3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Teaching Tools

Tailored Teaching: How AI Lets Students “Choose Their Own Adventure” in Learning

Okay, y’all. Prepare to be. BLOWN. AWAY.

If you saw my recent post on how to create a Connections-like game, you know that I follow Shelly Sanchez Terrell on all of her channels and she is always sharing incredible resources. She recently shared a link to a blog post by Matthew Wemyss, and I bookmarked it like I do with practically everything she shares.

Today I had a little time to go back and take a deeper look at Matthew’s post, and to actually try his suggestion. It’s an AI prompt that you can copy and paste into your own AI tool of choice (ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, etc…) to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type game with generative text.

“Cool,” I thought. I’ve been keeping an eye on all of these tools, and I’ve seen a ton of uses for education, but this was one of the more creative ideas I’ve run across. So, I fired up ChatGPT, and pasted in the prompt.

Matthew’s prompt tells the AI to ask for the level of students, subject, and specific objectives. After some thought, I told it: 5th grade, Language Arts, Themes and Symbolism in The Giver by Lois Lowry. Within seconds, this was my response:

And then I could start playing the game. The story began, and I was given a scenario with 3 choices. All I needed to do was to type in the letter of my choice to proceed to the next part of the adventure. You can see the beginning of my game play here.

Keep in mind that Matthew’s well-crafted prompt means that you can tell the AI any student age, any subject, and any specific objectives. And, of course you can tweak the original prompt to suit your own specific needs.

Can you imagine all of the ways you can use this for your classroom?!!!!! Put it on the big screen so the whole class can play, or allow your “fast finishers” to play, or motivate students who are having a tough time getting engaged — the possibilities are endless.

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the fusion of technology and creativity has truly redefined the possibilities within our classrooms. Leveraging tools like ChatGPT to craft ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ experiences not only enriches the learning process but also ensures that our students are actively intrigued and empowered. It can be overwhelming to see the way that AI is so quickly and dramatically changing the playing field, but finding ways to integrate it into lessons can not only continuously give you novel ideas for inspiring and motivating students, but also show them the responsible and creative ways that it can be used to increase learning.

3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Research, Student Products, Teaching Tools

The Big Fib Podcast Planner

One of my most recent workshop additions is one on using podcasting in the classroom. The title is, “From Script to Sound: Engaging Student Learning Through Podcasting.” During this three hour PD, participants learn how to use podcasts as a tool to help with reading and listening comprehension as well as to develop critical thinking skills. In the second half, they learn how to create podcasts using Canva (yes, it can be done!).

One of my favorite ways to start students off with creating in any kind of media is to use a “mentor” piece, whether it’s text, songs, poetry, video, or podcasts. In this case, we use a podcast called, “The Big Fib.” This is one of many productions suitable for kids that you can find on the GZM classroom site, an excellent resource which I blogged about earlier this year.

Choose an episode of the podcast that has a format your students can emulate for a topic you’re teaching. I chose “The Big Fib” because the premise of the show is that two people are being questioned, an expert and a fibber. The listener is supposed to be able to discern from their responses who is the expert and who is the fibber. There is a different topic each time, such as Ancient Egypt. The structure of the show not only supports critical thinking skills, but also easily allows for students to make their own similar podcast on any topic they are studying in class. (Though it’s not part of the GZM family of podcasts, another great “mentor podcast” is, “Smash, Boom, Best,” which you can read more about in this post.)

During the latest workshop, the teachers got to try out using the podcast planner which I’ve made based on “The Big Fib,” and to spend time working in Canva to make their podcasts. We didn’t have time to finish, but they got a good understanding of the steps, and I was completely floored by their creativity! One group chose the show, “Bluey” as their topic (which is apparently an extremely moving show despite being for pre-school kids), another was doing Edgar Allan Poe, and a third group — composed of an art teacher and two language teachers — had come up with a podcast they called, “Just Say It,” where they would ask a question and the two guests were supposed to respond in Spanish (but one would not be responding correctly).

The variety of topics from the teachers made it clear that this is something that could be done as a great assessment tool in most subjects because you could pretty much have students “show what they know” about anything with this activity.

If you’d like to make your own copy of the planning document they used (I made some modifications based on their feedback), click on this link. And, if you’d like to have me do this workshop with a group of teachers in your district, virtually or in-person, drop me a line at terrieichholz@engagetheirminds.com!

3-12, Creative Thinking, Teaching Tools

“Hex-Blocks of Respect”: Creating a Social Contract using Hexagonal Thinking

If you’ve been in education for any length of time, you’ve probably created, at one time or another, some sort of social contract, classroom constitution, classroom compact, etc…

I dread them.

