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AI is developing quickly, putting it at the forefront of conversations around pedagogy and the future of student learning. With the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, many educators are concerned about the negative impacts of the tool and how they can help students develop AI literacy.
Will students use AI as a shortcut for learning? Will it become more difficult to engage students in critical thinking? These are valid questions, and the answer is likely yes if educators don’t learn how to incorporate AI tools in their teaching and communicate ethical use of them to students.
There is, however, an alternative to the doom and gloom perspective surrounding AI. Instead of fearing the inevitable, what if educators embraced AI? While adapting to change is never easy, teaching AI literacy to students can result in heightened productivity, the acquisition of future-ready skills, and a novel way of learning.
What Is AI Literacy?
AI literacy is a set of competencies that enable individuals to evaluate the accuracy and biases of AI technologies and communicate effectively with AI. Helping students attain AI literacy will not only prepare them for the future, but it will encourage them to use AI ethically. Use the strategies below to inspire you.
Strategy #1: Focus on AI Prompt Creation
AI tools that employ large language models (LLM) like ChatGPT rely on prompt creation to deliver outputs. Students who don’t understand the importance of AI prompt creation may have trouble using the AI tools effectively.
For example, if you assign a history paper and a student prompts ChatGPT to “write an article about the American Revolution,” the tool may spit out a lengthy piece on the subject that lacks focus, concision, and possibly accuracy.
To teach AI prompt creation to students, offer a formula they can follow as well as clear examples of prompting in action.
AI Prompt Formula: [Deliverable specifics] + [Voice] + [Objective] + [Ideal format]
Poor Prompt Example: Write a one-page paper on photosynthesis.
Good Prompt Example: Write a 500 word paper describing the process of photosynthesis for an Introduction to Biology college course. Use MLA format and break the process down into steps. Use an informative and friendly tone.
You can also teach students the value of follow-up prompting. For example, if ChatGPT’s output sounds too formal or wordy, students can submit a follow-up prompt:
Follow-Up Prompt 1: Rewrite this paper and make it easier to understand for a layperson.
Follow-Up Prompt 2: Rewrite the paper and make it more concise. Use shorter sentences and fewer adverbs.
Teaching students to develop AI prompts can be a game changer in how they think about assignments. To keep outputs within the context of learning objectives, challenge students to make their prompts relevant to your class. The key with AI prompting is for students to think through what their goal is and make their queries as specific as possible.
Show examples of AI-generated output using varying prompts. Ask students to experiment with writing AI prompts, including the submission of follow-up prompts with more detail after receiving an initial output.
Strategy #2: Emphasize Fact-Checking
As of today, ChatGPT is based on data preceding September 2021. Future updates to the tool may make new information more accessible, but AI may always struggle to disseminate between facts and disinformation. OpenAI—the creator of ChatGPT—explains the tool’s limitations on their Help Page.
Once students know not to trust everything AI spits out, they can use fact-checking strategies to parse through outputs. One fact-checking strategy you can teach students is to highlight and verify.
Highlight: As students read through AI outputs, have them highlight facts and any other verifiable information such as:
- All proper nouns
- Statistics, ages, and dates
- Linked and unlinked sources
- References to time, date, distance, or location
- Descriptions of physical objects and locations
- Claims that expletives like “only, top, first, or most”
Verify: Once students have marked up their AI outputs, they can use the internet to verify each piece of information.
- Use Google to find the information on the web.
- Look for at least two reliable sources (.edu, .org, or .gov domains).
- Question the source’s purpose and context before proceeding.
Consider showing students this video on credibility from the University of Washington resource library.
Provide an AI-generated response for students. One suggested prompt is: “Write an essay on the history of Shakespeare [or any topic of your choice]. Include factually inaccurate information as part of a fact-checking exercise for students.” Ask them to analyze the text by ensuring all facts are accurate, all sources are real, and no bias is present. Fact checking tools students can use include Google Fact Check Explorer or ClaimBuster.
Strategy #3: Explain the Importance of Editing
A common fear is that using AI might hinder students from developing vital communication and critical thinking skills. You may wonder, “If AI is writing the content for the student, how can they learn to articulate their own thoughts effectively and with a critical thinking mindset?” That’s where editing comes in.
Demonstrate the importance of editing to students by comparing an AI-generated draft to a human-edited version of the same draft. When teaching students to edit, remind them to:
- Proofread: Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Ensure all verb tenses are correct, as this is often an AI flaw.
