Challenges of AI in the Classroom: Practical Tips for Teachers

On a ferry, wondering about AI…and when this 2-hour ride will be over.

I’m still processing this whole thing. Like when I was a middle schooler and heard the dialup Internet tones and found a website dedicated to crowd sourced flatulence audio files. Not proud. But fortunate to be there at the dawn of the www and feel feelings that my best wordsmithing won’t convey.

However, a similar feeling is being felt by those who have dipped their toes in AI, ChatGPT, etc. It’s monumental…the biggest tech advancement since the Internet.

My whole thing has been to “teach things that can’t be googled”. So much, that I print shirts and stickers with that mantra. Now I have to make new shirts to acknowledge the power of AI…and our continued role to teach things that only humans can do. A machine will work faster, not complain about poor working conditions, and show up everyday…24/7. Let’s not compete.

What are schools and teachers to do about this?
I’ve heard from Buff Nuggets subscribers and countless others…”my students are submitting work that I suspect to be generated by AI. What do I do?”

I have a few ideas you can ponder or soak with gasoline and set ablaze if you wish.

  1. Policy: move on to #2 to save time and my ranting. Because the big changes we need in k12 education can only happen beyond the local level. This is not an educator or admin fix. Simply put, many mandates that follow funding are out of touch and not keeping up with world advancements. As a year 2000 high school graduate, I find it troubling that 99% of required content has stayed the same. We need more flexibility to meet the needs of students…NOW.  Yes, some changes are being made, but sooooo slow. I’m about to fall asleep just thinking about it. If you know of an opening at a federal level EDU meeting, where they’ll let me speak common sense, please reply with the details. PS: I wonder if some policy makers see AI as an opportunity to dehumanize public K12, saving boatloads of money, but at the expense of our most marginalized students. We must continue to value human interaction for all.
  2. Mindset Change: what if we went from “kids are cheating using AI”…to let’s show students how to team up with a virtual assistant to produce the most creative, complex content. **Reading this, you might say, “they won’t be able to use AI in state tests”…see #1 above. Here’s the thing: AI will soon be integrated to all the things. Yes, Microsoft, Google apps, etc. It’s not going back in the box. Ask this question…”Do I want my students to have the most cutting edge tools and knowledge to compete in the current and future workplace?” I think colleges…high schools should have a dedicated class to teaching AI prompts and uses. And here’s a strong 💪 opinion: remove another required course to make this happen. *see #1 above.
  3. Practicality: if AI is putting a damper in your daily, you’re not alone. Writing teachers are especially trying to figure this one out. here’s a few more ideas.
    1. start old school. Start with small writing assignments in class, on paper or white boards. Maybe one sentence, one paragraph. Tech put away. Crowd source and collaborate feedback with classmates. Students learn the basics, AI free.
    2. slowly bring in AI. In whole group settings, show how AI can be used to enhance authentic student writings. Ex. Different ways to write this sentence. EX. metaphors about boats and friendship. Make it a game and have students try to “Stump AI” by writing better sentences before accessing the tech.
    3. unleash the beast. Provide students with an AI tool that is approved by school/district, and make it known that from now on, students are allowed…perhaps encouraged to use AI. Perhaps they are required to cite and share the prompts they used, so other students can praise and get help with their new AI journey. Consider awarding AI microcredentials to those who excel.

Cheers, Buff