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Education | Technology

How this Victorian school is embracing generative AI in the classroom

1 Sep 2023, by Amy Sarcevic

With New South Wales and Queensland banning the use of generative AI in schools, John Paul College’s decision to integrate it in the curriculum is what some would consider a bold move.

The Victorian school has brought tools like ChatGPT into classrooms and now gives students a range of AI-based learning activities, explains Deputy Principal Michael O’Keeffe.

“For example, we ask students to produce essays using ChatGPT and then get them to assess the output against a rubric, like a teacher would.

“They give the work a mark and identify where the holes are, which enhances their critical thinking and informs their own writing.

“On the flip side, we get students to put their own work into ChatGPT, with a rubric, and get feedback on it.”

The technology is also used to help students in the drafting process.

“It’s a great support for anyone who struggles with mapping out essays, or deciding on that first sentence,” he said.

In the school’s arts facility, students use SkyBox – an image generation software – to help visualise the landscape of their creative film scripts.

“We get students to write story boards and then use the software to visualise what they have created. It helps them understand what their audience might see from the words they have used and ensure it is aligned with their own vision.”

Teachers are also using it

Teachers at the school are also embracing generative AI. In a recent experiment, the school administered a lesson created entirely through ChatGTP, without editing any of the output.

“We thought it would be interesting for students and staff if we conducted an entire lesson from ChatGPT without making any alterations to it.

“The results were fantastic and mirrored the approach teachers already use to design lessons. There was a warm up activity at the start and a range of evidence-based activities enhancing students’ comprehension of the material and acquisition of skills.

“Students gave us good feedback and teachers said they would only have edited around 20 percent of the content, if they had been allowed to.”

The tool is also being used by teachers to speed up and bring greater objectivity to the marking process.

Erecting some boundaries

To avoid the risk of plagiarism, John Paul College has removed home-based essays and requires students to perform a range of formative assessments to prove their abilities.

“You probably can’t give a student five periods to work on a PowerPoint presentation that they are going to email in without you having had any eyes on them. AI checkers don’t work, so nor will this approach,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

“We also want to avoid having just one large written summative assessment and instead include more regular, less writing-based tasks, such as oral presentations.

“Any assessment that involves essay writing or is literature-based really has to be done in front of the teacher – either handwritten or with strong observation, if it’s typed.”

While it may be easy to design guardrails for written assignments, Mr O’Keeffe admits visual arts will be harder to manage.

“Students in studio arts are using Photoshop, so it may be more challenging to authenticate their work. AI can now create digital images that are as good as those taken by a camera. Likewise, it will be difficult to know whether AI content has been inserted into films students have created.

“Managing this will be our next battle-ground, especially as arts students are required to complete a lot of their folio work at home. It will likely involve a bit of intervention, not just from schools, but governing bodies as well. It may mean rewriting the curriculum.”

Ensuring ethical usage

To ensure ethical usage, students and teachers are being educated on the biases of generative AI.

“We explain to students that although a computer is generating it, it uses information from the internet which was written by a human. Historically, much of this content has been produced by white men and therefore its output will reflect that.

“If they are using ChatGPT for a history project, for example, they will need to be mindful that perspectives might have a western focus or be culturally biased.”

A logical evolution

While the decision to incorporate AI may be controversial, Mr O’Keeffe believes it is nothing more than an extension of the tools already available to students. Additionally, out-ruling it would likely mean students use it in private and gain an unfair advantage.

“In my view, it’s really only a step up from Wikipedia. Providing we structure our curriculum and assessments around it, it is not going to cause any problems. At least this way, we won’t have students using it inappropriately behind closed doors,” he said.

In addition, Mr O’Keeffe says the school is allowing its usage to evolve naturally.

“We are slowly becoming more adventurous with it. It’s a cautious, piecemeal approach, but it all seems to be working smoothly so far.”

Michael O’Keeffe is Deputy Principal Learning and Teaching, John Paul College, Victoria. Hear more insights on how his school is using generative AI at the upcoming AI in Education Conference.

This year’s event will take place on 30 October at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.

Learn more and register your place here.



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