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AI in an Agile Classroom

Artificial Intelligence is on the tip of every educator's tongue as ChatGPT has burst onto the scene. Its ability to be “prompted” by individual users to create whole essays undermines one of the major assessments and ways of showing knowledge that the education system has relied on since its inception. There have been varied responses, but we have seen responses based on fear. The idea that we must ban it, or find ways to identify it to eliminate our students from using it lets us continue to facilitate the same practices unchanged. While this response is understandable, it is not feasible, nor is it in the best interests of our students. AI and new technologies are the tools that our students will need to have mastered to be competitive within their generation. These are the tools that they will need to confidently wield to solve complex international and ethical issues. These are the ways of thinking that will define their generation. Our mindset about what “learning” and “education” are must shift to the point of view of the student, and recognize that the world as we know it is shifting quickly. We must become an Agile industry, and model that way of thinking for our students.

Creating Agile Classrooms

While this sounds like an intimidating change, requiring billions of dollars and years of restructuring, the changes in the classroom can be small and quickly implemented. This is the basis of Agile. Small incremental changes that can be adjusted in real-time help us shape better, more effective, and more efficient outcomes. When we stop thinking about a multi-year curriculum redesign and bring the issue into daily practice we find that we can tackle this looming issue immediately, without an enormous budget or a slow-moving bureaucracy. Each school, administrator, and teacher can start to make small changes, working within their teams to focus on the AI-proof skills that Agile classrooms build in K-12 Education. There is no need to fear change when shift our mindset to value small incremental moves and reflect on student engagement and outcomes.

Let Go of Anti-Cheating Measures and Small Measures of Real World Application

Teachers spend a considerable amount of time and classroom resources trying to prevent cheating from the cardboard blinds, rearranging desks, and creating several versions of the same test. However, if we designed opportunities for authentic application students would not be able to cheat and they would benefit from the contextualization of new knowledge.

Real-world application in the classroom means students get to apply their learning in a real context, this neither needs to be drawn out nor complicated, just a shift in approach from traditional to agile.

  • In an elementary classroom where spelling words are a weekly assessment, students can write a story using all of their words, practicing writing, comprehension, contextualization, and spelling in a single assignment. In this assessment, there is no need for rearranged desks, or privacy boxes because each student's story is different.

  • In a middle school classroom, students need to learn the basics of algebra, instead of a quiz with the same questions with different numbers, have students design a piece of furniture, or create a new recipe. This is why in the same class period students are using the new skill or formula that needs assessment but also practicing previously learned skills all in the context of a real problem.

  • In high school, students need to explore the relationship between world events and understand the consequences of actions. Instead of a test or a take-home essay asks students to find a similar situation in current events, or create a concept map where relationships and power dynamics are visual. These types of assessments have students bring their newly acquired knowledge into their world and help them understand the world around them.

These are examples of small changes that assess understanding instead of knowing. They take no more time than the test, essay, or quiz, but help students apply their knowledge, understand the purpose of the lesson, and practice the skills or content in context. Not every application of real-world purpose needs to be a project. This way of assessing students goes far beyond the rote memorization of multiple choice and gives educators a more in-depth understanding of how the student is learning.

This is a key part of an agile classroom because it prompts students to apply knowledge in different ways. They are not doing repetitive tasks, or learning skills and content in a vacuum. The students are developing flexible cognitive models, learning how to adapt to change and different ways of applying knowledge. Not only does this practice of real-world application help the teacher limit cheating it benefits the students by modeling the diverse ways new knowledge can be applied.

Embrace Technology as a Tool

Chat GPT is not the first technology that disrupts education nor will it be the last. In fact, its astonishing skills in writing complex text will only evolve from here. Imagine what AI can create in the next five years and what that will mean for our way of life.

It is our duty to embrace these new technologies and teach students how to use them to accomplish their goals, not pretend that they do not exist. If we can find ways to integrate new technology into our classrooms the new technology loses its mystique, it models to our students an agile mindset and helps students find application for new technology to positively affect their lives.

