ETMOOC: Resources From My Classroom AI Explorations

Questions flickr photo by llimllib shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I took part in the annual Day of AI event yesterday, introducing the concepts, possibilities, pitfalls and ethics of ChatGPT and its gathering family of bots and such. Day of AI is mostly sponsored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and their lesson plans were pretty solid, if slightly dated, given the pace of change.

My sixth graders were very engaged and extremely interested in learning more about AI and Chatbots (many knew of the technology due to Snapchat’s forced AI Chat-box placed on their app — see below). They had a lot of questions about privacy when using ChatbotsĀ  and how these Chatbots might become part of other products, and how students might use such technology for good and for bad. (I reminded them that ChatGPT requires users to be 18 or older.) The ethics of Chatbots being used in schools sparked a lot of debate, for sure.

I did bring them into a school-friendly site called Byte by Codebreaker, and they played around a little with some topics. I had them look up information on an inquiry topic they are doing some work on for an assignment. One student then asked the chat about sports, for example, while another had it generate some cookie recipes. Another asked for the the number Pi out to its millionth number (it is “1” and it took up 44 pages when the student copied it into a document – I suggested he NOT print it out). We then used Scribble Diffusion for generating some artwork, after chatting about the tension between the work of artists and generative platforms.

I had adapted a presentation from the folks at Day of AI, andĀ  you can take a look at what we were doing:

I had also written a letter home to families, explaining what I was doing and why, and providing resources and suggestions for conversations at home about the technology, and its impact on society. A few families responded with warm thanks for the resources and for the classroom discussions.

Here is the letter home, if you are interested:

Peace (in the Data),

PS — One thing I hadn’t counted on in advance was that Snapchat’s new My AI embedded chat would be the topic of so much conversation, but it was. It’s the AI Chat interface they are most likely to encounter (even though they are all too young to be on Snapchat, as I remind them all the time, but I still have to face the reality of the situation) and most did not like the Snapchat My AI feature at all, calling is creepy, weird and strange. Vicki Davis had a good blog post about this (Thanks for sharing Vicki’s post, Sheri). I now regret not adding something about Snapchat to my letter to parents and may need to send a follow-up just with a focus on the AI inside the app.

  1. I love how you are taking the bull by the horns, Kevin, and having conversations with your students (and their parents) about AI in a structured, positive way.

    I did an exercise with my students awhile back where I created a ChatGPT-generated poem in a style we were exploring and added it to the mix. All the poems were anonymous, and the students were trying to guess who had written each one (over time, they get VERY good at recognizing each other’s voices in their writing).

    There was total consternation when I acknowledged I’d generated this particular one with ChatGPT. It was a great launch into the use of AI, whether it’s “cheating,” etc.

    • Interesting, Charlene, and the response from students is worth noting, for sure. You were a trickster, there! But I bet it led to an interesting discussion.

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