Director of Teaching and Learning,CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
Table of Contents
Generative AI (GenAI) has the potential to automate routine tasks and assist us with technical elements in our teaching, freeing up time for us to focus on what matters most – connecting with our students. AI can also assist us as we generate new teaching materials, helping us explore a wider range of possibilities, augmenting our creativity.
From word processors and learning management systems to spreadsheets and smartboards, teachers have long relied on technology to enhance our productivity and the quality of our students’ learning experience. AI is yet another resource in that tradition of tools we can harness in service of our students.
There are a variety of AI assistants you can use to accomplish the efficiencies described in this ebook. The supplemental materials included here will help point you toward specific options. Touch base with your teaching technology team to ensure you choose a tool that complies with your school’s privacy and security requirements.
The purpose of this ebook is to assist you in exploring how AI can help you recapture time to devote to the aspects of teaching most meaningful to you. Let’s dive in and explore AI’s potential.
Section 1: Generating Teaching Materials with Generative AI
Generative AI can serve as a flexible assistant to help you generate teaching materials more effectively and efficiently. When it comes to developing a draft syllabus for a new course, AI can serve as a useful aid.
To start, prompt AI to help you clarify the language of your course’s learning outcomes. Provide a preliminary description of what you aim for the course to accomplish and the AI assistant can suggest edits to make your learning outcomes more concise, measurable, and impactful. With generative AI, pinpointing the skills and knowledge students should gain in your course and articulating those with strong verbs becomes much easier.
Here’s an example of a prompt to refine your learning outcomes:
This screenshot illustrates the beginning of a chat dialogue with Claude.ai to develop a draft of learning outcomes for a new course. You can iterate on these starting points by asking Claude to turn these into “you will” statements, for example, or to add subskills, or measurement criteria, or to otherwise build on these draft statements.
You can then move on to generate early drafts of your syllabus outline based on your course description and goals, and elements of the course you know you want to incorporate. By giving an AI assistant this starting point as a prompt, you’ll get a draft outline you can then refine by clarifying your preferences and specifying additional constraints. The AI will incorporate your personalized tone, policies, and schedule as you provide clarifying prompts.
Here’s an example of a prompt to provide a structure for a syllabus:
This ChatGPT prompt provides a starting point for the development of a new draft syllabus. Follow-ups on this prompt would allow the instructor to further refine the syllabus and to add customized details relevant to this particular class.
AI can also assist in streamlining your lesson planning process. Write a prompt noting your desired session approach — whether it’s an hourlong workshop, a 45-minute lecture, a flipped class, or a project-based atelier. Make note of skills or activities you’re focusing on, and ask the AI to streamline that material into a lesson plan structure. You can then fill in further details to refine the plan.
By working with AI, you can focus on the big picture of what you aim to accomplish, spending less time on the clerical work of putting the elements into sequential, labeled lesson plan sections. That frees you to focus on preparing for the interactive parts of your class or other aspects of preparation that require additional attention and creativity.
Here’s an example of a lesson-plan prompt:
BingAI can provide a draft lesson plan in response to your query. (Full result as a PDF).
Rubrics are useful in giving your students transparency around the factors you’ll use to assess their performance. Because they are so time-consuming to construct, rubrics are another area where AI can lend a hand.
Start by deciding what criteria are most important for you in assessing the quality of student work. Rather than typing all the criteria out into a detailed multipart rubric, instruct the AI to take criteria you give it — along with the level of your class and any other relevant constraints— and reformat it into the full rubric. This allows you to quickly hone in on a rubric that aligns well with your course goals and student needs.
Here’s an example of a rubric prompt:
Google’s Bard AI can create a detailed rubric and export it to a Google Sheet. It can also include additional info on the rationale for the rubric and how to use it, as noted in this example.
AI uses your guidance to hone supporting course components so you can focus your full attention on what you consider to be the most high-value teaching tasks.
Reflection: What are the elements of class preparation you find most tedious, technical, or repetitive? What’s one experiment you could try to determine whether AI can help you reallocate time to teaching prep you enjoy?
Activity: Write a short prompt instructing an AI assistant to draft a rubric for assessing one of your in-class activities or assignments. Note the level of the class and include a list of the key characteristics you’ll use to evaluate the student work.
