It’s back to school time!
Well… Not yet. 😉 Sorry for that scare… But we are creeping ever-closer to back to school! Every year around this time, I tell myself that this will be the year that I’m 100% prepared and everything will go right on the first day. I’m sure you feel that way, too!
The truth is, though, we can’t plan for the unexpected, and if I’ve learned anything from my decades as an educator, it’s that something will always fall outside your perfect plan. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still plan for success, though! After all, she who fails to plan is planning to fail… So let’s plan on using AI for back to school!
Wait, what? Let’s back up.
Back to school is all about getting to know your students and building community with one another. It’s a perfect opportunity to establish guidelines that will bestow a positive learning climate upon your classroom and create a safe space for your students to learn and grow together.
I’ve written before about the most important things you should do on day one, such as establishing procedures and expectations. As an avid reader of my blog, I’m sure you even remember my posts on icebreakers and getting to know your students! Of course, that was back in 2016–we are way overdue for an update. It’s 2023, and technology has boomed now more than ever, with exciting new tools such as AI models rising to the top. With ChatGPT at the forefront, I began to wonder if there was a way to utilize AI for back to school.
After a bit of research and experimentation on my part, I discovered that you can indeed use AI for back to school! Not only can you use AI models to prepare activities and brainstorm ideas, but you can also allow students to engage with the artificial intelligence. Of course, you should be sure to read the terms of service for AI apps and websites; often, you may have to create the account under your name depending on the ages of your students.
Keep in mind, however, that AI tools such as ChatGPT are constantly in development. As with all other technology, use your own discretion! You should always monitor your students when interacting with anything online, including AI models. If your students are interested in engaging with AI models at home, they should always have a parent or guardian present to supervise their interactions, as with anything else on the Internet.
Now, with that drab disclaimer out of the way… Let’s explore a bundle of fun ways to use AI to enhance our kiddos’ back to school experiences!
Note: to access ChatGPT for the screenshots and examples below, I used chat.openai.com. You’re welcome to use any source or AI model you prefer, but keep in mind that the link above is the only one I tested these activities on.
AI for Back to School: Icebreakers
1. Emoji Icebreakers
It seems like emojis are everywhere now, doesn’t it? It’s so neat to see how the simple smiley emoticon evolved through the years! From 🙂 to 🙂… Talk about a “glow-up!”
… Am I using that right? Well, regardless, those little yellow faces are everywhere now, and I’m sure you’ve even used a few yourself. In fact, you may even have favorites! My personal favorites are the silly ones, like 🤪 and 🥸 for instance.
Whether you use emojis often or not, chances are that your students do. Emojis are popular for a reason: something about their expressions conveys emotions and feelings better than we can put into words. For our kiddos, that’s especially true since their vocabularies aren’t fully fleshed out quite yet! That’s why this first activity is all about emojis–it’s a fantastic stepping stone into the world of AI.
For this icebreaker, go around the room and have students describe their favorite emoji while the rest of the classroom tries to guess. Then, use the AI model ChatGPT to generate a conversation with an emoji of their choice! Students can explain why that particular emoji is their favorite or how they feel when they use it.
To start, use a prompt such as the one above: “I want to have a conversation with my favorite emoji. My favorite emoji is this one: 🥸”
You’ll get a response along the lines of “Sure! Let’s have a conversation with your favorite emoji, 🥸. I’ll pretend to be the emoji and respond accordingly. Feel free to ask me anything or start the conversation in any way you like!”
As you can see, ChatGPT is rather versatile! Students are free to steer the interaction wherever they want while the AI responds from the point of view of the chosen emoji. In my example above, I asked simple questions such as favorite food and what they like to do for fun, but you can ask pretty much anything!
The emoji icebreaker is an excellent use of AI for back to school. This activity serves as an introduction to artificial intelligence without introducing new content. Further, the topic–emojis–makes the experience low-risk and easy for the kids to engage!
2. Fun Fact Swap
Another fun use of AI for back to school is to stage a fact swap! This is an interesting spin on the usual icebreaker where you go around the room and have students share a fact about themselves. For this activity, students take turns sharing their facts as usual; then, as a class, students can ask ChatGPT a question related to the fact that was shared! This can spark conversations that help students get to know one another better. After all, it’s our goal to create a positive, tight-knight community of learners in our classrooms!
