AI Role in Education

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Guest Article

AI in Education: Crafting Curricula for Tomorrow's Innovators (Kelly Schuster-Paredes)

Kelly Schuster-Paredes Headshot
Kelly Schuster-Paredes Headshot

Kelly Schuster-Paredes | LinkedIn

Guest Writer

Feb 23, 2024

Teachers gathered in a lounge with laptops brainstorming curricula improvements.
Teachers gathered in a lounge with laptops brainstorming curricula improvements.
Teachers gathered in a lounge with laptops brainstorming curricula improvements.

Foreword and concluding commentary by Lulu Gao.

Kelly Schuster-Paredes has been teaching and leading technology integration in schools for over 24 years. She currently is a computer science teacher and education technology specialist at Pine Crest School and a co-host of the Teaching Python Podcast. Schuster-Paredes has a master's in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology and a passion for bridging the gap between academia and industry. She accomplishes this through designing and testing innovative curricula that cultivate creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in students.

The article below was originally published by Schuster-Paredes as a LinkedIn article on February 4th, 2024. We have reposted it here with her permission and added commentary at the end.

Integrating AI in Education - The Dawn of an Educational Revolution

Discover how artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionizes education through innovative curriculum design, critical thinking, and future-ready skill development.

The strategic integration of AI is here, transforming traditional teaching and learning paradigms. AI is pivotal in shaping our students as the thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.

As we move beyond our initial experiments in the classroom, AI's role in education is changing from a supplementary tool to a foundational component of curriculum development. This transformation opens up many opportunities for unique learning experiences tailored for our students. By incorporating AI tutors as 'knowledge-powered allies', we can create AI lessons that help build critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and AI literacy skills. These tools can also provide students with readily accessible facts, feedback on writing, and clear explanations of challenging concepts, giving students the agency to enhance their learning.

Discover how artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionizes education through innovative curriculum design, critical thinking, and future-ready skill development.

The strategic integration of AI is here, transforming traditional teaching and learning paradigms. AI is pivotal in shaping our students as the thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.

As we move beyond our initial experiments in the classroom, AI's role in education is changing from a supplementary tool to a foundational component of curriculum development. This transformation opens up many opportunities for unique learning experiences tailored for our students. By incorporating AI tutors as 'knowledge-powered allies', we can create AI lessons that help build critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and AI literacy skills. These tools can also provide students with readily accessible facts, feedback on writing, and clear explanations of challenging concepts, giving students the agency to enhance their learning.

Discover how artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionizes education through innovative curriculum design, critical thinking, and future-ready skill development.

The strategic integration of AI is here, transforming traditional teaching and learning paradigms. AI is pivotal in shaping our students as the thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.

As we move beyond our initial experiments in the classroom, AI's role in education is changing from a supplementary tool to a foundational component of curriculum development. This transformation opens up many opportunities for unique learning experiences tailored for our students. By incorporating AI tutors as 'knowledge-powered allies', we can create AI lessons that help build critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and AI literacy skills. These tools can also provide students with readily accessible facts, feedback on writing, and clear explanations of challenging concepts, giving students the agency to enhance their learning.

AI in Action

Moving beyond simply automating teacher tasks and introducing novel lessons, AI empowers both teachers and students to redefine curriculum and learning. This shift in thinking aligns well with the SAMR framework developed during the "Age of the Internet". The SAMR model helped to frame the progression from Substitution (replicating existing tasks) to Augmentation (enhancing teacher capabilities) to Modification (transforming traditional learning activities) and ultimately, Redefinition (creating entirely new learning opportunities) remains relevant today. Using AI, educators have the opportunity to redefine curriculum and help guide students in this new learning journey.

Key Components

  • AI Literacy: Understanding AI's capabilities and ethical use is essential for thriving in a technologically advanced society. This includes problem-solving with AI technologies and integrating AI thinking across various domains.

AI Tools Augmenting Education

  • Magic School simplifies creating teaching materials, such as quickly developing rubrics

AI Tools Modifying Education

  • Perplexity.ai uncovers electronic resources for topics, encouraging more research and independent study skills.

AI Tools Redefining Education

  • Socrative empowers teachers to customize lessons based on patterns and insights from educational data.

  • Flintk12 makes it easy to generate personalized assignments and AI tutors.

  • QuikLearn revolutionizes traditional educational practices by facilitating the creation of immersive learning experiences using virtual reality (VR).

  • Adobe Firefly instantly generates unique images from your mere words.

Imagine a math teacher using an AI tool to identify and bridge gaps in their students' understanding, significantly improving their performance, or a biology teacher using QuikLearn's VR capabilities to provide their students with immersive learning experiences, connecting them with historical scientific figures. These instances highlight the transformative potential of AI tools when thoughtfully integrated.

A New Focus

With a year's experience exploring AI tools, it's time to shift our focus toward curricula designed to prioritize AI literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills. AI complements, not replaces, educators, empowering them with tools that can 'supercharge' the learning experience. However, this journey begins with a solid foundation in curriculum design, ensuring that the learning remains engaging and effective, while still embracing innovation.

