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Throughout the year, we have been bombarded with news, opinions, and advice regarding the presence, potential, and power of artificial intelligence (AI). With so much information swirling around us, it can be difficult to sort what is relevant and useful from what is just hype and noise. Yet, we know that AI is making an impact all around us, and we need to pay attention.

Now, with the summer ahead of us, we can take some time to absorb, reflect, and learn. It can be a challenge to know where to even begin. Because each of us is on our own journey and will have our own individual learning needs and levels of readiness, it will be helpful to consider what is most relevant in terms of our unique needs and potential uses. Here are six questions to guide reflection within your personal context with accompanying discussion to provide support for your journey.

A logical first question is, what steps do I need to take to expand my understanding of how AI can increase the efficiency of my work and effectiveness of my practice? AI is a potentially powerful tool to help us to manage much of the time-consuming work that has been part of our world forever. Lesson planning, correspondence, and brainstorming are just three examples. Further, AI offers access to a wide array of ideas, resources, activities, and perspectives that can enhance the learning we design for and with students. Innovative approaches, creative applications, and novel strategies to support learning can be part of our regular practice without us always having to spend hours developing them.

Second, we might ask what additional information and resources do I need to understand where and how can I use AI to add learning value for my students? This question is related to the first question, but it shifts the focus to how AI can add to the arsenal of learning skills students are developing. AI can add dimensions to their learning experiences that go beyond what we have been able to provide in the past. As examples, AI can position students to view world events from the perspectives of people from other cultures and regions. It can help students to understand and experience the value of what they are asked to learn in ways that extend far beyond what we might be able to provide without extensive research and planning.

A third reflection question is, what additional guidelines and safeguards do I need to put into place to ensure that my students are using AI appropriately and safely? As amazing as AI can be as a resource, it also can create important dilemmas, questions, and quandaries for learners. We need to think through what our students need to know about protecting their privacy and safety. We can examine with students crucial ethical issues regarding the use of AI. Further, we need to equip our students with the skills to be aware of and recognize bias and fabrication of information, and we need to prepare them with options and strategies to respond when they believe they are victims of inappropriate use of AI.

Fourth, how can I increase the engagement of parents as learning partners and supporters to help students use AI in safe and meaningful ways? Communication with parents is key to ensuring safe, ethical, and meaningful AI engagement. Parent engagement will likely be a key element in determining the level and nature of their support as students begin to utilize AI in more integrated, impactful, and extensive ways. Parents will want to know and be reassured that their children’s safety is being protected and that students are continuing to learn and develop skills beyond those necessary to use AI.

Fifth, how can I best support students’ utilization of AI to stimulate, build, and extend learning while avoiding potentially unfounded suspicions and accusations of plagiarism and other forms of cheating? Once introduced to the power of AI, students will want to utilize it—regardless of our approval. Our best choice is to teach students the proper ways in which to access AI to support their learning rather than to replace it. Students need to know how to cite AI sources, how to use AI to stimulate their ideas, and how to access important support AI can provide while not ignoring the importance of their own learning. Predictably, some students will attempt to shortcut their learning by relying on AI to provide the work product for which they are responsible. In response, we might be tempted to use commercially available tools to identify AI content, but caution is warranted as many of them have been shown to be unreliable. Striking a balance is key.

Finally, how am I using engagement with AI to help students to build their resilience, critical thinking, communication, and other durable skills they will need in a tech-driven world? Building the skills necessary to utilize AI is an important challenge for students. However, we also must give attention to the life and work skills students need to be successful in a world where relationships, sound judgement, decision making, problem solving, and other competencies remain crucial. In fact, the existence of AI in no way lessens the importance of these skills. On the contrary, AI arguably make these skills even more important and their application even more consequential.

Obviously, these are questions we can ask ourselves repeatedly as we learn and our experience and skills continue to evolve. It is reasonable to assume that AI will continue to grow and evolve, and our utilization of it will also need to be frequently reconsidered, reoriented, and renewed.

Thought for the Week

AI can teach and share knowledge, sure, but it lacks the key elements of human modeling, nurturing, and connecting that are essential components of a comprehensive learning process.

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