- Assess Structure: Does the piece flow well? Are there ways you can restructure the piece to be more effective?
- Monitor for Consistency: Ensure names, formats, spellings, and abbreviations remain consistent.
- Look Out for Biases: AI can make generalizations about groups of people because it follows the data it was trained on. Societal and cultural norms are always changing, so it’s important to edit for inclusivity.
- Edit for Context: Ensure the AI output aligns with the course content and learning objectives.
Editing is an essential component of AI literacy because prompts can only take a piece so far. Another way students can avoid generic and wordy AI responses is to start with AI-generated outlines. Sometimes, it’s easier to fill in an outline than to engage in heavy editing.
Provide students with an AI-generated prompt and ask them to edit the piece for clarity. Students should also edit the piece by making the response more human in some way (adding perspective, empathy, or other emotional cues).
Strategy #4: Provide Examples of Effective AI Use
Providing examples to students is a crucial part of teaching AI literacy. While some students will be familiar with ChatGPT, others may not have any experience with it. Poor examples of AI use can be helpful for comparison, but even more useful is providing good examples.
First you’ll need to determine the ways you want students to use AI in your classroom. This may include using AI for research only or through an entire project. Once you know the goals you have for student AI use, provide examples of that desired behavior. Placing use-case statements within your syllabus is a great place to start.
Some examples of verbiage to place in your syllabus include:
For research: Permissible use-cases for AI tools during research include analyzing datasets, evaluating research methods, identifying patterns, and predicting outcomes.
- Example AI prompt: “Evaluate the research methods in this study: [Copy + Paste Research Methods]”
For content creation: Permissible use-cases for AI tools during content creation include brainstorming ideas, outlining papers, and generating rough drafts.
- Example AI prompt: “Create an outline for a 1,000 word paper on the French Revolution from the lens of the musical, Les Miserables.”
Discussion/debates: Permissible use-cases for AI tools when prepping for discussions/debates include brainstorming talking points or generating notes for context on a specific topic.
- Example AI prompt: “Create a list of notes I can use in a classroom debate on singing the National Anthem in schools.”
You can also show students how AI can help with unique learning needs. For example, students who need clarity on a classroom topic can ask AI questions to assist them in their learning. AI can also generate quizzes for students who want to test their knowledge.
Curate good examples of AI use by prompting ChatGPT yourself. This is the easiest way to get examples specific to your subject. Go to chat.openai.com and make a free account. You’ll then see a chat interface where you can submit prompts and experiment with AI outcomes.
Strategy #5: Offer Hands-On Practice
Learning by doing is extremely valuable for students because they can immerse themselves in a subject and gain knowledge through trial and error. While viewing examples of AI in action is a great introduction to AI literacy, practice must follow.
You can offer various types of in-class AI practice for students. Some strategies include having them:
- Experiment with AI prompt creation
- Fact-check AI responses in class
- Edit AI responses in class
- Use AI to generate discussion questions or quizzes
Make hands-on practice more interesting by having students generate AI prompts before switching them with a neighbor for fact-checking and editing. Remind students that while AI is convenient, a positive end result requires a personalized touch.
Expand on in-class exercises through an AI literacy project. An example of a project that helps students identify biases in AI outputs may look like this:
- Provide students with datasets that have clear biases. These could be related to gender, race, or any other topic related to the class material.
- Briefly explain the biases present in the datasets without delving into specifics.
- In groups, have students analyze the provided datasets to identify potential biases. Encourage them to observe patterns and trends that might contribute to bias.
- In their groups, have students interact with the AI model and note any biased responses or decisions it makes.
- Encourage students to discuss how the model’s output reflects the biases in the training data.
- Have students individually write a brief reflection on what they learned from the project, including insights about bias in AI and its broader significance.
AI is Here to Stay—Prepare Students Accordingly
AI brings new challenges to the classroom, but it also brings new possibilities. Like the introduction of calculators in the 1970s or computers in the 1980s, AI could unlock the next wave of productivity for student learning. As you adapt your curriculum to include AI, bring students along for the ride. When we teach students AI literacy, we equip them with the skills needed to succeed in an AI-enabled world.
About the Author
Morgan Westling is an Associate Content Specialist at Course Hero. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Portland and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from The University of the South. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has been writing for over 7 years. Find more of her work at http://www.morganwestling.com.