Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
We’ve found ourselves as teachers and parents, again, at a technological crossroads. AI is here and it’s coming on strong. You can ask yourself, as we always do when new tech starts making waves, whether you’re going to be that school, teacher, or parent that embraces the application of AI in education or tries to fight it.
I am going to encourage you, especially as the innovative educators that you are, to do the former. Let’s talk about why.
Applications of AI in Education
Over the past year, AI has been the new thing that everyone is talking about. As is the case with anything, there are differing opinions about the applications of AI in education.
Some educators can’t wait, and some fear it. For most of the year, I just stayed in limbo, not doing much with it at all.
About a month ago, I found myself listening to a This American Life podcast episode about AI and how it can be used, not in an educational context, but in life.
I pulled up ChatGPT on my computer, created a free account, and spent the next two hours glued to my screen.
It took one split second for me to get hooked because in that second I realized how much time this simple tool could save me.
Adults are spread thin. We have jobs, homes to keep up with, friends to check in on, family with whom to stay connected, lawns to mow, groceries to get, laundry to do, and the list goes on and on.
I’m getting exhausted and overwhelmed just talking about it. There’s simply not enough time in the day to do it all.
So why should anyone deny an opportunity to make life a little simpler? I discovered that ChatGPT is that opportunity.
I read a book earlier this year called Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. Mr. Hyatt has a productivity system that essentially suggests focusing our energy on tasks that are essential and meaningful and to ditch altogether, systemize, or delegate to others those that are not.
Let’s look at an example:
Something I absolutely hate doing, but must, is plan meals for my family. We have an activity almost every night, so all meals need to be quick. My husband and I want to eat healthy food, but our kids have, well, the taste buds of kids, and want mac and cheese and chicken nuggets every night.
Every time I sit down to plan our meals for the week, I instantly get overwhelmed, mostly because it’s not something that lights me up.
And I’m not trying to be a hero here. I am perfectly comfortable allowing someone else to plan meals for me!
So I looked to ChatGPT for help. In program, I typed:
“Please make a dinner meal plan for the week with recipes that are kid-friendly and adult-friendly. Each meal should include a vegetable, fruit, and protein.
ChatGPT responded with a simple list of meals that were then further broken down into categories that I asked for.
Day 1: Beef and Vegetable Skewers
ChatGPT gave me exactly what I asked for. If I wanted more, such as recipes for each meal idea, I would add that to my ChatGPT description. The more detailed I got, the more ChatGPT delivered.
This program literally saved me hours of time that was better spent hanging out with my family!
I know I sound like I’ve been hired to toot ChatGPT's horn, but I assure you, I have not. You also may be asking what this example has to do with using AI in classrooms.
Here’s what I'm getting at:
It is ESSENTIAL to embrace the application of AI in education because it equips students with the skills needed to navigate an AI-driven world. It’s here and it’s here to stay. It can’t be ignored. If I have the opportunity to streamline my life, why shouldn’t my kids and students have that chance as well? Let’s help our kids use AI responsibly and effectively.
The Importance of the Application of AI in Education:
Let’s break down the benefits of using AI in an educational context.
Time-Saving Tool for Teachers
Now, this benefit of using AI is for you. There are so many amazing ways to use AI as a teaching tool, the biggest of which is helping to create time-saving systems. By automating routine tasks, you can focus your precious time on your students. This is especially important in a personalized learning environment, which experiential classrooms generally are.
We as a society are in the thick of AI right now, whether we want to be or not. That’s just a fact. Experiential learners focus on skills and immersive experiences that can help them in life. Using AI tools is one of those life skills, and helping learners develop AI literacy better equips them for life beyond classroom walls. Pretending AI isn’t there isn’t good for anyone.
Staying Competitive in Careers
Those who know how to use AI tools gain a competitive edge over those who don’t. AI is an essential college and career readiness strategy. Imagine AI literacy on a resume?
In my opinion as an experiential educator, preparing learners for college, careers, and life is the most important part of my job. Giving my students the opportunity and guidance in using AI tools is part of that role.
Ethical, Responsible, and Effective AI Use
If you embrace the application of AI in education you will be presented with an opportunity to discuss the ethical use of AI and problem-solve the unethical use of it. As I’ve already said, AI is here and readily available. Much of it is even free.
Your students WILL use AI in their lives whether you teach them how to ethically, responsibly, and effectively use it or not. Teach them how to use it the right way.
Learning How to Learn
One of my favorite parts about experiential learning in classrooms is that it gives students the opportunity to learn HOW to learn. They learn how to be resourceful, and AI is one way of being resourceful.
I'm in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year at my house, and I'm a little embarrassed to say that I have never hosted or cooked a Thanksgiving dinner.
But I won't let that stop me! I hopped on ChatGPT and looked up popular recipes, asked it to map out a cooking schedule for me, and even asked it to help me create menus for my guests.
