Can AI in Education Foster Human-Centric Learning?

How can educators prepare students for an evolving future influenced by artificial intelligence? AI Explorations and Their Practical Use in School Environments, an ISTE AI initiative funded by General Motors, provides professional learning opportunities for educators, empowering them with the tools and knowledge to integrate AI into their classrooms and prepare students for future AI careers while emphasizing a human-centric approach to learning. The emphasis on a human-centric approach underscores the commitment to cultivating a balanced perspective on AI integration. Educators are encouraged to view AI not merely as a technological advancement but as a tool to enhance and augment the human experience.

Recently, EdSurge spoke with three participants of the AI Explorations program to learn about its impact in K-12 classrooms: Dr. Jackie Gerstein, Dr. Brandon Taylor and Dr. Stacy George. Gerstein teaches gifted education at a Title 1 school within Santa Fe Public Schools and graduate-level online courses for Walden and Antioch Universities. Taylor volunteers as the dean of academics and associate athletic director for Chicago Prep Academy. George is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. These innovative educators discussed how AI education makes students and themselves more human by sharing their experiences in planning and implementing AI activities in their classes.

EdSurge: How have you incorporated the teaching of AI in the classroom?

Gerstein: I taught machine learning activities to the students with ISTE standards using Google’s Teachable Machine as the tool. The website has many other teachable machine activities. I shared the resources with my students, including the rock, paper, scissors video, and they trained the machine. The teachable machine software looked at their hands using the camera and recognized rock, paper and scissors. Then, students learned to code with graphical programming language. Finally, the machine played with the kids.

I also taught AI-assisted text generator activities. When [AI-assisted text generators] came out, I had my kids exploring it and writing stories. They came up with prompts like creating a story about a black cat and seven chickens reading a giant book, and then they used DALL-E to generate an image to go with it.

I am learning how to teach AI together with students. I’m bilingual and teach students who speak Spanish, so I am considering asking students to do their AI chatbot activities in English or Spanish. Several students asked me to do it in Spanish, and I didn’t think about it then, but I would let them do it in a classroom activity in a couple of weeks.

I also asked my students to devise a pledge to use [AI-assisted text generators]. They articulated how they would and would not use [AI-assisted text generators] at school and built the ethics with their understanding and discussion. I created a shared [document] and asked students to submit their ideas, followed by a class discussion. I segmented students’ ideas into two parts: The first was about using [AI-assisted text generators], and the second was about using [AI-assisted text generators] for positive learning.

I created using [AI-assisted text generators] for positive learning because I realized that students came up with great ideas, like using [AI-assisted text generators] for funny stories and rap songs. They found [AI-assisted text generators] could give inspiration and ideas and motivate them to write. They used it in a future city project. They also added what they won’t do with [AI-assisted text generators] in the pledge, such as I won’t use [AI-assisted text generators] for homework assignments and presentations.

Taylor: The head coach and I were familiar with Homecourt. I used the ISTE-GM AI Hands-On Guide for Elective Teachers, specifically “Project 2: Designing An AI Agent,” to help students design their AI tools when we considered bringing the AI tool to student-athletes with the HomeCourt PE Curriculum. There’s no coding, just referring to the AI agent, so students design or enhance something like this AI tool.

We completed the whole lesson on the court, including the AI tool discussion and the training. I set up four stations for dribbling, agility, free throw shooting and other shooting with three to four student-athletes at each station. They rotated around to see the different aspects of the app and the metrics. It became a fun competition. We discussed afterward what students thought, how they might design an AI agent, what design was good in the app and what they thought could be improved. For instance, a student mentioned having cameras on the basketball board to see more of the ball through the app. Another example was about how to make the app more user-friendly because the first time we used the app, it could have been more intuitive.

What human-centered design did you or your pre-service students use in helping students learn AI?

George: One of my pre-service students taught machine learning in the classroom with second graders. She taught machine learning to young students through understanding the characteristics of animals. It is one of many activities from ISTE-GM AI Explorations Hands-on Guides for Elementary Teachers. The activity is “Two tasks AI does well and two tasks AI does not do as well.” The idea is to identify different characteristics of animals and recognize them. My pre-service teacher modified it to fit into her classroom; she used animals the students are familiar with in Hawaii, like chickens and wild pigs.

For a pollination lesson, students used Teachable Machine to identify flowers that could be pollinated and created the engineering design. They developed a pollination device using robotics to pollinate flowers. The activity develops students’ problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills.

Gerstein: AI has helped me to learn alongside students, addressing their questions and interests. When I don’t readily know an answer, I can use AI to create a learning experience that meets the students’ needs. For example, one of my students wants to learn about the medieval time. I leveraged AI to develop activities I could do with him to engage his interest in medieval while meeting language arts standards.

One day, at the harvest festival, an eighth-grade history teacher questioned the student about some historical facts, and he answered them correctly. The student questioned her back, and she didn’t know the answers! I asked the student to start a conversation with Code Breaker about his history ideas. After, we had critical conversations together about what he had learned. AI helped both of us in becoming lifelong learners.

What soft skills do you see students developing when learning about AI?

Taylor: Through the AI lesson and the use of an integrated augmented reality tool, students develop self-reflection and critical thinking skills. The AI tool is a basketball coaching tool showing the shot angle. It can look at footwork and dribbling to provide feedback. In fact, the NBA uses a version of this tool in their training.

Students may not self-reflect on their performance as much by watching the training video, but this tool helps them with self-reflection and continuous improvement.

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