Sunday, October 22, 2023
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be a concept reserved for scientists, tech experts and software engineers, but that's a thing of the past. Since the release of ChatGPT to the general public, a wide range of AI tools for all types of users have been created, covering almost every aspect of our daily lives.
An increasing market of AI tools is the education field, and some fantastic tools are now making their way into classrooms everywhere, offering exciting opportunities even for our young learners, and they are changing the way children interact with technology and learn. It is important to learn about how exactly these tools are enhancing our offerings and at the same time to be mindful of the lack of regulation and privacy issues.
In this blog post, I will share some basic information about what are AI tools for students, their benefits, and what to be cautious of when introducing AI to our students. In the next posts, I will share how we could go about selecting AI-based educational tools, and finally, I will share some great tools I have been exploring and using with my students. I hope you find this blog series useful.
- Khan Academy, TTRockStars) AI can adapt to each student's individual learning pace and style. This ensures that students receive lessons and exercises that match their abilities, allowing them to progress at their own speed. (Examples:
- AI tools provide immediate feedback, helping students understand their mistakes and correct them. This real-time response can boost students' confidence and encourage a growth mindset. (Examples: Prodigy, IXL)
- AI-powered apps often come with interactive and gamified content that makes learning fun. Students are more likely to stay engaged and motivated when lessons are enjoyable. (Examples: Minecraft Edu Edition, Canva)
- Many AI tools are accessible online, enabling students to continue learning outside the classroom. This is especially valuable for homework, independent study, or remote learning scenarios. (Examples: DuoLingo, Read&Write for Google Chrome)
- Teachers and parents can monitor students' progress and identify areas where they may need additional support. AI-generated data can inform educational strategies. (Examples: Cognii, IXL)
- Perhaps the most important drawback is each tool's overall educational value. Not all AI tools are created equal. Some may offer low-quality or inaccurate content/feedback, have inconsistent performance, or lack pedagogical rigor. Some apps and tools marketed as educational may in reality be poorly designed, which would lower the quality of education we intend to provide to our students. Do your research and try tools on your own before you introduce them to your students!
- Another concern is that students may become overly reliant on AI tools and neglect time-tested effective "traditional" learning methods. It's important to strike a balance between technology-based and conventional learning. Some students might become too dependent on AI tools and neglect traditional learning methods like reading physical books or engaging in hands-on activities, which, as a consequence, may cause them to struggle to adapt to non-digital learning environments.
- Using AI tools may involve sharing data about students' performance and preferences. Ensuring data privacy and security is crucial, and parents and teachers should be aware of how data is used. There have been cases of data breaches in educational technology platforms, potentially exposing students' personal information. One notable example is the Edmodo data breach, which impacted millions of users.
- Excessive screen time can have negative effects on children's health and well-being. It's important to set reasonable limits on the use of AI tools (and any digital tool) and encourage physical activity and face-to-face interactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other reputable institutions, warns about the negative effects of excessive screen time on children, such as sleep disturbances, reduced physical activity, and potential behavioral issues.
How AI Could Save (Not Destroy) Education | Sal Khan | TED
Next up: How to properly choose AI tools- a guide for educators and parents.
Friday, June 2, 2023
I've been using Poe for a few months now. It's basically an AI chatbot app that uses big data from ChatGPT and Claude, and allows you to create your own chatbot (for free!) by creating a filter for specific purposes. I've seen some fun ones like someone who created a "meow chatbot" that replies to prompts with all kinds of cat-like replies. Useless but fun. Other creative examples are the "Talk to a Pirate" chatbot, the Emoji translator app that translates messages into emojis 😏, or even the Japanese tutor that helps you learn Japanese.
Here are a few of the existing bots people created (which can be found and played with on the app itself):
So I decided to try it out on my own. My goal was to create a chatbot that would introduce users to beautiful poetry from around the world. The results- a fun informative chatbot that will share great poetry!