Simply put, AI is a fantastic resource for learning and problem-solving. I don't feel the need to be an expert on Thanksgiving dinner nor have the recipes and cooking processes memorized.
I am perfectly comfortable letting AI do that for me. I'll do the cooking. I'll have the actual experience.
Concerns About the Application of AI in Education
I do understand that there are fears around AI. There are concerns about cheating, inequity, and lack of reliability to name a few. These fears are understandable.
My suggestion, should you apply AI in your classroom, is to keep open dialog between you and your students, discuss and create expectations around AI use in your classroom, and teach students how to use it responsibly.
And, this goes without saying, but if you decide to open AI use to students, it needs to be open and available to ALL students.
Let’s talk about cheating for a second. If students are writing research papers, for example, there are a variety of ways they could use AI, one of which is to ask it to write the entire paper for them. That’s not what we want. Yes, that's cheating.
But how could students ethically and effectively use AI in this situation? They might ask ChatGPT to help them write an outline for their paper. They might ask AI to help them find synonyms for a word that they find themselves repeating. They can ask AI to proofread their original work and offer suggestions for improvement.
Knowing how to write a research paper is important. As a science teacher, I take the time to teach my students how to write a lab reports and they have a lot of opportunities to practice writing them. These are some things they just have to do. I don't want AI writing their lab reports for them.
So how could we rewrite or transform curriculum in a way that makes AI an asset rather than a tool for cheating?
When students are designing, building, and working within the community to solve a problem or meet a need there are fewer opportunities for cheating because. Take a look at problem-based learning challenges, project-based learning, service learning, and more.
Make sure every single student has access to AI if you’re going to make it a part of your required curriculum.
On the upside, many AI programs are free. For example, educators and students have free access to Canva Pro, which now includes an AI tool called “Magic Studio”. This is an awesome tool for creating incredible final products such as calendars, fliers, book covers, social media graphics, and more.
In project-based learning, students create final products and deliver them to a meaningful and relevant audience that is often asking for a problem to be solved. Canva’s Magic Studio would be a great tool for that.
The purpose of project-based learning is to solve a problem through sustained inquiry, authentic learning experiences, and community connections. A student using a tool that helps them create a solution to a bigger problem doesn’t dilute the experience. It enhances it.
ChatGPT also has a free version, which is what I used to create a meal plan for the week.
If some of your students don’t have access to computers or the internet at home, do not make AI use a home requirement. Only have them use it in school.
Again, your kids are going to use AI in their lives whether you want them to or not, so teach them how to use it responsibly.
Teach students what reliable and credible information is and where to find it. Students should not solely be using AI tools such as ChatGPT for research and finding information.
Encourage students to cross-reference their findings. They should be using a variety of sources of information, and this can be a written and voiced expectation of all students.
And, as I’ve already said, experiential learning activities naturally discourage misinformation because the experiences generally involve sustained inquiry, community interactions, and immersion. Students are learning through experience.
For example, project-based learning requires the use of community experts and authentic learning experiences.
Students are talking to real people with experience on the topic or problem they’re studying, and experiencing concepts, phenomena, and community issues firsthand.
Because PBL is a sustained inquiry approach, using multiple sources is the expectation. ChatGPT, for example, can be used to streamline experiences, not to have the experiences for students.
In experiential learning, the experience is the learning tool, not the internet. Check out some of these ready-made experiential learning tool kits with student templates and teacher guides.
These types of experiences reduce and alleviate the concerns associated with AI use in classrooms.
Idea for Applying AI in the Classroom:
Now, let’s talk about a fun way you can teach students how to use AI ethically, responsibly, and effectively in your classroom or homeschool.
Have your students choose a real task that they might take on in their lives and explore ways of using AI to help execute that task. Then have them create a video tutorial on using various AI tools to complete that task.
And the list goes on. Let students choose the action they want to take.
Let’s say a student has chosen to use AI to prepare for a job interview. They could use ChatGPT to generate possible interview questions to practice with.
They could use a variety of AI tools to redesign the interior of their homes such as using Interior AI to get renderings of the room, ChatGPT to estimate the budget, and Decorilla for creating a product list.
There are so many tools out there. Using these tools for these real-life tasks doesn’t take away from the experience; it doesn't stop learning, it makes it makes learning stronger, and honestly, more time-efficient.
This resource has already been designed for you! It is also included as a BONUS in my high school life skills bundle:
What are your thoughts on AI? Even after reading this article, you may feel uneasy about it. What are your concerns, fears, or questions about embracing the application of AI in education? Why are you still on the fence? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Helpful Blog Posts:
Let's work together!
Click the links below to learn more:
Join our experiential learning Facebook group!
Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning ideas!
Find us on social media!
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram for more on experiential education, and check out my shop for experiential learning resources.
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.