Tips for getting the most out of A.I.
If you’re looking to supercharge your teaching by leveraging the awesome power of AI, read on!
Before we get to the list though we need to consider a few things to make sure we’re getting the most out of AI.
- If you’ve ever studied computer science, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out‘. Well that also applies here. The AI is only as good as the prompts we give it, so we need to be clear and concise in what we ask it to do to avoid potential confusion.
- Communication with a model like chatGPT is particularly effective when you ‘train it’ with information to set a context for your conversation. It’s also an iterative process. One of the most useful features is that you can keep on refining your inputs until you get the answer you were looking for.
- Don’t always take information at face value. Verify the validity of data with sources to see if they are accurate.
- If an AI model is trained up to a certain date and does not have access to the internet, then knowledge of current events and changes to information will be limited.
That being said, AI chatbots can be an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly. For educators, they have the ability to enrich lessons and provide support, allowing you to perform at the best of your abilities. It is not a replacement for human teaching and never will be, but used as an assistant to enhance your capabilities, AI offers endless opportunities.
This list contains some ideas to get you started on how you might use AI in the classroom.
(There are some interesting ones near the end so make sure you read all the way through!)
1. Creative writing prompts
Generate an endless list of creative prompts to spark imaginative ideas to inspire writing. Explore a variety of narrative structures, themes and plots to nurture creativity and prevent the dreaded ‘writer’s block’! Either feed in some starting ideas or topics or let AI provide you with some mystery creative writing prompts. Take things a step further by using an image-based AI to provide some images for creative writing prompts too.
2. Simulate a virtual science lab for experiments
Practical science experiments were some of my favourite lessons at school. However, they present challenges for educators – budget constraints, health and safety, prep time, space constraints. Use AI to simulate scientific experiments in a safe virtual lab environment. Students can experiment with testing a hypothesis, combining compounds and analysing results. Whilst it’s no substitute for the real thing, virtual science labs can be a useful way for students to become familiar with certain scientific procedures and improve their theoretical knowledge.
2. Tailored learning solutions
Leverage AI to tailor learning to a student’s specific needs or interests. Explain a task in the context of a student’s strengths or weaknesses for suggestions on how to adapt it accordingly.
3. Writing assistance
Use AI as a simple grammar and spelling checker. Get suggestions on how to improve writing style. Expand simple ideas into detailed outlines. In addition to technical aspects of writing, AI can also assist with creativity (idea generation, prompts and plot ideas).
4. Feedback (and grading)
Pre-train the AI with grading criteria and then input student work to generate tailored feedback. Whilst not a substitute for human feedback, it can be useful to highlight areas of weakness and even suggest preliminary grades based on criteria.
5. Idea generation and brainstorming
By inputting a word or topic as a starting point AI can then generate lots of ideas and avenues for you to explore. Rather than outsourcing the entire creative processes to AI, I prefer to brainstorm traditionally and then pick out specific ideas which resonate and demand further exploration. I often find that if I put these into the chatGPT prompt it will inevitably throw out a few interesting suggestions which I would not have considered. This collaborative method of idea generation can sometimes prove very fruitful.
6. Differentiation / scaffolding
In addition to breaking tasks down into smaller chunks, AI can give suggestions for extension activities for more able students. It can also give ideas for tailoring information and activities intended for a less able audience. This can be useful for making sure lessons are accessible to a diverse audience and for setting level appropriate homework.
7. Introducing new topics
Tell the AI that you’re going to be introducing a certain topic to a group of students. Ask what things you should cover to give a concise overview. Then, based on the result, ask it to generate the copy for your talk or presentation. You may also want to ask if there are any sensitive themes or considerations you should be aware of.
8. Help supporting students with special educational needs
Get suggestions for activities and projects tailored to a student’s specific needs. Ask for implementation strategies and ideas for modifications to lessons.
9. Mock interviews
Simulate a job interview (this can be useful for students and teachers alike). The AI can be trained to ask industry/job-specific questions. The feedback from the answers can give an indication of weaknesses or gaps in knowledge. The low pressure environment is a great opportunity to explore answers safely, without judgement which can help alleviate anxieties.
10. Data analysis and interpretation
In some situations trying to draw clear conclusions from a data set can be challenging. AI can look over data quickly and perhaps spot a nuance or anomaly that was easy to overlook with the human eye.