Here I'll walk you through the super simple process of creating your own chatbot:
- Download the app
- Log in
- Tap the "hamburger menu" (those three horizontal lines at the top left corner)
- Click "Create a bot"
- Give your bot a name (the URL will eventually be, "poe.com/WhateverNameYouChose")
- Describe the bot (optional)- What is your bot "specializing in"? You can read description samples above. This was mine: "Find great poetry to fill up your time, space and mood."
- Choose a base bot (Claude-instant or ChatGPT)- Read for more information about each below
- Toggle to choose if you'd like your prompt (see next step) to be visible to viewers when they use your bot
- Create your prompt- This is where you make your bot focus on whatever you choose. See example below.
- Create an intro message- This is the initial greeting you will see when you open the chatbot. Depending on your purpose, it could be funny, explanatory, etc. You can also give users options to choose from. Again, see my choices below.
- Preview your bot
- Review and test
- Share with the world!
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Enter Sold a Story...
- 1: The Problem: Corinne Adams watches her son's lessons during Zoom school and discovers a dismaying truth: He can't read. Little Charlie isn't the only one. Sixty-five percent of fourth graders in the United States are not proficient readers. Kids need to learn specific skills to become good readers, and in many schools, those skills are not being taught.
- 2: The Idea: Sixty years ago, Marie Clay developed a way to teach reading she said would help kids who were falling behind. They’d catch up and never need help again. Today, her program remains popular and her theory about how people read is at the root of a lot of reading instruction in schools. But Marie Clay was wrong.
- 3: The Battle: President George W. Bush made improving reading instruction a priority. He got Congress to provide money to schools that used reading programs supported by scientific research. But backers of Marie Clay’s cueing idea saw Bush’s Reading First initiative as a threat.
- 4: The Superstar: Teachers sing songs about Teachers College Columbia professor Lucy Calkins. She’s one of the most influential people in American elementary education today. Her admirers call her books bibles. Why didn't she know that scientific research contradicted the reading strategies she promoted?
- 5: The Company: Teachers call books published by Heinemann their "bibles." The company's products are in schools all over the country. Some of the products used to teach reading are rooted in a debunked idea about how children learn to read. But they've made the company and some of its authors millions.
- 6: The Reckoning: Lucy Calkins says she has learned from the science of reading. She's revised her materials. Fountas and Pinnell have not revised theirs. Their publisher, Heinemann, is still selling some products to teach reading that contain debunked practices. Parents, teachers and lawmakers want answers. In our final episode, we try to get some answers.
“Sold a Story” podcast, Episode TK (TK, 2020).
Friday, March 10, 2023
My reflections on the relationship between "best practices" and "innovation" were triggered by my experience at a forward-thinking educational institution where teacher freedom in teaching and learning was encouraged. Upon receiving my new class in August, I realized that my students were lacking basic skills, such as literacy, self-management, and understanding of processes, which were assumed in other schools I have worked at.
This made me realize that innovation must be defined, agreed upon, planned, and contained to create an institution that pushes boundaries while ensuring our students have the necessary skills to lead a successful life. Why contain innovation? Because the more we innovate, the less we teach what we know works well. Therefore, finding a balance between "Highly Effective" and "Learning Progressive" is essential to continue finding the best ways to serve our students (I wrote about this balance here)
although I am fascinated with the ways in which AI will affect humanity and the field of education in particular, I am going to work hard to go on a hunt for some educators and cognitive scientists who are making it a point to always look for instructional strategies that have demonstrated significant research-based evidence, examine their work, and reflect on my own practice.
I invite you to join me on this journey, and if you have any thoughts, ideas, comments, or suggestions, please share them with me.
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
ChatGPT is one such AI tool that has caught my attention. It is a large language model developed by OpenAI that can generate human-like text based on the patterns it learned from the data it was trained on. While it can be a powerful tool for students to generate text, it's important to be aware of its limitations and to use it in a way that is beneficial to student learning.
