E16 - Reframing our Mindsets about AI in Education with Priten Shah

Episode Music Credits:  Old Love Instrumental by Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, 100% Clearance through Musicbed 

On this special episode of Blending In, I got the chance to chat with Priten Shah, a Harvard grad, educator, entrepreneur, and author of the recently published book: “AI and the Future of Education: Teaching in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.  Priten is the CEO of Pedagogy.Cloud, which provides innovative technology solutions to help educators navigate global challenges in a rapidly evolving world.  In our conversation today, Priten and I talk about his new book and the need for educators to “blend in” AI as it changes the learning landscape in classrooms across our nation.

At the start of our conversation, Priten shared his about journey into education, both in the states and abroad, and how his experiences revealed to him various problems in the system and stimulated his desire to generate solutions to those problems. He built relationships with other changemakers who developed non-profits and began dreaming about how AI could help to solve some of these problems.  His Wiley Jossey-Bass publication of AI and the Future of Education: Teaching in the Age of Artificial Intelligence is meant to be a guide for educators on what they need to know about artificial intelligence, how  AI can be used in the realm of education, and where we should exercise some caution. 

Our conversation focused on how educators can “blend in” AI in meaningful ways in the classroom.  Priten discussed using good pedagogical practices like inquiry or problem-based learning, project-based learning, etc. in combination with AI tools to take advantage of the technology to help students learn.  When I asked Priten about how AI can help teachers with lightening their workload or content generation, he suggested using AI as a brainstorming buddy to generate ideas for how to redesign the traditional learning experience in a blended learning model.  He recommended utilizing AI for project-based learning activities which the majority of teachers are already very familiar with. He discussed sparking student curiosity through inquiry and providing creative options for how students demonstrate their learning in summative assessments at the end of projects using AI as an assist like perhaps having students create a podcast, a website, or an app!  

When I asked Priten about how AI can help engage and motivate students to do the hard work of learning, he actually acknowledged that in the short term, AI is causing a loss in motivation because students recognize that they don’t have to do as much on their own because AI will do it for them - essentially, it makes it easier to cheat.  However, Priten reinforces the idea that we must reframe our mindsets about AI and how we utilize this new technology to teach and assess our students - we must use it to tap into students’ personal interests, provide choices in how they learn and how we assess learning, and allow students’ to explore concepts  and tools that spark curiosity and ignite engagement.  

Priten also acknowledged that AI can either contribute to the digital divide or be part of the solution to closing the gap to make learning more accessible and equitable for students.  Like any technology, it’s up to the user - or in this case, educators in schools across our country - to use AI platforms in ways that can support our students.  Priten gives examples of using AI to individualize or differentiate instruction, provide resources and scaffolds to students, or even offer translations for English learners.  

In regards to getting started with AI integration, Priten has some suggestions for some AI tools that can help bridge the gap for both teachers and students.  He suggests using socrat.ai/ which is a custom teacher bot that he helped to develop.  This bot engages students in socratic dialogue with students in a “safe” digital space that is more regulated or monitored than something like ChapGPT.  It actually can engage in role play with students and answer questions that students have as if it is a specific person.  For example, it can pretend to be Martin Luther King, Jr. and students can say things like “Tell me more about the march to Selma” or “What was it like for you to give the I have a Dream speech?”

I appreciate that Priten acknowledged that the fears educators have about AI integration are valid.  He suggests that teachers explore and figure out an AI like pedagog.ai on their own to begin to see the potential of the technology before trying to integrate something with students. He says to talk to the AI as if it is your teaching assistant!  Ultimately, if we are going to be able to use AI to our advantage, we must reframe our thinking about how we can blend in artificial intelligence in educational systems. 

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