so AI helps them in strategic ways. Phrases we used to prompt our bot included, “Be my writing partner. What tips do you have for how to write a great ending for an argument piece?” or, “Give me feedback on this part of my writing…”  We also found AI could use some coaching, because the feedback was often too long or too difficult for the child. We prompted it with phrases like, “Make this feedback 100 words or less” or, “Make this feedback understandable to a second grader.” (We found it helped to go a grade level or two below where the student actually is, to make it more kid-friendly!). The students also loved when we prompted the bot to use emojis in the feedback.

  3. Work with your district to develop AI policies. We were inspired by work happening in the Chappaqua Central School District. Adam Pease, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, leads the district effort to implement AI in classrooms with students and teachers. We loved his tagline, “Don’t Let AI Steal the Learning.” Adam told us stories of teachers showing high school students how to use AI responsibly, scaffolding students to try different options, and using prompt engineering so AI can help facilitate the learning process rather than “steal” it.

*A bot, as defined by ChatGPT, is a software application that uses AI to perform tasks autonomously. In our case, we trained a GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) through open AI. Holly used the metaphor that creating a bot is like giving AI guardrails: our bot would be a writing coach to the students and stay focused on helping the students revise their essays.

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