Podcast for Teachers: Can AI Be a Teaching Partner? - Steve Barkley

Podcast for Teachers: Can AI Be a Teaching Partner?

Kylie Hand and Jennifer Baron, from the Innovative Educational Services Division at Chester County Intermediate Unit in PA, share opportunities for teachers to partner with AI to impact student learning. They discuss options for teachers getting ready to explore as well as teachers who are engaged in “what’s possible.”  Many resources ranging from safe and responsible usage to differentiating learning options to a source of feedback for students are offered.


AI in Education News & Guidance

AI Curriculum Resources


Our Contact Info:

Kylie Hand, Director of Learning Design & EdTech, Chester County Intermediate Unit: KylieH@cciu.org

Personal Social Media:

Jen Baron, Online Learning Design Specialist, Chester County Intermediate Unit: JenniferBa@cciu.org

Personal Social Media:

  • X: @JenBaron96
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-baron-702ab81aa

Podcast Trasncript:

[00:00:00.890] – Steve [Intro]

Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of Steve Barkley ponders out loud the complexity of teaching is both challenging and rewarding, and my curiosity is piqued whenever I explore with teachers the multiple pathways for facilitating student engagement in the exciting world of learning. This podcast looks to serve teachers as they motivate and support their learners. Thanks for listening. I’m delighted that you’re here.

[00:00:34.430] – Steve

Can AI be a teaching partner? I’m excited to be recording this podcast as it’s our first look at AI on the podcast and we’re looking at it through the focus of teachers. Joining us is Jennifer Barron, a former middle school ELA teacher and a graduate of Arizona State University’s instructional technology program. Currently, Jen is an online learning design specialist at the Chester County Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania. The intermediate units in Pennsylvania are regional education service agencies. Jen has a special interest in her role there on AI and its impact in education. Also on the podcast is the director of learning design and educational technology at the intermediate unit, Kylie Hand. Kylie has been a classroom teacher and a school administrator, and she has developed an expertise in online and blended learning technology integration, as well as STEM and maker education. Welcome, Kylie and Jen.

[00:01:46.990] – Jen

Thank you.

[00:01:47.850] – Kylie

Thank you, Steve.

[00:01:50.150] – Steve

Great to have you with us. I’m really excited with this being our first podcast around AI. I’m wondering, for starters, I’ll put you right on the spot, both with classroom experiences, if you were in the classroom today as a teacher, what differences do you imagine AI would be making in your classrooms?

[00:02:12.590] – Jen

I’ll start with that one. So, since I do work with a lot of teachers already kind of surrounding this and seeing the impact that it’s making, I think the biggest difference that I would gravitate towards would be the fact that it could really help teachers cut down on their planning time. Things that would take maybe an entire prep period to do, like just making a presentation for a lesson, AI has the capabilities to assist with that and take that from a 50 minutes task to maybe 20 minutes or less. So you have more time to focus on the work that is actually going to be done in the lesson with the students rather than all of this preparation type work. But it also brings about personalized learning opportunities for students. And what I mean by that, I’m not saying like putting AI in students hands immediately, but teachers have tools available to them where they could differentiate content for students. So if there’s students in their classroom on three different reading levels, instead of going and searching for resources and taking maybe an hour to do that, there are AI tools out there that you can put a reading passage into and it differentiates, it puts it at different levels for you, and it takes 30 seconds.

[00:03:29.920] – Jen

And that just is something that simplifies a teacher’s day and kind of takes those type of tasks off their cognitive load and gives them more of an opportunity to connect with students and work with them directly. So that’s how I see it. I would hope it would be making a difference if I were using it right now.

[00:03:45.960] – Kylie

If I could add to what Jen said – there have been so many times when I’ve learned about a new tool over the last few weeks, months, last year or so, where I thought, oh goodness, if I had had this, I would have so much more of my life back as a teacher, because how much time did I spend constructing a rubric from scratch, or making guidelines for my students, or trying to come up with interdisciplinary lesson ideas where now I can put in a bunch of standards into an AI tool and it can quickly give me a variety of ideas, and then I can really leverage some of those ideas. Now, some of them I may decide not to, but there are some that would be really helpful. It can also help me to provide feedback for my students, and it can also help them to get feedback before coming to me or turning something in, they’re getting a cursory glance of feedback from AI itself. So, as Jen said, I think if I had had it as a know, I maybe would have had some extra hobbies at this point in my life.