If you're not sure what ChatGPT is, here is a short introduction:
Issue 1: Data Bias
"The real risk with AI isn't malice but competence. A superintelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren't aligned with ours, we're in trouble." - Nick Bostrom, philosopher, and scientist
Issue 2: Lack of Context
"Context is the key to understanding" - Dr. Seuss
Issue 3: Lack of Domain Expertise
"Expertise is the weightless, all-purpose panacea of the sentient" - Douglas Adams
While ChatGPT can generate text on a wide range of topics, it does not have the same level of expertise as a human in any specific domain. Therefore, students may not always receive accurate or detailed information when using ChatGPT for research. For example, when students use ChatGPT to generate a report on a scientific topic, they may receive information that is not entirely accurate or current. To address this limitation, students can be taught to verify the information generated by ChatGPT with multiple sources and to consult subject-matter experts when necessary.
Issue 4: Creativity
"The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind and then never stop" - Dr. Edward de Bono
ChatGPT is based on patterns it learned from the data it was trained on, it can generate text that is similar to examples it has seen before, but it does not have the ability to create something truly new or original. For example, when students use ChatGPT to generate a poem, it might generate a poem that is similar to examples it has seen before, but it will not be something truly unique or creative. To address this limitation, students can be encouraged to use ChatGPT as a tool to generate ideas, but to also use their own creativity and originality to develop their work.
Issue 5: Common Sense
"Common sense is not so common" - Voltaire
ChatGPT is not capable of understanding common sense, it can generate text based on the patterns it learned, but it may not be able to make sense of certain situations which involve common sense reasoning. For example, when students use ChatGPT to generate a story it may not understand the story's plot and might generate something that doesn't make sense. To address this limitation, students can be taught to review the output generated by ChatGPT for logical consistency and common sense reasoning before using it.
Issue 6: Consistency
"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative" - Oscar Wilde
Friday, May 31, 2019
In this blog post, I share my perspective and experiences throughout the Research and Development journey- from its inception, through the planning, to pre-implementation phase at the Elementary School level.
|The R&D Journey
- “to design an experience, develop the plan, and train teachers for the implementation of the ICS personalized learning experience for May and June of 2019”; and,
- “create a cohesive and aligned six-week personalized learning pathway experience for grades 1-11 ICS students”
|The ICS R7D Team's "WHY" Statement
Research:The first part of our journey was composed of researching different schools, educational programs, philosophies and systems, and extracting important elements elements to include in our “recipe”. From going on school visits, to reviewing published literature, from participating in Twitter chats to stalking school websites and teacher blogs, the R&D members tirelessly shared, debated, and arrived at agreements as to what constitutes a balanced school and what we should include in our program (given the constraints of the PYP and IBDP programs).
Plan:Although initially we thought in terms of “blowing up the system” and re-creating an “ideal school” from scratch, we (at the Elementary School) quickly arrived at the conclusion that in order to create something that will be successfully implemented (in the short term) and will take our division forward (in the long term), we needed to go slowly. To make small changes and at the same time to focus on pedagogy: moving from a more traditional teacher-student relationship and teacher-directed content to more student-driven education- one that promotes student agency and allows for the students to develop the dispositions, knowledge and skills to become Master Learners (in the spirit of “learning how to learn”).
Here is what we, as the ES R&D team members (Eunice Yun and myself), together with our Co-Principals Mrs. Susan Ballantyne and Mr. David Callaway, decided to implement in our ES PLEx:
IBPYP Framework:As a PYP school, honoring the requirements of the PYP was a non-negotiable. Believing that the existing inquiry-based and thematic framework of the PYP is an effective way to teach and learn, we decided to keep the framework, focus on improving the teaching, and adding important elements we believed were missing from the PYP.
This was to be the guiding principle we were to maximize during PLEx. Everything we were to design would lead to students determining their desired outcomes (voice), would allow them a variety of pathways (choice), and would eventually lead to students taking responsibility and owning their learning (ownership). The entry point was for students to spend ample time discovering and discussing their interests and passions in a general way, and once teachers break down the Transdisciplinary Theme and the Central Idea, to hone in on those interests, and to embed them into the unit plans.