11. Your personal tech support assistant
Running into tech issues can be frustrating to say the least. Waiting for help from tech support assistants in the workplace often eats into valuable time and can throw your work schedule off track. Explain the issue to AI and get instant advice for how you might solve the issue. AI’s excellent knowledge of popular word processing and spreadsheet apps can be invaluable for those times you get stuck with one of those “how do I do this?” problems.
12. Coding help
Of all the things I’ve used AI for so far, this has been the most impressive to me. Get help writing or debugging code. Troubleshoot errors and get suggestions for fixes along with an explanation of why your code wasn’t working. Learning to code can be daunting and a steep learning curve but AI can assist you at every step with explanations, suggestions and examples.
13. Solving or explaining difficult mathematical problems
It probably comes as no surprise that AI is great at mathematics. What’s really useful though is that it can break difficult problems down and explain concepts in easy to understand language. It can also show several methods for solving the same problem to help students with comprehension.
14. Explaining complex concepts in simple language
Getting a class of students with varying ability levels to all understand a concept can be tricky. You can ask AI to explain things in a way that suits the audience, For example “explain the concept of quantum theory in terms an intelligent 10 year old can comprehend”.
15. Assisting with PowerPoint/Slides presentations
Explain that you want to create a presentation with ‘x’ number of slides to explain a chosen topic. Be specific with the prompt about what you need it to cover, who the target audience is and where you would like to insert media. This can be incredibly useful for creating an introductory lesson for a new topic to a class.
16. Mock exams and test questions
Use the prompt to ask for a set number of example questions relating to a specific exam. This could include multiple choice questions or traditional question and answer based tests. After you receive the test questions ask the prompt to supply an answer sheet for teachers with appropriate notes/guidance for each question.
17. Interpret historical photos or paintings
Program the AI with a set of questions about the image’s history, context, its source or people and objects. The insights can provide a basis for further research or deeper thinking and appreciation of a subject.
18. Tabulated revision schedule
Create a weekly schedule for study or revision of chosen topics. Get the AI to display the scheduled information in a neat table, illustrating which days and times are allocated to each topic.
19. Interactive Q&A sessions
Teachers can input student questions in real time. Answers are displayed for everyone to see on a large display / digital whiteboard.
20. Foreign language practice
Use AI as a personal translator. For a more interactive experience, simulate conversational language exercises where you get the AI to play the role of a foreign speaking character responding to your input.
21. Literary figure interviews
Interact with literary figures (fictional or real) and ask them questions about their lives. AI can then respond in character, giving students a clearer understanding and empathy of the character and their motivations.
22. Vocabulary building
Input a list of words and ask for synonyms, antonyms or contextual examples of the words. Request definitions and explanations of the words for deeper understanding.
23. Careers Advisor
Get the AI to ask questions about interests, personality traits, likes and dislikes etc. Then ask it to suggest possible career paths based on answers. Follow up with questions about each career.
24. Lesson planning
Make sure you identify the standard/level you’re working with as well as the desired learning objectives. Then get AI to generate the outline for a lesson plan. Refine and enhance to suit your needs and ask AI to identify learning outcomes, materials needed and even possible assessment ideas.
25. Rewriting old lessons
Update old lessons by rephrasing content to accommodate for new discoveries or curriculum changes. Ask AI to identify potential areas for improvement to your existing content and give suggestions for additions or revisions.
Try asking AI to help you set a SMART goal (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant. Time-bound). Tell it what you want to achieve and let it guide you through the process of making a structured plan to achieve it.
27 Improv partner
AI really excels at role-play exercises if you use appropriate and well defined prompts. Get students to take part in role-play conversations either individually or as a class by using AI as a virtual improv partner.
28. Virtual debate opponent
Ask AI to play the opposing side for a class debate and get it to respond to student statements with valid counter arguments. This gives them an opportunity to debate in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
29. Real-time teaching assistance
Simply load up an AI chatbot such as chatGPT during class and use it to deal with queries and questions as they crop up for an immediate response. This can be useful for dealing with tricky or unexpected questions and can contribute to maintaining the flow of a lesson.
30. Text to speech
Use a text to speech system with AI to read aloud explanations, questions or definitions. This can help make learning more accessible by catering to different learning styles and abilities.
31. Breaking down language barriers
Leverage the language translation abilities of AI to help communication with EAL/ESL students.