[00:04:55.010] – Steve

Can you give me an example about the feedback piece? How is AI impacting the feedback for students?

[00:05:04.210] – Jen

So just one tool, which I’ll talk about in a little bit as an example, it’s called Magic School AI. It’s my new favorite thing. I’ll talk to anyone and everybody about all of the great things it can do. But one of the first features it came out with was a student work feedback tool. And for me, as a former english teacher, I’m used to reading 120 student essays and by the time you get to the bottom of all those essays, it’s very hard to write 120 different pieces of feedback for students. So what these tools are helping to do is you can take student work, remove any of the names, personally identifiable information, but you can put it into these different versions of chat bots basically within Magic School and you can say, this is a 7th grade essay prompt. Here’s the prompt, and here’s how this responded. And it will spit out for you, here are areas strength within the writing, here are areas of growth, and you can even ask it further questions of like, oh, what about the student’s writing style? And it would give you more feedback.

[00:06:20.430] – Jen

And I say this all be like, yes, great that it does that, but then it’s the teacher’s responsibility to take that and put their voice into it. But it’s a very good starting point where they can just start with that preliminary feedback. When you’re just stuck and don’t know how to say something or say it in the right way, that’s going to come across well to the students. So that’s how I’ve seen feedback AI tools really being used.

[00:06:44.370] – Steve

You stuck a smile on my face because Magic School is one of the ones that I’ve been playing with. And my first time in what I loved was they kept making this statement back to me as teacher that they do 80% of it. And when I heard you describe that, when it gives it back to you, the teacher still has his or her part to add on.

[00:07:09.200] – Jen

For sure. But yeah, every teacher I’ve spoken to about it has really just described it as that it’s a great place for them to start when they’re just either stuck or needing to save some time, it gives them somewhere to base what they’re doing off of. And yeah, any time saver for a teacher is really appreciated.

[00:07:26.700] – Kylie

To that point we can also, as educators, ask AI to give us feedback. If we have a student who is having specific issues with behavior or with a particular content area or a particular skill, we can take our lesson plan and then say, please analyze this from this perspective and it can give us ideas for enhancement to make our lessons better. So one of the concepts I really like about Microsoft’s Copilot is really that idea of not necessarily dominion over AI, but really like a co-collaborator. This is someone or something that is truly your assistant that is to be utilized and leveraged. It’s something that can really provide a lot of help, just as a colleague would. And while it’s not a replacement of having a co-teacher colleague, it is a pretty good substitute.

[00:08:31.750] – Steve

So I’m guessing that there’s teachers who are standing on the sidelines having not put their toes in the water yet with AI. And I’m wondering what kind of questions are you hearing or concerns are you hearing from that group and how are you responding to it?

[00:08:51.070] – Jen

Probably the first question that I get or hear come about for anyone, not even specific just to teachers at this point, but just what AI is and what it can do. And the answer to that is pretty expansive. But since we’ve found over the last year or so, since that’s kind of the starting point with a lot of people, they want to know what it is and what it can do. We’ve worked with defining for them how exactly things like Chat GPT work, so they know the background information behind it, so they understand where that information is coming from. And it’s not actually as terrifying or futuristic as it seems because they’re trained off of databases. And it’s just a really fast Google at this point, and it synthesizes information and kind of a reassurance of it’s not going to replace completely what humans can do. It’s here to help support and supplement what we’re able to do and make it better. So with those two questions, it usually, I feel like comes out of a point of, or a place of, I’m scared of this. And there’s not really, at this point anyway, a reason to be with where we are with AI.

[00:10:06.050] – Jen

We can be using it to really support our own lives, our careers, in responsible ways. And then the third, probably most popular question, especially with teachers, is, oh, well, students are just going to cheat. And I could kind of talk about that a little bit more later. But that kind of goes into a bigger educational philosophy question of really just rethinking how we assess students and teach students. The older methods might not work anymore. It’s not a matter of them comprehending or just regurgitating information that they’re told. We really need to tap into the critical thinking abilities that students have and the collaborative abilities and just those things that can’t just simply be looked up and answered and kind of encouraging more curiosity with students in that way.

[00:11:02.230] – Steve

Yeah. Many years back I was using the term, you got to figure out how to “google proof: your test.

[00:11:07.360] – Jen

Yes. And now it’s “AI proof.”

