Reining in the Wild West of AI: Streamlining Teacher WorkloadsNov 16, 2023
Written by Matthäus Huelse
I admit it. I have been using AI for my work for months now. And I know what you are thinking: oh, it’s just another AI-generated article/blog post/recipe… but no! I did write this article. Every word. And then I handed it to the editor and if you ask them, they will confirm as well. This had some serious punctuation errors when I turned it in. Nevertheless, I did use AI for this article and it saved me hours. If you are curious to see how I used it, check out my citations at the end of the blog. Full transparency. I have nothing to hide but plenty of advice to give. My goal is to save you hours of work.
A recent study suggests that 20-40% of current teacher hours could be automated and supported by AI. That would translate to 13 saved hours per week! We are all still trying to figure out how AI fits into our academic policies, into our classroom rules, and into our curricula, but one thing I know for sure is that you do not have to be an expert in AI to benefit from those time savings. I’m going to show you tools, tips, and ideas for how you can do more, in less time. And best of all: no plagiarism or moral ambiguity required!
There are a plethora of different AI tools fighting for your attention and I will not begin to claim that I know all or even enough of them, but I do know a bunch and when it comes to applying AI for education purposes, you can break it down into two basic approaches.
- The vast majority of AI tools are built on top of bigger tools, like ChatGPT. In one version, these tools give you a “wrapper," or an easy menu to select your options, enter your data, and get one product reliably and consistently. In another version, a suite of AI tools may be assembled under one umbrella. The tools are designed to be grouped together and are designed with you, the teacher, in mind.
- The other approach is going directly to the source and using a Large Language Model (LLM) like Bard that is designed to… well, sound human, in any situation you may throw it into. This will require more work upfront (think prompts), but will yield very tailored and personalized results for you.
If you have an account for the most popular advanced language models like ChatGPT or Bard, one of the easiest ways to get started creating content with AI is to generate vocabulary lists or comprehension questions. For this, no paid subscription is required. As a former world language teacher, I appreciate the value of simply stating a topic or theme and having a list of vocab with correct articles, spelling, and definitions ready to go. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent painstakingly fixing vocab lists for capitalization, just to have a student tell me I missed one. Log into your trusty AI, and ask it for 10 pieces of vocab around any topic or in any language. As a German teacher, I would ask it to include lower case articles next to upper case nouns, or add specific past-tense forms for verbs. For younger grades, you can ask it to use lower Lexile levels for definitions. Want to take it further? Ask AI to provide you a short, 3-paragraph story that incorporates those terms, followed by comprehension questions. With a few more well-placed prompts into the chat box, you can adjust the question types, writing style, and any other detail you desire.
If you have been an early adopter and dabbling in AI for a while, you probably have tried doing this and more, likely using ChatGPT or Bard with varying results. The more complex the task, the more complex the prompt and, sometimes, your prompt ends up being longer than what you asked the AI to produce. Creating decodable texts with an advanced AI model can get cumbersome and will yield mixed results, especially if you’re not incredibly detailed and specific with your prompt. Personally, I have learned the most about AI by picking small projects for myself, such as creating the most perfect prompt template for my assignments. It takes time and effort to finesse your prompts, but the results can be amazing. With the most recent update to ChatGPT, you can now create personalized Chatbots trained on your data, in a flash. Create your own Teaching Assistant AI fine tuned to help you create better materials, find better resources, and generate better content, all designed and personalized for you and your class.
An important point to remember is that the companies behind those tools have employed entire teams, using thousands of data points, collecting user experiences, and comparing different strategies to get the best results for the largest number of users. You still have to do some tweaking of your own to get it “just right.” Let’s look at a couple of options where someone else has already done the finetuning and training with AI.
CLICK & GO
Tools like LitLab use AI to generate decodable texts with just a few clicks. Rather than having to write long prompts with examples, you can generate a decodable text with matching pictures in minutes. This is a great tool for the K-2 crowd! Another tool in this category is Diffit, which takes any article, video, or website you supply and immediately provides you with comprehension questions, key vocabulary, and more. Both of these tools are incredible time-savers that will give you the ability to quickly and easily differentiate and personalize learning for any student in your class. These tools are great if you are in a pinch or if you are looking to get reliable and predictable results consistently.
If this hasn’t convinced you to start jumping into AI, give me one more chance, because few have managed to generate a more comprehensive list of tools for educators to benefit from the power of AI than Magicschool and Almanack. Both of these tools have been my most recent recommendations to teachers.
Different from the previous services, Magicschool provides you different tools across the cornucopia of tasks that a teacher is managing. From IEPs and parent emails, to rubrics and worksheets, Magicschool can quickly generate multiple products from different areas of your daily tasks. It can also be used to update the instructions for that one activity that never goes quite right, or to get inspiration for new ways to engage your students. If you are ready to explore AI for your classroom, but you don’t know where to start, Magicschool is going to give you a great perspective on what is possible.
Almanack has fewer tools, but boasts an integrated approach that lets you plan an entire class and associated coursework in one single approach. Pick your grade, subject, and even your state standards to generate entire units. Almanack also allows you to pull in curriculum expectations and other materials to upload and have their AI generate worksheets, assessments, and slide decks for you. What makes this so powerful is that everything is already linked and connected. You can navigate from the unit to the class and start generating your content, without losing sight of the lesson goals and standards.
Whether you are already sitting on good materials and you are looking to get the clerical stuff out of the way or if you are looking to start from scratch and have AI be your content companion, any of the tools above has the potential to give you hours back in your day.
When it comes to the future of AI, there are still a lot of question marks though it remains a hot topic. New LLMs are popping up on the market, including Elon Musk’s new AI. The White House recently released a statement on AI that I highly recommend reading as it includes an announcement that foreign nationals with skills in AI have been added as a category for green card applicants. There seems to be a desire not to fall behind in the AI race on the global scale. Regardless of our personal acceptance and use of AI, our students will compete in this job market of the future, so building those AI literacy skills in ourselves will not only help us save hours of time, but it will prepare us to have a nuanced and thoughtful discussion, in our classrooms and communities, about the future of AI.
"Almanack: AI-Integrated Educational Planning." Almanack, 2023, www.almanack.com. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
"Bard" Google 2023, https://bard.google.com/chat. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
"ChatG" OpenAI, 2023, www.openai.com/chatgpt. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
"Diffit: AI for Education." Diffit, 2023, www.diffit.com. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
“I wrote this blog post about AI applications in Education. Can you give me some feedback about it? I also still need a title.” prompt. ChatGPT, GPT-4, OpenAI, 30 Jun. 2023, https://chat.openai.com/share/d170d868-f67f-4c10-83af-804d8d39eebd.
"LitLab: AI-Driven Literacy Tools." LitLab, 2023, www.litlab.com. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
"Magicschool: AI Tools for Teachers." Magicschool, 2023, www.magicschool.com. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
McKinsey & Company. "How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact K–12 Teachers." McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/how-artificial-intelligence-will-impact-k-12-teachers. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
“Okay, I'm writing this blog post and I have a structure ready for it. What do you think about it?” prompt. ChatGPT, GPT-4, OpenAI, 30 Jun. 2023, https://chat.openai.com/share/99f579cb-42d3-4113-b5d3-44c0c40fa131
"U.S. to Fast-Track Green Cards for AI Experts." AI News, 2023, www.ainews.com/us-green-card-ai-experts. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.
"White House Press Briefing on Artificial Intelligence." The White House, 2023, www.whitehouse.gov/press-briefing-on-artificial-intelligence. Accessed 9 Nov. 2023.