Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Past and Future Tools: From Word Processors to AI

In my teaching and learning life, I have seen some change. I've seen teachers go from purple-inked ditto masters to overhead projectors. I've played in the WYSIWYG pool of web content creation and thrilled at the dial-up static in an early computer lab. I saw the birth of Smart Boards and the explosion of collaboration made possible by shareable spaces and documents. I've toured and lived in G-suites and classrooms Canvas-ed in content. As with many of us educators, my excitement led me to learning more, and doing more, from EdCamps and NCTE's Tech-to-Go Kiosks to writing for Stenhouse, Janet Allen and myself. 

Innovations in technology ignite my curiosity, and right now, like many of us, my wondering fires up over AI  tools such as ChatGPT and DALL·E 2.  For me as an educator, the question has not been should we allow students to use these tools though. I wonder instead about the why, and the how and the when.  

  • How might we use these tools in schools? 
  • Why might it be important for students to learn how to leverage these tools? 
  • When or for what would using these tools amplify what learners know and are able to do? 
  • How might these tools create alternatives for learning, news ways of thinking, new ways to collaborate or create?
  • How do we maintain academic integrity while also exploring new technologies? How do we teach such values to students? 

In the late 1990s when I was a beginning teacher I remember when we began having students use word processing programs to write. We used Claris Works in the first school where I taught. After an observation, a school leader asked me how a computer was better than using pen and paper? That question led me to critically reflect on my practice. 

My reflections led me to models of tech integration such as the SAMR model and  ISTE's standards, and later,  the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), from the Florida Center of Information Technology. 

SAMR illustration by Lefflerd at Wikimedia Commons used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Then, word processing programs augmented, to use language from the SAMR, our writing practice in the classroom. Now, writing collaboratively in goal-oriented ways in shared spaces has redefined and transformed what writers in schools are able to do. 

When I think about AI tools such ChatGPT and others I'm exploring, I can't help but marvel how these will fundamentally change productivity. This shift, may indeed redefine, as the SAMR model notes, or transform, to use TIM language, how we teach and learn.

As faculty discuss and sometimes deplore how students are using these tools, I'm thinking about teaching and learning scenarios like the ones below.  I'm wondering how we might collect and discuss them? I'm wondering how scenarios like these  might live on the Technology Integration Matrix and what sorts of shifts we'll see?  


Scenario 1: Students engage in paired or small group discussion to process text/information; after discussing they then prompt ChatGPT to discuss the content or answer lingering questions, then synthesize the ideas in another round of discussion. 

Scenario 2: A student is asked to write to analyze how theme is developed in a poem. They want to see different ways to organize such an essay, and ask ChatGPT to write an analysis essay about a different poem that is organized chronologically and then a second time, organized by devices used by the poet.

Scenario 3: A student asks an AI to explain a concept and then compares the response to their own notes and understandings of the concept, adding to or revising their own understandings.

Scenario 4: A PLC team uses ChatGPT to unpack a standard in order to develop learning targets and then create success criteria or rubrics. The team goes an additional step and generates sample responses to use with students to evaluate the writing.

Scenario 5: An instructional coach works with a teacher using ChatGPT to create differentiated learning activities to support students learning.

Additional Reads

Baguley, Richard. (20 March 2023). "21 Tools for Content, Image, Sound and Video Creation,"   

Ferlazzo, Larry.  (18 Jan 2023). "19 Ways to Use ChatGPT in Your Classroom." EdWeek

Taylor, Stephen. (Dec 2022). "(If you) USEME-AI."

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