32. A random name picker
Pick names at random for a game or activity. Assign students to groups or tasks fairly, eliminating accusations of bias. Other uses for picking words or numbers at random can include virtual dice or a coin flipper for deciding who goes first in a game.
33. Text-based adventure games
Readers of a certain age may remember playing text-based games on personal computers as a child. No fancy graphics, no sound. Just text based descriptions of your surroundings for which you were prompted to interact and navigate your way through the game. As dull as it may sound, these games were often incredibly immersive and a fun way to improve typing and reading as well as applying critical thought and creativity. Simply ask the AI to simulate a text-based adventure game and give it some context for a theme or plot.
34. Travel through time
Create a well-written prompt explaining that you would like to simulate a time travel visit for the class. Input the date and destination you wish to visit and ask for a detailed description of the surroundings. Pose questions about the things described and select interesting observations for further investigation. This can be an immersive way of gaining historical information and can throw up some unexpected nuggets of information.
35. Museum guide
Get it to act as a virtual guide for your museum visit. Ask questions about different artifacts or works of art for detailed insights. What’s great is that you can also get further information about the people and cultures associated with the pieces on display for a really engaging experience.
36. Generate STEM project ideas based on an inventory list
Assembling materials for a hand-on project is not always straightforward. There’s often something unavailable or outside of the budget which makes planning activities difficult. Simply input a list of the materials you have to hand or can easily get hold of, then ask AI to generate some ideas for projects which incorporate these items.
37. Book summaries
Input the title and author of a book and ask for a brief summary. This can be a quick way of getting to grips with the key aspects of a book. You can then ask for a list of similar books or recommendations for further reading.
38. Interview a historical figure
Get students to pose questions for a famous figure from history to gain a better understanding of who they were.
39. Adaptive learning ideas
Explain the needs of a student and ask for ideas. For example “I have a student who learns best visually and has a reading age of 8, how could I explain the water cycle to her in an engaging way? Please provide practical examples.”
40. Streamlining or automating admin work
Streamline repetitive tasks by asking AI to generate templates and drafts for communications. Create checklists, schedules and charts.
41. Transcribing videos and reformatting into more digestible language
This is a little more involved but can help make video content more accessible. You will first need to use a transcription service to convert the audio to text. Then you can rephrase the content using AI to fit the needs of your audience and make it accessible to learners of different ability levels.
42. Detecting plagiarism in homework
There are several tools dedicated to scanning text and detecting plagiarism. Whilst the AI you’re using might not be trained to do this specifically, it is capable of recognising pieces of text from well-known sources and can flag up pieces of text that have been copied.
43. Comparing merits of two ideas
Input two opposing ideas and ask for a comparison. This can be really useful for assisting in drawing a conclusion or making a decision.
44. Giving themed or topical activity ideas
Ask for activity ideas based on a current event to capture children’s interests and increase engagement. Sporting events, special anniversaries, royal weddings… there is often something which can be used as context for learning.
45. Generating an itinerary for a trip.
Use AI as a starting point for planning a trip. Input the relevant dates, times and destination along with things you’re interested in seeing. Ask it to generate an itinerary based on your data, then iterate and revise until it suits your needs. Include things like lunch breaks, points of interest, and recommendations.
46. Identifying plants and wildlife.
Describe a plant and see if AI can identify it. For example, “Can you identify this plant? It has shiny reddish leaves with pointy edges. The plant has pink flowers around 10cm in diameter.”
47. A crossword puzzle solver (or generator)
Generate a crossword puzzle by inputting a list of words. You can also add the corresponding clues manually or get the AI to do this for you. If you ask the AI to generate the clues, you can ask for themed clues (a sports-themed crossword for example).
To solve a crossword puzzle using AI, simply add each clue along with the word length and any letters you already know. It will then be able to come up with some suggestions for answers. Adjust difficulty according to your preference.
48. A ‘Who am I?‘, or ‘what am I ‘What am I?‘ quiz
Use the prompt to ask something like: “Generate a ‘Who Am I?’ quiz about a historical figure. Give me one clue at a time. I will start with 100 points and you will deduct 5 points for each guess I get wrong. My final score will be the remaining number of points after correctly guessing the answer”.
49. Plan a garden
Get ideas based on size and scope of your intended garden. Ask for advice on planting schedules, layout and special care for plants.