The activity always felt repetitive, unoriginal, and seemed to involve a lot of wasted to time to arrive at a product that looked virtually the same every year. In addition, I felt the pain of my poor secondary students, who had to do it in every single teacher’s classroom at the beginning of the year — probably not the most interesting way to launch a new learning adventure.

However, there are some benefits to the social contract, of course. And many schools require them to be posted in the classroom, a signed reminder to the students of their agreement to contribute to a positive learning environment. It’s not a terrible idea, just inherently boring if you have to do it with each and every teacher throughout your entire school career.

I’m about to present my “Harnessing Hexagons” workshops next week for Northside (yay, NISD, can’t wait to see you!) and I was playing around with new, meaningful ways to use hexagonal thinking. I noticed there are currently a lot of visits to my page, “Getting to Know You Hexagons,” and it hit me that maybe there was a way to use hexagonal thinking to create these social contracts, too. (Note: I’m not suggesting you do both of these activities on the first day, because that would be a bit redundant — something we are actually trying to avoid.)

Since I’ve been playing around with Chat GPT a lot, I decided to see what it thought about this idea. Here was the lesson it generated with my first prompt:

  1. Hexagonal cut-outs or sticky notes
  2. Markers
  3. Large poster paper/board for arranging hexagons
  4. Timer

To be honest, this is not a ground-breaking lesson plan. I definitely could have generated this myself.

So I thought I would ask Chat GPT to spice it up a bit. I learned (from Nicole Leffer on TikTok) about an interesting sentence that you can add to your prompts in order to give an idea of the creativity level you’re looking for. “The temperature setting is …” Complete the sentence with a number from 0-1.9. Supposedly, 1.9 is asking for the most out-0f-the-box answer. I gave it a whirl. Here is the response:

  1. Hexagonal “Star” cut-outs or sticky notes
  2. “Cosmic” markers
  3. Large black poster paper/board for arranging the galaxy (stars)
  4. An epic space-themed playlist
  5. Star-shaped stickers

Okay. So this might have been a bit too out-of-the-box. I kind of of like the theme idea, but A.) Hexagons look nothing like stars and B.) A SPACE DANCE?!!!! Ha! Try having middle school kids do that, especially on the first day of school.

So, last try. I ratcheted down my temperature setting to 1.0. We still got a theme, but it seemed more realistic. Not sure about the hard-hat idea, but that could work with some of the primary grades. (Also, I think the final notes, Chat GPT keeps giving me are hilarious — like I don’t know that I need to keep kids “focused and efficiently moving.”)

I think I could actually use this one with a couple of tweaks. What about you?

If you are new to hexagonal thinking, I have a ton of previous posts on it. It’s, frankly, my favorite way to encourage group discussions. There are many, many ways to make your hexagons that I relate in my “Harnessing Hexagons” presentation, but one quick way is to use the HookED Solo Generator from Pam Hook (Queen of Hexagonal Thinking).

So, to sum up:

  • Try using hexagonal thinking to create your classroom compact.
  • Try using Chat GPT to help you think of lesson ideas (along with the temperature setting prompt).
  • Consider inviting me to present “Harnessing Hexagons” to your staff (terrieichholz@engagetheirminds.com).
  • And make sure you “keep the class focused and efficiently moving through each phase of the lesson” — because you probably prefer complete chaos in your classroom but, for some strange reason Chat GPT doesn’t advise that approach:)
3-5, 6-12, Art, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Math

AI Text to Image Mandalas

I was listening to a podcast this week in which Steven Soderbergh, the famous director, stated, “I am not interesting; I am interested.” This is absolutely how I feel about myself. In fact, I responded, “Curious” to a recent Twitter post asking, “What’s Your Word?” I could spend all day learning new things, and I get really excited when any of those things happens to be something I think might be of interest to you.

On an AI thread in Twitter the other day, someone shared a bunch of images they created with Midjourney, an AI tool. The artwork involved something called, “knolling photography“, which reminded me of natural mandalas. As some of you may know, I used to do a unit on mathematical masterpieces with my 4th graders that included mandalas, and we used many methods to create some. You can see one of my posts about this here. I thought I would jump down this rabbit hole to see if I could create any decent mandalas with some free AI tools at my fingertips (Midjourney is not one of them), and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Since Canva is free to all teachers, I started with its “Text to Image” tool, and asked it to make a mandala of quilled flowers. Here is the result:

I also asked for one made with seashells.

Then I asked it to change the style to “watercolor” for another flower mandala. Here was the response:

Even though Canva is free for educators, there are some of you who don’t use it, so I decided to test out another AI chat tool, Bing, in case you wanted a different option. (By the way, if you have the Adobe Creative Suite subscription, you can also try Firefly to do this.)