  • One such way to introduce AI into the classroom is for writing analysis. Students can write their own papers in class and then try to figure out what prompts to enter into Chat GT3 for a similar product. They then must then compare and contrast the two text analyzing tone, structure, imagery, etc….

  • For history classes ,students can fact check the AI created papers to find false information or build stronger cause and effect relationships that the technology cannot piece together. This builds more flexibility in their thinking and encourages the evaluation of facts and building deeper connections to knowledge.

  • In all levels and classes ChatGPT can be used as a way to generate questions that encourage higher levels of critical thinking and analysis. To do this students will have to have an agile mindset, positioning themselves in a different perspective than they are usually tasked with completing. Learning how to ask questions, breaking down large open ended questions into small questions, and gathering information to ask better questions is a unique skill set that often gets overlooked in traditional classrooms.

Using AI in the classroom should be implemented in small increments based in reflection. This way the teacher can feel comfortable navigating this new terrain and students can see the purposefulness of its use. Diving into new ways of learning should always be done with an agile mindset, tested in small pieces and reflected upon to ensure it is meaningful and impactful.

Writing is an extremely important skill to help students reflect and thoroughly think through their thoughts. AI should not replace out writing lesson, but can be used as a supplement to help develop critical thinking and analysis skills that students will need to work with the continued growth of AI in all fields.

Focus on AI-Proof Skills

We are the middle of a technological revolution and we are just now at the tipping point. It is incredibly important to learn new knowledge and even memorize certain key pieces of information, it is much more important that we shift to focus on how we apply that knowledge. As a system we need to shift from focusing on content to teaching the processes of teamwork, collaboration, and building unique connections.

In the classroom this change can happen immediately. Again, through small incremental steps teachers can make changes that move the focus from pushing content to teaching students how to be independent learners able to find critical information and build creative solutions to complex problems.

  • Kanban: One of the best ways to develop AI-Proof skills in the classroom is by employing a kanban board to visualize learning. The kanban board is a tools which helps team members see their work and understand their flow. The use of the board helps develop time management skills, executive functioning skills and brings team members together to collaborate. These are all skills that people need outside of AI. When students from a young age must navigate work together and learn how to listen, have disagreements, reflect on processes and make well informed decisions they are developing the interpersonal skills that technology cannot automate.

  • Collaborative Teams: Our mindset of what “learning” or “work” looks like needs to shift from the traditional setting of quiet classrooms with desks in rows to treating each content area as a lab. This will encourage experimentation with new knowledge and forces collaboration. A fundamental piece of the new way of learning and working is collaborative teams. This is a highly developed skill that will need scaffolding, modeling and developing in the classroom, especially for our students that may have spent 2 years at home during COVID. Whether students were in person or distance learning our current generation of students have experiences technology pushing them apart from each other instead of bringing them together. The skills required for real collaboration are going to need attention and practice to become a normal way of working.

These two small changes can be made immediately and will impact the depth of learning in any classroom. They are purposeful ways of working that will help students master the curriculum, but also provide them with opportunities to develop the interpersonal AI Proof skills that they will need to navigate life. While the Kanban board and self-selecting collaborative teams are fundamental to an Agile learning space, they can be implemented in any classroom with a little scaffolding. If students are working through complex problems visually, and navigating the dynamics of a team AI will not be able to replicate that work. It provides students with the chance understand that technology is a tool, not the ultimate solution to all problems.

When new technology bursts into our collective consciousness it is easy to be intimidated. ChatGPT is the beginning of new tools that will fundamentally change the systems that we operate within. It is important to remember that as schools we are working to prepare generations of students for their future, and their future includes navigating a complex world filled with AI. If we can shift our mindset about how to approach these new tools it is easy to see how small agile increments can be implemented to adapt to this new technology while maintaining high standards of education.


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