3-12, Computer Science, Teaching Tools

Leveraging AI for Learning with ChatGPT or Canva

One of the top 4 most visited posts on my blog this year has been, “AI Generated Poetry.” To say that artificial intelligence attracts interest, no matter the motivation behind that curiosity, would not be an understatement. And, if you’ve been active on social media lately — especially Twitter and TikTok — you will see that there is a new tool out there that will definitely be a major game changer in education. It’s called, “ChatGPT,” and it is for us to decide if it will be our doom or salvation.

ChatGPT is currently free, but you need to sign up to use it. For that reason, I haven’t tried it yet. I like to sit back a little bit and observe the braver pioneers when I hear about something this powerful. Is it too good to be true? How much data will it collect from me? In addition, it turns out I already subscribe to something that includes a tool quite similar to ChatGPT — Canva. (Unfortunately, Canva for Education users do not have this access at the moment, but Twitter conversations seem to reflect that it may be an option in the near future.)

Let’s talk first about what these specific AI tools do (ChatGPT and Canva’s Magic Write option in Canva Docs). They can basically write anything you ask them to, in very coherent but generic language. I’ve seen people demonstrate lesson plans, recipes, and social media content. And when I say, “coherent,” I mean eerily human-like. Here are examples of some of the responses I received from Canva’s Magic Write (my prompts are in bold font):

Example of AI Responses from Canva’s Magic Write Tool in Canva Docs

If you have any Canva Plan other than Canva for Education, you should be able to create a new Canva doc, click on the “+” sign, and choose “Magic Write” to test this out for yourself. You can see a quick demonstration below:

From what I’ve seen demonstrated, ChatGPT has similar abilities. If you go to this page, you can see some of the limitations of ChatGPT, and this one will give you the lowdown on using Canva’s Magic Write.

It’s no wonder that some educators who have seen these tools in action are concerned. ELA teachers are worried their students will utilize the service to respond to essay prompts and even computer science teachers wonder how their students will ever learn to code correctly because — guess what — ChatGPT can find errors in your programming, too.

Like any technology these AI tools can be used for nefarious purposes — or for good. That’s why it’s even more important than ever to teach students the value of ethics and how to evaluate information. Forbidding students to use AI is just going to result in a game of Whack-A-Mole as they keep attempting to outwit us and we keep trying to eradicate the use of AI for “cheating.”

Matt Miller (@JMattMiller) recently published a thread on Twitter that describes 20 ways that you can use ChatGPT to help you “teach/learn”:

For a more in-depth look at ChatGPT, I also recommend Matt’s blog post.

As you can see from Matt’s suggestions, there are ways that AI can make educator’s lives easier, and make learning more interesting. I think that we need to be aware of the limitations and potential abuses, while also taking advantage of the benefits such tools can bring.

3-12, Critical Thinking, Games, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gifts for the Gifted — I Dissent

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.

I’ve already referenced this article by @LindsayAnnLearn once in the last few weeks when I posted about her “Bring Your Own Book” game. Let’s just say that I found a lot of gift ideas on her list, and “I Dissent” is one of them. Inspired by the great RBG herself, this game is an entertaining way to give participants practice in the art of arguing, although the stakes are much lower than cases brought before the Supreme Court. In fact, you don’t need to worry about any hot button topics like politics and religion. Instead, be prepared to debate whether it’s okay to wear socks with sandals or if playing video games should be considered a sport.

I Dissent” states that it’s for ages 14+ on the game instructions, but I looked through all of the topic cards and didn’t see any that I wouldn’t use with my elementary students. There might be some vocabulary you will need to explain, such as the word, “irrational,” or something children won’t care about (“the 90’s were better than the 80’s,” for example), but I doubt you’re going to get any parent phone calls for cards like, “dogs would make better drivers than cats.”

The number of players could easily be adjusted to include a whole classroom or a small family of 3. Technically there are enough sets of “Voting Cards” for 9 people, but playing in teams wouldn’t be a problem. Basically, each player/team gets a set of “Voting Cards” with the numbers 1, 2, or 3, and two opinion cards (“Agree” and “Disagree”). A topic card is turned over and whoever is the “Chief Justice” for that round chooses how long players can argue the topic. When that time is up, players choose an opinion card and how many votes they are willing to give up for that opinion. The opinion that wins that round is the one that scores the most votes, NOT the opinion that appears the most. You can only use each of your 8 votes once, so you need to be judicious — pun intended — with your choices. Winners of each round get to keep their “Vote Cards” from the round face up in front of them to count towards the end of the game, while losers of the round return the used “Vote Cards” to the box.

You continue playing 7 more rounds with each person/team getting a chance to be “Chief Justice.” There are also “Dissent Cards” that can be put into the mix, but I’ll let get your own game to learn those slightly complicated rules. At the end, you tally up all of the scores on the “Vote Cards” in front of you to determine the winner.

Once you get the hang of the game, it’s easy enough to make up your own controversial topics to debate, and this could definitely get interesting with a variety of inputs from any age. As Lindsay mentioned, you could also bring in curriculum with home-made topics. And you can add a persuasive writing assignment to tie things together afterward.

I like this game because I really do feel that, as a society we have been regressing in our ability to conduct civilized debates. “I Dissent” can appeal to different age groups and still be hilarious and fun while we guide children toward arguing respectfully. If you want to extend that lesson, try a “Socratic Smackdown” or two once you feel like the conversations are ready for more complexity!