By weaving AI into the curriculum during planning, educators can create lessons that not only align with the times but also can help unlock necessary AI literacy skills. AI tools have given us new ways to teach and learn, showing us the potential to enhance essential skills in our students. However, simply having these tools isn't enough. Our curriculum must actively and purposefully cultivate these essential skills as we integrate AI into teaching.

The Synergy of AI and Pedagogy

Using AI-powered tools to incorporate simulations or virtual debates, can immerse students in unique scenarios and challenge them to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and form reasoned conclusions. By using AI to create 'desirable difficulties,' students actively engage with the technology to practice critical thinking, demonstrating the collaborative power of AI and pedagogy.

Imagine using AI to generate tailored datasets based on student interests for a data analysis lesson. Students could then use AI-powered visualization tools to explore the data, solve problems, and formulate their conclusions, gaining valuable insights into real-world data analysis. This constructivist approach encourages active learning, where students are actively building their knowledge through exploration and discovery. However, teachers will always hold an irreplaceable role as 'facilitators of learning,' providing guidance and support, and fostering meaningful discussions that go beyond 'just' the lesson.

Embracing the synergy between AI and pedagogy, educators can leverage various tools to foster critical thinking and communication.

Critical Thinking and Communication

  • Flintk12's AI Tutor: Cultivates critical thinking by engaging students in higher-level problem-solving and analysis.

  • Duolingo: Gamified language learning platform that personalizes learning and encourages interactive communication practice.

  • Minecraft Education Edition: Open-world game environment where students can collaborate, problem-solve, and build creatively, developing both critical thinking and communication skills.

Essential Criteria in Curriculum Design

Reflecting on Grant Wiggins' Understanding by Design (UbD), it's clear that critical thinking and problem-solving should be core curriculum objectives. Grant points out that many schools say they want to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers, but you rarely see these goals reflected in their curriculum objectives. If we are serious about teaching these skills, they must be at the heart of our curriculum design.

Building a successful curriculum always comes down to having clear learning objectives, understanding what our students already know, planning big ideas, and logically organizing activities. We can design curricula that empower educators and learners by involving AI from the outset.

This situation isn't a setback; it's a chance for us to make a difference. With the help of AI, we can transform our classrooms into places where students are encouraged to think for themselves, solve problems in new ways, and share their original ideas.

As we navigate the integration of AI into our educational practices, we open the door to more impactful and meaningful learning experiences by aligning our teaching strategies with AI's tools. This evolution in how we construct our curriculums, with an eye towards both present needs and future demands, naturally leads us to consider more structured frameworks for curriculum design.

The Backward Design or UbD model emphasizes the importance of beginning with our end goals in sight, ensuring that every step we take moves our students closer to achieving the critical skills they need for success.

Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning

Distinguishing between Assessment for Learning (AfL) and Assessment of Learning (AoL) is vital. AI's role in providing real-time feedback and continuous assessment emphasizes the need for dynamic, formative assessment tools in curricula. Traditional assessments (exams, quizzes) may not suffice. AI can provide real-time feedback and continuous assessment, and curricula should embed formative assessment tools that leverage AI insights to gauge student progress.

With AI's support, AfL transforms into a dynamic feedback loop, encouraging constant growth and improvement. On the flip side, AoL reaps the benefits of AI's efficiency in grading, freeing educators to dedicate more time to the art of teaching rather than the chore of marking. Mixing AI into our assessment strategies combines tradition with innovation, highlighting how we can push student learning further while staying true to the heart of teaching.

Testing and Refining AI-Generated Curricula

Developing AI-infused curricula is an iterative process requiring continuous refinement based on student feedback and performance. Educators play a pivotal role in ensuring the curriculum is relevant and engaging. This process is not a one-time task but a cycle of continuous improvement. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial to ensure the curriculum remains relevant and engaging.

The Process in Action

  1. Curriculum Generation with AI: Educators use AI tools, to generate curriculum materials that align with objectives, encompassing lesson plans, assignments, and assessments designed to meet specified goals and cover essential standards and competencies.

  2. Preliminary Review and Adjustment: Educators adjust content for accuracy, relevance, and suitability for their student's diverse needs, possibly modifying language or examples to enhance accessibility and engagement.

  3. Internal Testing and Feedback: Before introducing materials to students, educators engage in internal testing, sometimes in collaboration with peers, to assess the effectiveness and engagement level of the materials.

  4. Incorporate Educator Insights: The insights and feedback from this collaborative review will further refine the materials, ensuring they are finely tuned to the educational objectives.

  5. Pilot Testing with Students: Conducting pilot tests with a small group of students reveals areas where students excel or encounter difficulties, providing invaluable insights into the learning experience.

  6. Reflect and Refine: Educators reflect on the effectiveness of the curriculum and make informed decisions about necessary modifications. This reflection phase is critical for optimizing the curriculum for broader implementation.

  7. Ongoing Evaluation and Adaptation: Continuous evaluation of the curriculum's impact through regular assessments and feedback mechanisms allows for ongoing adjustments. This ensures the curriculum remains responsive to student needs, embodying the dynamic nature of educational design.