[00:11:11.450] – Steve

If a kid could google the answer, it probably wasn’t a good question to have on you test.

[00:11:14.760] – Kylie

To that point, of the things that I’m hearing from some teachers who don’t know much about it is isn’t it just a search engine? Isn’t it just like Google on steroids? Why do I need to embrace AI or what’s so different about it? And I think one of the concepts that they miss when first using any kind of AI chat bot, which is a form of generative AI or GAI, is how it’s typically called, is that it’s dialogical. So one of the misconceptions is that it is just, I put in a singular question, I get a response, kind of a rolling of the dice, but it’s really not at all. It is as if you are speaking to a colleague. In fact, you oftentimes need to and should, in prompt engineering strategies, give it a specific role. So if you want it to be a colleague who is coming at it from a special education lens or a speech therapist lens, you can give it that specific role and it will interact and dialog back and forth just as if you’re talking to another human being. One of the questions that we get oftentimes from elementary teachers is, isn’t AI just for secondary students?

[00:12:33.990] – Kylie

And at this point in time there are a lot of AI chat bots that do require a text input, so a written input, but there are more and more voice AI tools that are emerging and there’s so many AI tools that are allowing students to create with so many various mediums and AI is becoming embedded into so many of our tools that all students, Pre-K through twelve and beyond are using. So it really is something that it’s not that it can be segmented for just specific grade levels of students. Those are some of the questions that we hear.

[00:13:21.320] – Steve

So let’s go to the other end. How about the teachers who have kind of full blown jumped in? What are they pondering and wondering? And how do you see yourselves working with them?

[00:13:34.070] – Kylie

I just was at a statewide conference in Pennsylvania and we were joking because at some points there are these really big existential questions actually about what it means to be a human. And Jen and I sometimes say that as we’re toying with AI and we’re learning about it and what it’s doing in industry, and it does bring to light a lot of big existential questions about personhood and ethics and things like that, and we don’t have the answers for that. Not that there are any one singular answer, but we do get those questions from folks who have dabbled in it, are the robots going to take over the world kind of thing. So we get those questions. We have had a lot of teachers ask about how do I keep up? So there’s been a lot of support, funding, momentum, hype, marketing around AI, and so there’s a lot of additional features that are being added on an almost hourly, daily basis in AI tools. Magic School AI that Jen had mentioned earlier has come out with a number of updates just within the last week. The interface looks different. Khan Academy with their tool, Conmigo, I mean, there’s so many updates that are happening so fast, it’s very hard to keep up.

[00:14:54.150] – Kylie

So that’s a question that we get, and we can share in your show notes, or we can recommend to you some folks to follow. You can always reach out to us as well and follow us on our social media because we’re trying to stay ahead and really keep up. But that’s one of the questions that we get is how do I keep up?

[00:15:13.670] – Steve

We’ll do all of those that you just mentioned. How about giving us a couple of specific sites or tools just for a starter in the podcast here that you’d put on the top of the list for teachers to check out?

[00:15:33.550] – Kylie

Sure. So one of the questions that teachers who have dove into this are asking is around safe and responsible usage. So now that I’ve seen what it can do, how can I prevent my students from misusing it, or how can I really teach them to use it in a safe and responsible way, modeling guidelines for them and whatnot? And so we would recommend the teach AI organization that has formed. It is almost a conglomerate of a bunch of leading organizations across the nation and the world, really. ISTI, the International Society for Technology Education is in there. And so they have put out some guidelines for school use for teachers to take and kind of adopt those. They’ve created some really nice editable slide decks that teachers and school communities can use. So we would highly recommend Teach AI. In addition to that, common sense media has come out at this time of recording, within the last about six weeks or so, they have put out guidelines on specific tools for AI, and I think they’re going to continue adding to that catalog. But common sense media over the last decade or more has really been a trusted source to guide caregivers, families, parents, schools around safe and responsible digital literacy use and how to explicitly teach that.

[00:16:59.450] – Kylie

And they do a really thorough job of vetting some of the tools and sharing some of the pros, the cons, the challenges and the benefits.