In this example, I asked ChatGPT for fun facts about Michigan and about flutes, as if two students had shared the facts “I’m from Michigan!” and “I can play the flute!” As you can see in the screenshot above, ChatGPT has plenty to say when you ask for facts, so there is lots of room for conversation as a class!
If any of ChatGPT’s facts catch your students’ interests, you’re always free to ask the AI for more information. In my experience, the model is very thorough and informative, and will even provide a source if you ask for one!
3. Collaborative Storytelling
Have you ever played the large-group game where you create a story together, one sentence at a time? It’s a fun way to encourage collaboration and express creativity! Now that we’re in the digital era, though, I think it’s time we added a splash of technology to freshen up that old reliable game.
For this activity, your classroom can start a collaborative story by providing ChatGPT with an opening sentence. Through my experimenting, I found that things go a lot smoother if you introduce your intentions first with a simple prompt: “Can we write a story, one sentence at a time?”
From there, each student can take turns adding a sentence to the story, building on what the previous students (and ChatGPT!) contributed. Take a peek at my screenshot below to check out the story I wrote with the AI for my example!
Pretty cute, right? I was pleasantly surprised at the vocabulary that ChatGPT uses. There are definitely words that students may be unfamiliar with (depending on your grade level), but I feel like there is enough context provided to work out the meanings together as a class. In addition, I noticed that the AI model used “fancier” vocabulary words when I did, as if it was trying to match my level. Isn’t that neat?!
Ultimately, this use of AI for back to school is an excellent activity to encourage teamwork and collaboration as well as creativity in your kiddos. Plus, kiddos will love seeing where the story goes! It’s a great way to introduce technology and artificial intelligence while still keeping things at a level children can understand and engage with. Who knew using AI for back to school would be so fun?
AI for Back to School: Planning
4. Back to School Newsletter
Let’s switch gears a bit! In addition to using AI for back to school activities, we can also take advantage of its capabilities to help us plan our perfect back to school experience. In this case, we can save a HUGE chunk of time by using ChatGPT to write your back to school newsletter or open house handout! By using AI for back to school papers, you can still keep your unique voice. Just input which ideas you need to convey in your newsletter and use ChatGPT or other AI tools such as Canva Magic Write to create your content with just a few prompts!
Check this out: I gave the following prompt to ChatGPT and the AI wrote a phenomenal newsletter that captured my voice perfectly!
How excellent is that?! It’s very convincing, isn’t it? In fact, the AI might even be better with words than I am! This response from ChatGPT is completely unedited, too. Using AI for back to school is even simpler than it sounds!
Of course, revision is always necessary. For example, the AI added a paragraph about a back to school night on August 30th when I did not provide that information; still, it’s a tidbit of helpful information that fits the prompt. Ultimately, giving ChatGPT a prompt and proofreading it is still a huge timesaver compared to writing the whole newsletter yourself!
5. Back to School Slideshow
Besides newsletters, we can also use AI for back to school to plan presentations, such as for an open house or orientation night. You can even make back to school presentations for your students to get to know you better! Introduce yourself to your kiddos and their parents and you’re bound to start the year off on the right foot. You can also incorporate your classroom rules and procedures so everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.
Two tools you can use to create presentations via AI models are Canva Magic Design and Curipod. In my example below, I used Canva Magic Design. Once I gave the AI the prompt (“Teacher’s introduction for back to school night”), the model generated a nine-slide presentation that matched the prompt. I even had my choice of themes! Check out the screen recording below:
As you can see, once the AI loaded my prompt, it presented me with a few different options of themes. Each slide is fully customizable, from pictures to graphics to text, and it even includes placeholder descriptions for you to revise as necessary.
These AI for back to school plans and activities are perfect ways to dip your–and your students’!–toes into the marvel of artificial intelligence, while also still maintaining a safe level of interaction that children can engage with without becoming overwhelmed. AI models will certainly never replace teachers or student work, but it can absolutely be utilized as a partner in time management as well as creativity.
How will you use AI for back to school in your classroom?