Posted by Michelle Magallanez on May 15, 2023
If it seems as if everyone is suddenly talking about AI, it’s because they are. But what exactly is ChatGPT and why are we talking about it in K–12 education?
If it seems as if everyone is suddenly talking about AI, it’s because they are. Largely due to the launch of a number of really impressive products, including ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion from Stablity.ai.
In the three months that ChatGPT by Open AI has been made publicly available, its popularity has exploded—it’s estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users in January 2023, just two months after launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Microsoft has invested $10Bil in Open AI and has set a breakneck pace for the tech industry to follow.
But what exactly is ChatGPT and why are we talking about it in K–12 education?
ChatGPT is an example of artificial intelligence (AI). While most of us think of AI as Jarvis from the Marvel Universe or HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey, it’s something you’ve been using in some form for a while. It’s already living in your pocket and backpack. Your phone uses AI for face recognition and predictive texts. What’s new in AI is the generative component. That means, ChatGPT, a chatbot, can simulate conversation with a human-like tone at a click of a button. Short for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, ChatGPT uses a Large Language Model (LLM, AKA lots of data) to produce unique text from a user’s specific input based on existing content from the internet.
Some schools and districts across the U.S., and even countries, have banned ChatGPT. But more and more, educators are trying to figure out how to use this technological advancement to improve learning outcomes for their students. AI in education can produce powerful teaching resources in a fraction of the time and effort.
As you think about what is on the horizon and how AI may positively impact your students’ learning experiences, the following AI products that focus on reading and writing skill development offer a glimpse into the rapidly shifting educational technology landscape.
AI and Early Literacy
There is an enormous science of literacy movement in the U.S. with eighteen states having passed science of reading laws since 2021 and 9 states with legislation. Educational technology companies have taken note, investing in startups that are offering voice.ai—the next big thing to impact early literacy development. Voice.ai enables digital devices to interact and respond to human voice commands in natural language.
- Amira Learning is a speech recognition-based platform that listens as your student reads aloud, providing interactive tutoring and building literacy skills using the power of engaging stories. Features include personalized learning journeys tailored to your student’s unique learning style, a robust library of stories, and progress reports that provide real-time data on where your student is succeeding and struggling. Independent research has found that using Amira for 20 minutes per day, 3 days a week, doubles reading growth.
- Ello provides a subscription to physical books that your student reads aloud to Ello, an animated elephant who roots for your kiddo’s success and coaches them into becoming a confident, capable reader. Ello uses patent-pending speech recognition and adaptive learning technology to help students develop critical reading skills.
- Ready4Reading, powered by SoapBox and offered by Scholastic, is a K-3 supplemental print and digital phonics system powered by voice.ai that allows students to practice and learn independently while giving teachers the down-to-the-phoneme level analysis they need to personalize instruction for each student.
AI and Writing
One of the first concerns to emerge about ChatGPT was the fear that it would be used by students to write essays and enable other forms of cheating. In quick response, ed techs developed AI detectors, such as Turnitin AI detector and IdentifAI from Bartleby. “Fundamentally, we believe that AI can be a positive force and that equitable access to AI tools is vital. When used responsibly, AI has the potential to support and enhance the learning process. However, we recognize that for educators, there is a more pressing and immediate need to know when and where AI and AI writing tools have been used by students,” shares Turnitin CEO, Chris Caren. Each of these companies, and many more, are committed to developing innovative ways to use AI to support students’ writing process.
Other ed tech players active in the writing skill development space include Packback and Pressto.
- Packback provides AI writing support for students to learn to develop their unique writing personality and the skills to express it, while also giving teachers an AI grading assistant with customizable rubrics to shorten the time it takes to provide individualized, guided feedback for every student. Deep Dives is Packback’s award-winning platform that guides students through an iterative writing process that provides feedback based on specific assessment criteria such as grammar and mechanics, flow and structure, research quality, and more.
- Pressto puts generative AI in the hands of elementary teachers to help them teach elementary students to write. By offering clickable text blocks to prompt students to structure their ideas, Pressto eliminates the fear of starting with a blank page. Pressto’s topic generator shares personalized prompts that appeal to kids to engage them in the writing process and tools to help teachers with lesson plans.
AI Tools to Explore in Your Classroom
As you explore what AI can do for you and your students, the following are a couple of apps to help you get started:
|ChatGPT||Ask a question or input a request, and ChatGPT will respond. Explore examples of how teachers are authentically incorporating it into their classrooms.|
|DALLE-2||Write a description of the image you want to create, and DALLE-2 will generate it for you. Check out these 6 tips for getting started in writing prompts.|
|Perplexity||Another generative AI chatbot, which sets itself apart by citing sources that are clickable, allowing you to validate research and explore context.|
The future of education is here. AI can empower teachers to create lessons that take advantage of the latest in pedagogy, while also differentiating the experience for each student—aligning activities to each child’s background knowledge, areas of interest, strengths, and needs. The tools highlighted here are just a few in the literal thousands that have been released in the last three months. It’s up to us as educators to help our students navigate this quickly shifting landscape so that the digital divide that already exists in the U.S. doesn’t deepen.
Extend Your Learning
- ‘Kids Can’t Read’: The Revolt that is taking on the Education Establishment (New York Times, Sarah Mervosh)
- ChatGPT will fundamentally change how we teach writing; that’s a good thing (EdSource)
- A Conversation with Bill Gates and Jessie Woolley-Wilson, (ASU-GSV, April 18, 2023)
About the Author
Dr. Michelle Magallanez is the Director of Special Projects, the innovation incubator at AVID Center, a national educational nonprofit with the mission to close the opportunity gap for all students by helping them build the skills they need to be future ready. She is a proud Mexican American with a PhD in French Medieval Literature from NYU, who to this day continues to work on her math phobia. Third grade multiplication tables were a surprise! She is also an award-winning EdTech interaction designer who has created game-based learning experiences for children and adults in a career that included stints at LeapFrog and leading a studio at Allen Interactions where she advised Fortune 500 Companies. Her path to a CS-related career has been windy. Her role at AVID Center allows her to positively impact students under-represented in CS, helping to make their path to a future filled with possibility a bit less scenic than her own. With 20+ years of experience in product and program development, Michelle’s work currently focuses on designing professional learning and curricular resources in partnership with EdTech companies for K-12 content area teachers new to CS and STEM. Her mission is to build resources for the implementation of computational thinking, CS, and STEM problem-solving in content-area classrooms as foundational learning skills for all students.