[00:17:08.990] – Jen

Going back to the previous question of questions, we get a lot of it does go back to often things like being compliant when it comes to COPA and and all of those privacy things. And that’s a heel, especially for the students who are 13 and under. And what does this mean for them? So when I’m looking for tools and recommending things, I like to do a little bit of my own background research first of what the parameters of these different tools are. So again, Magic School is like top of my list because it checks all of those boxes. The first thing I think it tells you when you go onto the Magic School screen is something like this was made for schools compliant with FERPA, COPA – doesn’t save any information that’s put in there like student information. So it’s very well trained and very good about that. Some other things about magic school for any teachers listening, last I checked it has 65 capabilities of what it can do ranging from all grade levels, all subject areas. I have it pulled up right now and just to name a few that might be of interest, we have report card comment generator, a rubric generator, text leveler, math story, word problems and it’s so expansive and they continue to expand.

[00:18:34.850] – Jen

I think when I first made an account about a year ago, there were maybe ten things that it can do and now there’s updates…

[00:18:40.790] – Steve

Yeah, I was laughing to myself. It was 50 the last time I looked. And you were at 65 today.

[00:18:46.140] – Jen

Yeah. And I just counted just now. So that can probably change very quickly. Even as I was talking, I was talking about this at a conference and showing some english teachers the tool itself. And as I’m scrolling I’m like, this wasn’t here when I planned the session. And it’s all this brand new stuff, but it’s a great tool to even just dip your toes in. Check it out. It does a whole ton. Not to say you have to use all of those features, but find a couple that work for you. And they are, I believe, switching to like a paid plan. But everything that’s on the free, you’re still going to have access to everything that it does right now. So I would say jump in there and see what you could use. So that’s definitely my top one. Another one that falls under the compliant with everything, student privacy, safety, all of that is a website called or a tool called CuriPod. What I love about CuriPod, I think this was the first AI tool I discovered and it’s kind of stood the test of the past year in terms not – they’re updating, it’s not falling to the wayside.

[00:19:56.670] – Jen

And what CuriPod is, since our audience is mostly educators and teachers, if they’re familiar with NearPod, it does everything that NearPod can do. So it’s an interactive presentation platform for lessons. Students can join from their computers, answer questions that come up on the screen. But what’s great about CuriPod is you can go in there and say you want a lesson for fourth grade students on the solar system, you could put in the state standards that you need to cover and it will build you out ten slides that are a mix of different types of questions, different interactives. There’s a feature that gives students personalized feedback based on how they answer questions, and it’s just really a very powerful tool that you can do a lot with. And similar to things they may use, like NearPod or Paradec, you can make it yourself from scratch, or you can use AI assistance completely, or a combination of the two, which is what I’m always the proponent of. So those are my two that I’ve found can be used any grade level, any subject, and you’ll find something in there that works for you.

[00:21:06.730] – Kylie

If I could add to that, to those listeners who might be an advanced AI user, if they haven’t learned, pretty soon, if they haven’t already had a pro account for Chat GPT, they will be able to get a pro account or a plus account, which is a paid version, and then they’ll be able to make their own GPT. So if I was a front runner user of AI, which I would imagine I would be if I was still in the classroom, given my background and propensity to innovation and embrace educational technology, I would be thinking, especially if I’m a secondary teacher, how could I be taking my curriculum, inputting it, and making my own GPT so that students could be interacting within a walled garden with just the curriculum that I’ve given them? And how can I create almost a chat bot that would almost be a version of me, in a way? So I used to co-teach with myself by making these very static video. I mean, they were static videos where I would be teaching a lesson in a flipped classroom model, but that was static. The student couldn’t really interact with me on the spot.

[00:22:21.400] – Kylie

But in this case, I can really download my brain and my curriculum, put it into a GPT, and then they can be asking it questions like they are dialoguing right with me themselves. So to do that at this juncture, at this point in time, when we’re recording this episode, you do need a paid account for Chat GPT, but I can imagine that there may be other means through which you can do that in the future a little bit easier.

[00:22:47.210] – Steve

Wonderful. Well, I’m all excited again. It’s just been a delight to get us started here. I’m sure that we can be back in very short order coming at this from other directions. I’m wondering, before we sign off, is there just one or two rules of thumb that you might want to lay out there for teachers at this point?