Instead of focusing on the end results, we decided to add value and emphasize the process. This was to manifest in different important ways:
Emphasis Shift from Product to Process:
- Teaching and Learning: We put structures in place (instructional time, modification or requirements, example documentation, and teacher/student training opportunities) to assist and remind teachers of the important of the process. We encouraged teachers to “go slow to go fast”- to spend time on systems, structures, and procedures in order to ensure students are equipped with the understanding and skills to ask meaningful questions, to thoroughly plan their inquiries, to research at their developmental levels, and to do their best to make an impact on their world. At the same time, teachers were to de-emphasize the importance of a “perfect” final product and instead, to encourage students to create prototypes and models to explain their thinking and learning process.
- Documentation and Reflection: Students are to use Seesaw as the platform for ongoing documentation and reflection (3 times weekly). We built into the schedule about 40 minutes for daily planning each morning and 20 minutes for reflections each afternoon.
- Reporting: We shifted the focus of reporting from the report card to ongoing Seesaw documents. We informed the parents from the get-go that at the end of the unit, students will have a generic report card comment (for unit #6) that refers them back to the ongoing Seesaw documentation and reflection. We hoped that parents would participate in the conversation through commenting on their child’s work in a timely and authentic manner. Since we left the reporting window open until the end of the year, teachers (if so they desire) would be able to add individualized comments on student performance during PLEx.
Learning and Processes:Although our brains prefer to think of processes in a linear way, learning is nothing but linear. We decided to use our school’s new Learning Process (which our new Research Process also matches), add reversed arrows, and break down each stage into manageable steps. This, we believed, would provide teachers with sufficient structure to anchor the teaching and learning journey as they guide students from the Discovery stage to the final reflection and presentation pieces.
|The PLEx Learning Process and Stages
ATLs (Approaches to Learning):An emphasis on 21 Century Skills was a top candidate for inclusion. We ended up using the ATLs (formerly “Transdisciplinary Skills”) from the IBPYP and adapting/creating existing progressions from Singapore American School and the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (2016). After a long discussion and rigorous work, we decided to focus on 4 ATLs (Thinking, Research, Self-Management, and Communication skills), which we broke down into 11 sub-skills (the original Enhanced PYP ATLs have 39 sub-skills!) The reasoning behind narrowing down sub-skills was twofold:
- Due to their importance, we wanted the ATLs to serve as a common thread throughout the school (ES, MS, and HS), and since the MS and HS created a more individualized journey, they insisted that Social Skills would be too difficult to assess.
- We wanted students and teachers to dig deep into these important ATLs, as they will be taught explicitly and regularly, and students/teachers would discuss placement on each progression throughout the Personalized Learning Experience (“PLEx”).
Pathways:We decided to use pathways as a tool for sorting students, staff, community members, and spaces to optimize learning. However, after agreeing to have four specific pathways for all three divisions, we (in the ES) realized that with the requirements of the PYP (to use the TD Theme and Central Idea), adding another specific way to sort students would create too many restrictions. After sharing and discussing this with teachers, we decided to keep four pathways, but let teaching teams decide what the four would be based on the nature of their student interests, projects, concepts, outcomes, or a combination of them.
|The original Pathways
Learner Readiness:Noting the benefits of brain and body readiness, we decided to embed 20 minutes in the daily schedule for students to focus on exercise and mindfulness. Our fantastic PE teachers, Heather Kea and Michael Holton, led an engaging and persuasive teacher workshop that included the research behind the benefits of increased heart rate and mindfulness to student learning. Heather and Michael also created a Google Slide full of ideas and options for students and teachers to choose from.
|Sample Learning Readiness Activities Slide
Community involvement:An important element we identified in both the school visits and our research, we looked for ways to include parents and the greater community in the teaching and learning. As a first step, we decided to use Seesaw as a communication platform between parents and their children. We also created “PLEx Volunteer Forms”, and together with our Office of Communication, shared it with teachers, parents, and the greater community. Our aim was to create a database of parents and the greater community, so that they can participate in PLEx, but also to use it in the long terms for other projects in the future.