Section 2: Leading Engaging Classes with Generative AI
When designing activities for live sessions, you can draw on AI to help students meet learning objectives. To help you do that, let’s explore how to use AI assistance for generating lively examples, meaningful analogies, useful translations, and more.
AI as an Example Engine
Generating creative examples to use in class can be challenging and time-consuming. AI can help. Start by coming up with a clear, specific, detailed prompt about the kinds of examples you’re seeking in order to illuminate a concept for your students.
For example, in teaching writing, you might prompt an AI engine to provide examples of run-on sentences, misused modifiers, gratuitous alliteration, or ad-hominem attacks in an otherwise persuasive essay. In a linguistic context, you might have the AI suggest examples of “false friends,” or words that sound and mean something similar in distant languages.
In teaching economics you might invite an AI engine to generate example scenarios where the laws of supply and demand aren’t sufficient to explain a real-world situation.
Or in teaching Introductory Chemistry, you might prompt an AI tool to provide examples of how Le Châtelier’s Principle shows up in everyday life.
As a subject matter expert, you can pick and choose which examples you end up using. You can then elaborate, further clarify, or build on any of the examples the AI suggests for your use.
Now you can come to class armed with many distinct examples illustrating a concept you’re explaining. You can even seek out examples specific to particular cultural circumstances—in other languages, in various historical periods, or adapted for differing skill levels. This strategy can make the examples you use more inclusive, more relatable, or even more amusing—depending on your objectives.
AI Can Assist with Analogies
You can also leverage AI to develop customized analogies that explain complex topics in relatable ways. Just as AI can easily generate voluminous examples in seconds, it can also provide helpful analogies you can build on to make difficult concepts more understandable.
If you’re trying to explain nuclear fusion to a group of students who are sports enthusiasts, for instance, you can prompt an AI engine to provide analogies. You can then edit and build on these analogies as part of your explanatory teaching. The AI can also provide analogies for use when explaining the string instrument family to a group of introductory music students who love animals.
Research has shown repeatedly that analogies can be an excellent mechanism for helping teach complex subject matter. Given that coming up with analogies can be tricky, employing AI to assist in generating lots of analogies is worth a try. Once the AI provides some initial raw material, you can select, edit, and customize it for your purposes. This strategy can benefit both your own teaching efficiency and the learning outcomes of your students.
AI as Translation Tool
AI can help with quick translations to reduce language friction. If you have English Language Learners among your students, or those whose language skills trail their subject-specific expertise, providing supplemental materials in translation can be a helpful way to reduce learner confusion.
Unlike traditional translation tools, AI translation tools can be prompted to provide colloquial language adjusted to your context-specific needs. For example, in addition to having an AI tool translate a handout into multiple languages spoken by students in a class, you can prompt the AI to provide summary versions of that translation at various lengths, in the event that some students might benefit from a short summary paragraph just to back up their understanding, while others might want the full word-for-word translation.
AI for Class Transcription and Summaries
For students with different physical abilities, AI can be a valuable resource for generating live transcriptions, and summaries of classes, office hour meetings, or any supplemental audio or video material you provide to students. Sharing these summaries supports all students, including those with visual, hearing or other impairments.
AI tools can also help you generate skeletal or guided notes, which can strengthen students’ note-taking abilities. When used for office hour meetings, AI transcription tools can provide a summary and list of action steps to every student you meet with, without requiring you to spend 15 minutes summarizing each meeting.
In this chapter, we’ve seen how powerful an application AI can be as an interactive assistant during your real-time teaching. With the right prompts and careful consideration of appropriate usage, AI tools can assist you with time-consuming tasks like generating examples and analogies, translating materials, and transcribing live class sessions. This frees you up to focus deeply on your subject matter and engage with students.
Next we’ll explore how AI can add to your productivity and creativity toolkit by helping you more flexibly and efficiently generate images, slides, and multimedia teaching material.
Reflection Prompt: What are some ways in which AI-generated live class transcripts and summaries— as well as translations of class materials— might help some of your students in reaching your learning objectives?
Activity: Write a prompt for AI that will generate examples to help you illustrate a particular phenomenon or framework that is significant in your teaching domain. Then write a prompt to develop new analogies to help clarify a tricky concept.
