It’s been a hell of a past three years – for everyone, including for us teachers.
I’ve been dipping into my reserve to bring positive energy and lessons to my classes each day, and I think I’ve been succeeding.
And that’s despite the fact that I feel incredibly resentful about our district expecting us to pack up EVERTHING in our classrooms so that the school can be renovated over the summer – without giving us any extra paid time to do it (“just have students help you do it” is their comment). Of course, they also just gave us 2,000 boxes to put together, along with a small case of tape and three tape guns to share.
On top of all that, we also now have Artificial Intelligence to deal with.
I’ve been writing and sharing a lot about AI – and not because I believe it’s going to be some kind of tremendous tech boon to education.
I’ve been writing and sharing a lot about AI to figure out how to mitigate all the additional work it’s going to cause us in the classroom.
I don’t think AI itself is going to make teaching or learning any better.
I do think that AI by itself going to make teaching and learning different.
And, I think that if we teachers are able to find the mental bandwidth (and I think that’s a big “if” for many of us) to constructively adapt to it, we – not AI – have a chance of making our teaching better just by being forced to look at our former lessons through “new eyes.”
I know that I tend to feel pretty comfortable doing similar lessons year-and-after-year. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And, with everything else that we have to deal with, it’s easy to probably do more of that than I should.
Now, though, being comfortable with the past is not really an option. I felt like AI destroyed a great “What If?” history project I generally use to end the year in my TOK class – ChatGPT can easily handle the thinking involved in a second. Instead, I felt forced to develop a unit on learning about AI to replace it, and I’m sure it will go very well – probably better than the What If? project would have gone. I just would have preferred to not spending the extra time right now on creating the unit.
Again, with TOK, I don’t think I can continue to use old IB prompts for students to use for their practice essays. Because of AI, I think I have to create my own prompts that will require students only to use personal experience and classroom activities as part of their response. I think those prompts will be more accessible to my students, and result in better writing. Again, I would prefer not to have to spend the time to create them.
The list could go on and on.
In all of them, I don’t think it’s the AI that’s going to make the teaching and learning better. It’s going to be what we do in order to mitigate its dangers to teaching and learning that’s going to make it better. And, if we don’t make those changes, AI is going to make teaching and learning a lot worse.
That’s not to say that I won’t be using AI in some of those new lessons. For example, having AI write essays and then have students improve them is likely going to be a common lesson. The use of AI is not going to make that lesson a better one for writing. How we prep students to find the flaws in AI is going to be the key for how we make it work.
In community organizing (my career for nineteen years prior to becoming a teacher), we had saying: The action is in the reaction.
The focus of our organizing was not in the activity of our actions (protests, mass negotiations, voting). Instead the focus was on the reaction it would generate from decision-makers.
The action of AI’s presence in the world is not going to make teaching and learning better. Our teaching and learning has a chance of improving by our reaction to AI.
I just wish I didn’t have to deal with it right now.
The worst thing about AI in the context of education is all the extra work it’s going to cause us teachers.
The best thing about AI in the context of education is all the extra work it’s going to cause us teachers.