Creative Thinking, K-12, Teaching Tools

2 Free S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Resources for December

I’ve slowly been working on digitizing and updating some of my materials. Last year, I offered this free S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Through Winter Jamboard. (Here is the Google Slides version if you prefer, so you can print it as a PDF.) S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a creative thinking tool developed by Bob Eberle, and each letter stands for suggestions to spark innovation: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, and Rearrange. You can see an example of one of the slides below.

A student example of Substitution from the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Through Winter pack

I do like to be as inclusive as possible with my readers. And it has not escaped me that there is another hemisphere that experiences its seasons at different times of the year than the United States. So, for my southern hemisphere friends (or anyone in the northern hemisphere who likes to switch things up once in awhile), here is my brand new Summer Pool Party S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Jamboard. I also have a Google Slides version for anyone who would like it.

I will be adding this post to my December Wakelet, which also has links related to Hour of Code (NEXT WEEK!) and various holidays coming up this month. And don’t forget that you can see all of my Wakelet Collections on this page!

boy in red sweater wring on notebook
K-12, Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

10 Retrieval Activities + 1 Choice Board

You may recall my mention of retrieval practice in my post about the +1 Visible Thinking Routine. To briefly recap, scientific studies show that retrieval practice done in intervals can help learners to retain more information. These activities are like short pop-quizzes in that you are asking students to recall as much as they can without referring to notes or texts. But, while a pop quiz is used for the teacher to assess, the purpose of retrieval practice activities are to help students learn, so they should not be attached to grades. Ideally, they are woven into your teaching day and can take the form of games, classroom warmups, and even exit tickets. The +1 Visible Thinking Routine is one way to do retrieval practice, but I recently discovered some more ideas on Twitter.

It started when I noticed a Tweet from Brendan O’Sullivan (@ImtaBrendan) where he shared a choice board of “settler” activities. Now, I don’t know about you, but the word, “settler” makes me think of dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail or getting obliterated by my family when we play Catan. Once I found out from Brendan that these are a term for activities used “to get your class settled, to give them focus and moving towards learning,” the board made a lot more sense to me. (This is the fun thing about Twitter. Brendan is from Ireland, so I appreciate him helping us non-Europeans learn a new term!) Brendan’s choice board is a nice way to have students do some retrieval practice when class is getting started.

Settler Choice Board from Brendan O’Sullivan

I then noticed a Tweet from Liesl McConchie (@LieslMcConchie) where she shared a link to her mini-book of “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention.” Although it is math-focused, you can easily do the activities in any classroom. For example, I could see using the “Quiz, Quiz, Switch” activity in any grade level or subject (possibly using pictures for students who are pre-readers).

Retrieval Practice example from Liesl McConchie in her mini-book, “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention

You can download more free mini-books from Liesl on her website.

By guiding students with retrieval practice activities, we will not only help them to retain more important information, but we are teaching them a valuable skill they can continue to use as lifelong learners.

illuminated gratitude quote on board
3-12, Creative Thinking, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gratitude Zines

Since this is the month of American Thanksgiving, November classroom activities often revolve around gratitude in the States. Austin Kleon, a Texan author famous for his Blackout Poetry among other things, has the perfect free download for you. He is a proponent of all things creative, and “zines” are excellent gateways to encourage imaginative writing and illustrations. If you have not run into “zines” before, here is a quick introduction from the University of Illinois, who basically describes a “zine” as “a small-scale, self-published publication, similar to a magazine, which can focus on a variety of topics.” Kleon has a page of examples and free downloads here.

I learned about Kleon’s Gratitude Zine on Twitter from Maria Galanis (@mariagalanis), when she shared a video tutorial of how to make the printed page into the tiny book.

You can get the free download by going to Kleon’s newsletter. (I highly recommend subscribing when the popup displays, but you don’t have to.)

Click here to go to the free download on Austin Kleon’s newsletter.

I’ll be adding this idea to my November collection of resources. If you are looking for some more creative and critical thinking activities related to the season, here is another post of free ideas.

white scrabble tiles on the wooden table
K-12, Teaching Tools

November Celebrations!

Once teachers make it through Halloween, notable dates in November quickly dominate the calendar. Though many of the ones I’ve curated are United States-centered, there are a couple of global celebrations sprinkled in the eleventh month of the year as well. We kick it off with Dia de Los Muertos on November 1st and how can you not deck your halls for Fibonacci Day on 11/23? The entire month is Native American Heritage Month in the States. Then we’ve got Election Day and Veteran’s Day in quick succession, followed by Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

Of course I’ve curated as many free resources as I can in this November/Thanksgiving Wakelet. The Election Day and Native American Heritage Month Wakelets are brand new collections I’ve curated this week (you can find links to these above as well as in the November Wakelet), and I’ve begun to add a new “feature” by giving approximate grade levels in the titles of each resource. Note that these are super flexible, but at least you can guess that if you teach Pre-K, it’s probably going to be a waste of time to click on a resource that says, “Grades 9-12.”

Happy Last Day of October! I hope you’ve had a good month and you are looking forward to a fabulous November!

Click here to access the November/Thanksgiving Wakelet!