50. Draft a letter or email
Input your intended recipient and what you want to say, then generate a letter which is formatted based on formal letter writing conventions.
51. Start the day with a positive quote
Simply generate a list of positive quotes which you can display in class each morning. Make sure they are appropriate for your audience of course.
52. Generate a speech
Input details about the theme, the audience, the duration of the speech and generate an outline. Make sure you include any key points you want to cover.
53. Prepare for a trip
Say when and where you intend going and get AI to give ideas for planning your trip. Generate packing lists, itineraries, and advice about local customs. You can also ask if there are any date-specific things you need to be aware of for the trip (special events or celebrations for example which may disrupt travel/accommodation).
54. What can I make with these ingredients?
Supply a list of ingredients and ask for some recipe ideas based on your list. Once you’ve chosen, get a step-by-step guide for how to prepare and cook your dish.
55. Come up with a business idea/plan
Start by inputting all the parameters such as business type, target market, current skill set, then ask for an outline. You can also ask for a plan based around solving a specific problem or something which caters to a particular niche.
56. Find some stats to back up a presentation
Make sure your AI is trained using up to date resources or has access to the internet in real time – then ask it to find stats and data based on your chosen topics. Always double check the validity and reliability of these though before using them.
57. Homework helper
Using a web browser to search the internet for homework help is not always the most effective method. Students can sometimes become distracted by the overwhelming amount of information online and go off on a tangent. Using AI can help keep things on track by following a more strict question and answer based approach to enquiries.
58. Write a mysterious letter as a homework assignment
This might be a mysterious letter found in an old book that hints at treasure hidden somewhere within the school. It could contain puzzles or riddles for the students to decipher and work out where the treasure is.
59. Compose spreadsheet formulas
When it comes to spreadsheets many people don’t progress much further than writing simple equations to calculate totals. Conditional formatting and IF statements can be challenging to get to grips with, but AI can take care of this too. Explain what you want to achieve and copy and paste the formulas into your spreadsheet cells.
60. Timeline diagrams
Not only is AI excellent at providing historical timelines of events, it’s also able to convey them visually as an easy to understand diagram.
61. Create a mind map or flow chart
Use AI to create outlines and generate ideas for mind maps and flow charts. For example, “Outline a mind map for an essay on the history of cheese”, or “outline a flowchart on dealing with badly behaved children”.
62. Parent / community involvement newsletters
Say something along the lines of “draft a newsletter informing parents about our upcoming science fair and fundraising event at 4pm on 18th December”. Use as an outline and refine to suit your needs for a quick way of keeping in contact with parents and updating them about school events.
63. Generate comprehension questions for a model text
Put a model text (or a section of it) into the chatbot and ask it to generate 10 comprehension questions based upon it.
64. Interview an expert
Get AI to play the role of an expert in a field you’d like to find out more about. Ask questions related to the work they do.
65. Go on a space mission to learn about the solar system
Embark on a virtual space mission where students can explore the solar system and find out more about space and the planetary system.
66. Simulated archaeological dig
Ask the AI to describe items found on a simulated dig of a site from an historical period. Get it to describe the pieces found in detail and explain their uses and the meanings behind them.
67. Virtual cultural immersion
Ask AI to imagine you are at a cultural event. Get it to describe the surroundings, sounds, smells. Students can ask questions to get a better understanding of what is happening and gain an appreciation for the culture being investigated.
68. Escape room challenges
Simulate an escape room game in a chosen location with riddles and clues for students to decode.
69. Create a student podcast episode
Use AI to generate an idea for a podcast and to then come up with an outline and draft a script. Students can then refine and edit this and use it as a starting point for recording their podcast episode.
70. Write a script for a historic event
Supply the AI with details about the historic event you’ve chosen, then ask it to generate a short script which can be used for a class re-enactment.
71. Exploring the principles and applications of AI.
Last but not least… If you’re not sure what else you can do with AI, just ask something like “in what ways can you help me with…”?
With many of these ideas, a successful outcome is dependent on being clear about what you want to achieve and articulating it plainly and concisely. Follow up questions and iterations are also needed to really leverage the power of AI and get the most out of it.
Whilst it’s an incredibly powerful tool, it’s clear that successful interactions still rely heavily on human intervention and creativity.
It seems for now at least AI is unlikely to be replacing human teachers!