[00:23:18.200] – Jen

Sure. My biggest thing with AI, and it’s not really any different from the Internet or even doing research from going to the library and checking out books where you take everything that you either find or that AI gives to you its output, whatever that is. That’s your starting point. It should not be your endpoint where you just take it. And similar to what we say to students, no plagiarizing, same idea. It’s great to help brainstorm, get those ideas out there, but then using it to tweak how you want it, if you want it to be more like your voice or only people can really put into it what they actually need and want it to say. AI is never going to get it totally perfect. So it’s a matter of knowing that and being ready to kind of work with AI instead of AI working for them, if that makes sense. And then my other one, which is more for, well, everyone but younger students, I know there’s been more of an emphasis on this idea because kids are using it, even if the school is blocking it, advising them not to. They have phones, they’re going to go home and use it.

[00:24:29.040] – Jen

So my message for all of them would be not to share any types of personally identifiable information. That’s very important for students to realize because especially with AI, as soon as you put information in there, it goes into just a huge database and we don’t really know what happens to it after that. So just being safe and cognizant to use this responsibly, those are my two big pieces of information, my biggest takeaways about it.

[00:24:58.470] – Kylie

I’m going to try and add to one of your takeaways, Jen, so that I can kind of have two and a half if that makes sense. It’s so hard to come up with just two. But to that point that Jen is saying with personally identifiable information, we highly encourage, if you are a teacher listening to this, that before you sign up for a tool, that you are reading the terms and conditions. We know sometimes people just click past those, but you’re reading those. And then if you’re listening to this in the United States, we recommend that you follow any kind of processes, procedures, policies that you have within your school district for having students utilize any tool. So if you are sitting at home on a weekend finding a tool and you want your students to use it on Monday, we really encourage you before having your students sign up that you have gone through maybe a district office procedure process that you have and that they have read and embedded the tool and allowed there to be parent consent of that tool however, that process works within your school district. So just something to keep in mind.

[00:26:17.360] – Kylie

The other thing, so that’s adding on to Jen’s last comment. So the first one would be that whoever is the user of AI, that you are responsible for the final work product. So no matter if AI is creating something, that if, you know, I want you to generate a lesson plan or I want you to generate something for me, just as Jen said, you need to be responsible for that. You need to check it over. AI hallucinates. I’m putting that in air quotes. I know our listeners may not be able to see that, but that is the term that is now being used when AI is giving misinformation, and it will not all the time, but it will. So again, you are responsible for the final work product that you create. That’s number one. And then number two is that we as educators, we really need to start thinking about how we go about normalizing AI use. So there’s been, early on, there’s been some encounters for me where we as adults and as students were ashamed to use AI. Like, oh, I made this, I wrote this paragraph, but I used AI and almost kind of like making us feel guilty for using AI.

[00:27:25.240] – Kylie

But we really need to try to normalize the use of AI whenever possible or whenever it makes sense so that we are teaching students how to use AI in very sophisticated ways. All of the reports that are coming out about the future of work, there’s a recent report that came out recently, within the last month or so from LinkedIn, and they are talking about how the number of jobs that are going to require at least some proficiency and sophisticated use of AI is only going to continue to increase. And so knowing that we want to get our students future ready, we need to really try to think about how we can incorporate and embrace AI and teach them to do that and really prepare them for their future. And I can share the link with you for that report as well that you can put in the show notes. We’re giving all the teachers a lot of homework, but at least they can go and dive a little bit deeper if they want to.

[00:28:20.310] – Steve

Well, let’s do this. Drop me an email with the links that you recommended and we will put them in the notes. And before we sign off, how can listeners reach out to the two of you with questions that they might have?

[00:28:37.370] – Kylie

So a couple of ways. So both Jen and Michael are on social media. I use LinkedIn and Twitter, and we can again link all of that information in the show notes and then our organization, the Chester County Intermediate Unit, or the cciu.org or CCIU for short, you can get to our website, cciu.org, we provide a lot of information about the supports that we can offer schools in a customized fashion. So we provide a lot of offerings that folks can come to in person if you’re local or want to commute. If you’re virtual, we can work with schools, really anywhere, virtually, or we can travel ourselves as well. But we can offer very customized supports to help teachers, to help instructional coaches, principals, central office care professionals, school boards. Really, anyone – we’re happy to help in any way that we can.

[00:29:31.710] – Steve

Terrific. Well, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

[00:29:36.010] – Kylie

Thank you, Steve. Thanks for having us. We love this stuff. So we’re really excited, and we appreciate the opportunity to get to share our passion with others.

[00:29:46.350] – Steve [Outro]

Thanks for listening in, folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com

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