The words, "integrating AI into education" encompass far more than just choosing a few new classroom tools. This exciting time highlights the need to reshape the curriculum to prioritize essential future-ready skills, like communication, innovation, independent learning, self-motivation, and adaptive learning. As educators our message is clear— design curriculums that leverage the power of AI, to unlock the full potential of every learner, and foster a lifelong love of learning. This is not just an adjustment, it's a paradigm shift in how we envision the future of education.

Commentary from Flint

This piece from Schuster-Paredes resonates greatly with our team’s mission of redefining education using state-of-the-art technology. We’ve talked about the SAMR model of Edtech integration before and have seen the 7-step process outlined by Schuster-Paredes for refining AI-generated curricula to work for teachers of all different grade levels and subjects.

To add to the points made by Schuster-Paredes, I would also like to stress the importance of involving students in their education, especially when AI is brought into the classroom. Dialogue around student agency and advocacy is far from new and considering the current novelty and imperfection of AI, teachers and students alike stand to gain a lot from having an open dialogue around AI’s use and misuse. By facilitating an environment where feedback can flow seamlessly between teacher to student and student to teacher, the design of AI learning experiences can get increasingly refined and useful.

Additionally, a specific teaching framework that AI could further enable is microlearning, a topic that Schuster-Paredes and her co-host Sean Tibor discussed in a recent episode of their podcast, Teaching Python. The approach of iterative and continuous development of curricula shares many characteristics with the microlearning approach where one “breaks down topics into short form” and “can view [them] as many times as necessary, whenever, wherever”. Schuster-Paredes and Tibor together identify 9 methods/tips for promoting microlearning:

  1. Repetition and reapplication (in new contexts)

  2. Interconnected learning (can be vertical or horizontal topics)

  3. Active recall and practical application (and the application doesn’t have to come before knowledge acquisition)

  4. Interleaving (switching between tasks to help the brain make connections)

  5. Varying the types of learning materials

  6. Immediate, specific feedback

  7. Laddering (connecting microlearning activities to bigger goals and showing how they contribute to the goals)

  8. Badging and credentialing (gamification)

  9. Learning something completely unrelated to your focus to train your brain’s neuroplasticity

AI is great for generating infinite new contexts, for interconnecting topics, for helping students practice active recall and application, and for giving immediate and specific feedback. Flint was created to give teachers the ability to do more in their practice, beyond just substituting tasks that they already do. Tools like Flint, in our minds, are here to augment teachers’ pedagogy and students’ learning and that means that it can only take you so far as you actively seek out.

It’s not the tools that make the artist, but the skill with which they are used. Teachers in the age of AI will become more than beacons of knowledge but also architects of curricula and designers of learning.

Works cited from Schuster-Paredes’ original article

Chiu, Thomas K.F. "Six Key Principles in Designing Artificial Intelligence (AI) Curriculum for Middle Schools." AECT International Convention Proceedings, vol. 42, 2020, pp. 1-9. https://members.aect.org/pdf/Proceedings/proceedings20/2020i/20_03.pdf: https://members.aect.org/pdf/Proceedings/proceedings20/2020i/20_03.pdf

"Backward Design Basics." Cult of Pedagogy, Cult of Pedagogy, June 2020, https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/backward-design-basics/: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/backward-design-basics/

Heick, Terrell. "The Difference Between Assessment Of And Assessment For Learning." TeachThought, 1 Nov. 2018, www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/difference-between-assessment-of-for-learning/: www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/difference-between-assessment-of-for-learning/

Steele, Adam. "What is Assessment for Learning and What are the Benefits." Cambridge, 2 July 2019, www.cambridge.org/gb/education/blog/2019/07/02/what-assessment-learning-and-what-are-benefits/: www.cambridge.org/gb/education/blog/2019/07/02/what-assessment-learning-and-what-are-benefits/

RAND Corporation. "RAND's Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1365.html". Retrieved from RAND Corporation website: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1365.html: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1365.html

Education Week. "Education Week's Personalized Learning: What Does the Research Say?: https://www.edweek.org/technology/personalized-learning-what-does-the-research-say/2016/10". Retrieved from Education Week website: https://www.edweek.org/technology/personalized-learning-what-does-the-research-say/2016/10: https://www.edweek.org/technology/personalized-learning-what-does-the-research-say/2016/10

Hurix Digital Ltd. "Comparing Curriculum Development Models: Which One Fits Your Needs?: https://www.hurix.com/comparing-curriculum-development-models-which-one-fits-your-needs/". Retrieved from Hurix Digital Ltd. website: https://www.hurix.com/comparing-curriculum-development-models-which-one-fits-your-needs/: https://www.hurix.com/comparing-curriculum-development-models-which-one-fits-your-needs/

The article was edited and proofread with Grammarly and ChatGPT Agents (Academic Assistant Pro and Blog Expert).

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In your demo, we’ll start by learning about your school’s AI strategy and then explore how Flint can help.