Section 3: Bringing Your Teaching to Life with Generative AI
In this chapter, we’ll explore several ways AI can save you time in generating multimedia materials that enhance your teaching.
First, we’ll look at how AI image generation tools can create relevant visuals and slides for your lectures and workshops. Next, we’ll consider how AI can help you create audio and video clips tailored to your course subject matter. We’ll explore how AI editing tools can simplify the process of creating, refining, and sharing audio and video content. Finally, we’ll take a look at the big picture of how generative AI fits into your educational toolkit. With the right prompts and guidance, AI tools can streamline how you produce your teaching materials, leaving you more time for creative experimentation and spontaneous teachable moments.
AI for Image Creation
AI image creation tools like Midjourney, Dall-E 2, Canva AI, Adobe Firefly, and others let you generate pictures you can use as part of teaching materials, in slide presentations, or as attention grabbers during live sessions.
By providing a detailed prompt, you can shape an image that relates to your subject matter. For example, images of a broken cage with a bird escaping can supplement your discussion of the impact of Twitter’s ownership change on the social media ecosystem. Or images of a color spectrum to accompany a discussion of color balance in an artistic context.
You can also create abstract images that relate to feelings evoked by your subject matter. Rather than spending an hour searching for generic stock photos, you can quickly generate more relevant images aligned with your particular teaching objective.
An image generated with an AI engine could be used to illustrate clothing styles in the early 1900s for a class session on the history of fashion. Image courtesy of Midjourney
In addition to images, generative AI tools can now be used to generate diagrams, flowcharts, and mind maps. By prompting the AI with the steps in a process or the multiple levels of leadership in a complex organization, you can generate a visual representation and adapt it for teaching purposes. Without AI, creating diagrams can be time consuming and complicated, particularly if you’re not familiar with the required design tool.
AI Slide Creation
Making visually engaging slides has long been challenging for those professors who aren’t comfortable working with software. Now new AI-powered tools — from Beautiful.ai and Gamma to Canva and Tome — make it easier to provide a prompt and generate slides you can adapt for your teaching purposes.
Beautiful.ai can help generate draft versions of any slide you’re creating as part of a teaching presentation. You can then edit, customize and annotate the slide.
These AI tools can build a full presentation draft from scratch based on a prompt. But a more common scenario you might benefit from is simply prompting the AI to draft an individual slide with a particular quote, number, or fact you provide, or a chart, graphic or icon to support a point in your presentation.
AI Audio and Video Creation
Creating multimedia materials can be a great way to engage students between class sessions, to create supplemental asynchronous materials, or to otherwise supplement your live teaching. But making videos or audio pieces can be difficult if you lack technical training. That’s why incorporating AI into your workflow can be a big time-saver and open up new opportunities.
If you lack a recording studio, you can use these and other AI editing tools to automatically remove background noise, eliminate filler words — “umms and uhhs”— and polish up the sound quality so you can efficiently provide students with a high-quality recording.
You can even call on an AI engine to help you turn rough thoughts and ideas into a video script. AI tools work well for transforming words and ideas from one format into another. AI tools like Oasis and AudioPen, for example, let you dictate into an app and have your dictated remarks automatically cleaned up and converted into a script or handout according to whatever prompt instructions you provide. You can then edit that script, without having to start from scratch.
Reflection Prompt: What visuals, slides, and multimedia might enhance your teaching materials if it were easier to create them?
Activity: Write a prompt for an image generation AI tool to create a visual you could use in an existing lecture, workshop, or class session you teach. Test it out and try adding it to a presentation.
As teachers, we’re often overburdened with responsibilities and undersupplied with support. With the advent of AI tools, we can capitalize on new digital assistance to streamline some of our routine work. These tools can help us serve our students effectively and creatively, given our limited time and constrained budgets.
In the first section, we explored how AI can be helpful when we’re developing new teaching materials. Nothing can replace the thoughtful preparation that’s required of us when readying to teach a new class. But just as word processors, spreadsheets, thesauruses, and other tools can organize our words and resources, AI tools can improve our efficiency when drafting new syllabi, lesson plans, and assessment rubrics.
