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Teachers Explore Artificial Intelligence to Enhance Learning and Engagement

Teachers Explore Artificial Intelligence to Enhance Learning and Engagement

As artificial intelligence transforms careers and daily life, teachers have begun exploring innovative ways to prepare students for this technological shift. From creating AI- powered historical simulations to Afrofuturistic art, these forward-thinking educators are enhancing learning and equipping students with skills to use AI effectively and responsibly. 

At Beachwood High School, Todd Butler is incorporating “AI blind dates” in his contemporary literature course. Students interview various AI-generated figures, from John Lennon to Abraham Lincoln, to hone research skills and choose suitable biography subjects. But while AI sparks students’ creativity and critical thinking, Mr. Butler also highlights its limitations. When introducing a new writing assignment, Mr. Butler plugs the prompt into ChatGPT, which the class playfully calls “Gary Philip Thomas.” “As we read Gary’s writing,” he says, “students learn very quickly that the only way to ensure accuracy is to keep the human elements intact.”

Later this year, students in Dr. Casey Matthews’ African American Literature course will create AI-generated art on chosen topics such as architecture, gaming, or fashion, viewed through an Afrofuturistic lens. Students will investigate historical icons within their chosen field, their contributions, and speculate on the future of the topic. The unit will culminate in a gallery walk for students to exhibit their artworks and research.

At Beachwood Middle School, social studies teacher Garth Holman is bringing history to life with AI. During a recent unit on the Middle Ages, students transformed themselves into medieval knights, duchesses, and peasants using Google’s Art Selfie. “AI allows kids to see themselves as part of history,” he says.

AP Computer Science Principles teacher Craig Alexander also sees AI as a valuable teaching tool. His class uses AI to research the foundations of different programming languages and explain why they were created. But for actual coding, Mr. Alexander emphasizes that human ingenuity is irreplaceable. “I see AI as being a digital assistant,” he says. “It allows students to gather knowledge in a concise way, but it should never be used to replace their creativity.”

So agrees high school librarian Angela Maxwell. “I tell my students that if you want to get better at something, you have to do it authentically,” she says. “AI will not replace you. It should enhance your productivity, creativity, and overall well-being.”

Professional development for educators is also a key focus in Beachwood Schools. Ms. Maxwell is collaborating with middle school librarian Julie Ungier and elementary school librarian Shahnyn Moody-Benedict to provide staff training on ethical AI use, top tools, and strategies for classroom use. “Most teachers are still in the exploring stage,” says Ms. Ungier. “I’m excited for when teachers and students realize the positive impact it can have and leverage AI to their advantage.”

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