Mathematics & Reading:Finally, for various reasons, we decided to exclude Math from PLEx and to allot one hour daily for math instruction. Honoring the importance and benefits of daily reading, and allowing teachers to (1) connect with their students in topics other than PLEx, and (2) provide mini-lessons and other needed interventions to individual students, we decided to include about 30 minutes of reading to the daily schedule.
|Sample Suggested Daily Schedule
An essential element of PLEx was to ensure that all teachers understand the structures and expectations during PLEx. To do that, in the schedule, we had two half days and one full day dedicated to teacher training. On top of that, each division’s R&D members negotiated with our division’s administrators additional training times during our regular Wednesday Professional Learning Community (PLC) time.
To structure these trainings, we made sure to consider:
- Looking at the big picture and overarching structures, such as “What is PLEx?”, the ICS Learning Process, the ATLs, etc.;
- Narrowing into the finer details (i.e., how different stages are broken down);
- Use of technology (Use of Google Classrooms for grades 3-5, use of Seesaw, online databases for research, etc.);
- Progressing in more of a linear way (first “Inquiry, then “Action” and ending with “Reflection”);
- Leading by example- Allowing for teacher agency in every workshop or training, by including a variety of resources, training breakout options, etc.
- Sharing structures, examples and exemplars for teachers and students (we created a Google Site with lots of information- to explain stages, get students inspired, manage structures, example documents to share with students, and much much more!); and,
- Most importantly,
- get ongoing teacher feedback and, when possible, adjust plans and expectations, or focus future trainings on what is really needed;
- ensure teachers have sufficient time to digest the information, ask questions, express their frustrations, and discuss how each element would work in different teams’ context; and,
- for each team to begin planning what PLEx is going to look like, what resources to use, personalize templates, etc.
What Was Left Out?One of the most important guidelines we gave ourselves was to not overwhelm teachers. This year has been, and will continue to be busy, and there are many things happening at the end of the school year (Standardized testing, individual reading and writing assessments, step-up ceremonies, art showcases, heightened emotions due to students or teachers leaving, experience with and level of expertise as inquiry-based teachers, etc.). We were very conscious of which existing structures we keep, and what we add during this last part of the year. Here are a few elements we decided to leave out:
- SEL (Social-Emotional Learning): During our school visits, we were energized by how much attention and emphasis some schools put on social/emotional learning. We looked into bringing in someone from the Nueva school’s SEL Program to share their ideas and plans with us, but unfortunately, we decided to not include SEL as a program for PLEx, and instead work on different related areas through the Learning Readiness program and the ATLs (which, we ended up removing the Social Skills from the list…)
- Design Thinking Process: As a Design teacher, this was a big challenging for me to accept the exclusion of a structured Design Thinking process to complement all the projects and models students will be creating. Even after researching and creating this slideshow, the final verdict was that adding another unfamiliar structure would be asking too much from our teachers. :-(
- Specialist Integration: In a highly functioning PYP school, you will see the Specialists’ unit plans that are naturally integrated into the homeroom units. As our school strives to continue to educate Specialist teachers on the “Why” and “How” of integration, and re-write unit plans in homerooms and for Specialists to become more inter- and multi-disciplinary, we had to accept that we are not there yet. Specialist teachers having to finish their “own curriculum” forced us to think creatively how we could divert their attention from their own plans to what allows students to see the transdisciplinary aspect of the PYP and their PLEx projects. We shared ideas in regards to altering schedules, grouping students in different ways, offering “PLEx route” and “Non-PLEx route”, and more. We’ll just have to wait and see what will happen when we begin this experience, and reflect and plan something better for the future.
At the beginning of May, we are to begin this exciting and scary journey. I have no doubt that there will be a vast array of experiences and beliefs, and we will reflect on each of those as we support teachers and students throughout this marvelous new journey!
If you have any questions or other inquiries, please feel free to share them. I look forward to engaging in the conversations!