AI’s benefit to us as teachers is not limited to efficiency. It also empowers us to generate multiple ways of framing, organizing, and presenting our materials, so that we can generate multiple approaches, only the best of which we use.
AI is adept at making many versions of something — whether it’s a section of a syllabus, a lesson plan we’ve assembled only in rough form, or learning outcome phrases we’re refining. That affords us new opportunities to work with a digital assistant to capitalize on our full creative potential as developers of great teaching materials.
In the second section, we explored numerous ways we can benefit from AI assistance when teaching live sessions. From exploring AI’s powerful example-generating capabilities to using it for explanatory analogies, we’ve seen multiple ways generative AI can enhance the efficacy of our teaching. For inclusiveness, AI can translate class materials and provide transcripts and summaries of live class sessions, recorded materials, and office-hour meetings for students who might benefit from those learning supplements.
In the third section, we delved into the myriad ways in which AI tools can help us generate visuals and multimedia materials. From creating powerful imagery with generative AI engines to strengthening our presentation slide decks, we can use AI in multiple arenas to make our materials more engaging and impactful. For those of us less adept at generating audio and video materials for our teaching, AI provides new support when it comes to recording, producing, and editing multimedia. These tools can empower us to add new dimensions to our teaching and to reach students in engaging new ways.
Rather than spending ever more time on technical aspects of teaching, we have the opportunity to draw on AI assistance to streamline the way we prepare and lead our classes.
Today’s AI tools will continue to evolve. Both our students and our own efficiency and creativity will be well-served by experimenting with AI assistance. Some experiments may not satisfy us, while others will likely surprise us in enabling new productivity, creativity and learning.
Next Steps for Using GenAI
- Pick a particular aspect of your teaching that you’d like to strengthen, and design a simple experiment for testing how AI might help your workflow in that area.
- Identify one generative AI tool you’d like to try out and schedule an hour to explore.
- Connect with a colleague or peer interested in AI who can serve as a learning partner.
Recommended readings on AI in education
- Nicole Hennig’s ChatGPT FAQ provides a simple intro to the most well-known AI service
- Creative Ideas to Use AI in Education is a collaborative, crowdsourced compendium that you can explore to learn more about how thoughtful teachers are making use of AI
- The Ultimate List of AI Tools for Creators provides a good snapshot of many multimedia services you can choose from if you’re interested in developing engaging new materials
- How to Use AI to Do Practical Stuff is an excellent, practical overview by Ethan Mollick, a Wharton professor, who offers helpful examples of how AI can be helpful
- Mollick’s Guide to Prompting AI is a good companion for his post on practical uses, because he offers crucial tips on language that’s most effective when interacting with AI
- Post-AI Assessment Design by Dr. Philippa Hardman, affiliated scholar at Cambridge University
- The DOMS AI-Ed Tools Rubric for evaluating the efficacy and safety of AI tools
AI tools and platforms
- Chat-based tools include ChatGPT, Claude, Bard, and Bing AI. These platforms allow you to conduct an iterative discussion with an AI assistant. After providing an initial prompt, you can follow-up with additional clarifications and constraints to tailor the results to your personalized context.
- Generative image tools include Midjourney, Dall-E 2, Photoshop’s Firefly, Canva AI and DreamStudio. Each allows you to provide a text prompt to generate a visual almost instantly. The tools have distinct user interfaces, and each has a specialized set of styles so you can customize images for your needs.
- Descript, Runway ML, Speechify, AugX Labs, and Kapwing, are among the tools teachers can use to develop multimedia classroom materials. Whether or not you’ve created audio or video before, these platforms make it increasingly feasible to serve our students with engaging visuals and audio.
Download the Ebook
- Strategies and example prompts for generating teaching materials with AI
- AI tools for creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment
- How to leverage AI for creating multimedia materials
Learn More at Wonder Tools
The free Wonder Tools newsletter by Jeremy Caplan, author of this ebook, will get you up to speed each week on a wide range of AI tools. The newsletter, read and recommended by educators around the country and the world, explains in simple terms how you can use generative AI. It also introduces non-AI sites, apps, and services that benefit us as busy educators. The free weekly newsletter is independent and assesses the strengths, weaknesses, and costs of new services to save you time, effort and money.
Jeremy is the Director of Teaching and Learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.