When my students created mandalas, we worked a lot on symbolism and the meaning of colors, so I started by trying to ask Bing to create a mandala of sports equipment (because that’s invariably what some of my students do). That did not go well. The images were extremely abstract and not recognizable. I finally settled on one where I was able to request a specific type of mandala (spiral dot), the colors red, blue, and green, and a photo of a soccer ball in the middle.

Bing allows you to upload photos, but I didn’t have any success in it making mandalas out of the couple of photos that I tried in the limited time I experimented.

What would students learn from this activity? As I mentioned before, our previous mandala lessons included symbolism and the meaning of colors. We also learned about different types of symmetry and the history of mandalas in many cultures. Creating mandalas themselves helped them to delve more into their own values and creativity. And trying to make them with AI tools will not only bring up philosophical and ethical discussion, but also help them to refine their critical thinking skills to improve their “prompt engineering.”

As Steven Soderbergh also states in that podcast episode when asked about AI, that it’s an iterative tool, but, “It hasn’t experienced anything.” He quotes a Pixar motto, “Be wrong as fast as you can… Just get to the end. If this helps people get to the end of something, fine.” Maybe this is one more option you can give students to get to the vision they have for their mathematical masterpiece — or to create a new vision even better than they imagined.

3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Philosophy, Teaching Tools, Writing

Once Upon a Picture

If you are looking for a site that will pique your students’ imaginations and spark some creativity (especially for writing), you should consider Once Upon a Picture.

Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter know that I usually include a “Tik Tok Teacher Hack” in each issue. I know that there are various opinions about Tik Tok out there, but I honestly find a lot of wonderful resources for teaching on Tik Tok, and this is one of them. @jessicam.reid is a Tik Tokker who often talks about AI creation sites for teachers, but she thought this resource was so great that she did a short video about it.

The images on Once Upon a Picture are curated by a teacher in the UK named Sam as a passion project. They are digital photos, animations, and illustrations that are magical, surrealistic, and undeniably thought-provoking. According to Sam, each artist has given permission for the images to be shared.

Because Sam is a teacher, there are also questions that are listed on the page for each individual picture — questions that can be used to prod your students to dig deeper and imagine the stories behind each image. Here is one example.

There is also a challenge book that you can download for free as well as a Reading Comprehension handbook and some samples of student writing (all under “More” in the main menu.) In addition, Sam has created different collections of images such as “The Thinking Collection” meant to provoke philosophical discussions and “The Inference Collection” of images selected from Sam’s own work in the primary classroom.

If you want to try your hand at creating your own unusual images, Canva has a Text-to-Image AI tool that is kind of fun to try. I’ve had varying results. The image I am including below was downloaded from Adobe’s Beta Firefly program, (which is part of my paid subscription to Adobe). Note that Adobe is trying to be responsible by watermarking its AI created images.

I would have definitely used Once Upon a Picture in my GT classroom or any class in which I taught writing or wanted to encourage deep discussions. I hope you’ll find it useful, too!

image of words "Creative Types"
5-8, 6-12, Creative Thinking

What is Your Creative Type?

Adobe’s Creative Types test is a personality test like no other that I’ve seen. If you enjoy doing a little introspection with tools like Strengthsfinder, Meyers-Briggs, or Enneagram, you will probably like this one even more. The creators took the time to make the assessment visually unusual and appealing so that it manages to keep your attention even as it begins to load the next question.

I tend to view these types of analyses as somewhat akin to horoscopes. I feel like you could give me any set of results and I would probably see myself somewhere in the description, even without responding to any questions. That’s because people are complex and difficult to categorize, as we often evolve or modify our personalities to suit different situations. However it is always intriguing to see the depth of my character succinctly described in a few paragraphs. (It’s also interesting to note that whenever I share these tests with my family, my husband and daughter always end up with the same exact results as each other — never the same as mine.)

Question from Adobe Creative Types Test

I’m sharing this link today because I’m guessing that many of my readers are not quite ready to plan for a new school year, and the Adobe Creative Types Test is a fun but thought-provoking way to spend your time as well as a great discussion-starter with family and friends. The questions are not too intrusive or complex, and at the end of a few minutes, you will discover which one of the eight types your responses most represent: The Artist, The Thinker, The Adventurer, The Maker, The Producer, The Dreamer, The Innovator, or the Visionary. You can also download a PDF that details your type and recommends the best creative type with which you should collaborate.

screenshot from Adobe Creative Types

For a little bit of background about how this test was created, you may want to read this article by Carolyn Gregoire, who is also one of the creators.

I will admit that I was surprised by my result, and I wonder if any of you can guess in the comments which one it is. If you are a regular reader, maybe you know me better than I know myself! I’d love to hear your results and your thoughts about the test.