Artificial intelligence (AI) can make learning more inclusive for all

Chris Temple-Murray

Insights into how using AI in the classroom can make learning more inclusive for students of all abilities.

Smiling teacher talking with a student using a laptop during a classroom lesson

In 2023 Collins declared ‘AI’ as their word of the year. Teacher time is stretched, a recruitment crisis remains, and funding is far from plentiful. Our post-covid era students face a world of challenges, in part due to their disrupted education but also thanks to a rapidly changing world, where working from home and working smarter have become the norm.

If we rewind just over 12 months, ChatGPT was launched. Little did we know it would be the start of the AI innovation curve. So why does this matter and what does it mean for educators?

I believe AI can positively influence our pedagogical practice to allow all to succeed and thrive in a modern classroom.

Tentative first steps

In December 2022, ChatGPT had just launched and, considering it my duty as an IT lecturer to keep up to date with industry developments, I tried it out. Over the Christmas break I took some time to consider how it could be used in my classroom and how, in my role as an advanced teaching practitioner (ATP), I could support my colleagues to use generative AI in their own pedagogical practice.

Returning from the holidays, it was time to see what this AI technology could really do. Sure, it could draft a short story or summarise an article, but what I really wanted to know was how it could help us, as educators, in the classroom, and what the subsequent benefits could be for our students.

During the first week back, I put myself in the shoes of some of my lower ability IT students to see if generative AI could help close the gap.

Initially, I focused on my NCFE Level 2 students - some of whom I also tutor, so know very well. Working with the enablers (teaching assistants) in class, I decided to use AI to help me produce topic summary sheets for different abilities or languages. These proved invaluable and allowed both my class enabler and my students to access the topic fully.

The provision of additional and tailored resources is nothing new. However, what is new is the time it takes to create these assets. I am now able to create custom topic summary sheets, quizzes, gap fills etc in a matter of minutes, instead of 30-60 minutes per document.

Using AI to level the playing field

It was clear that AI could be beneficial and so I took it a step further. This time I started to create tailored questions, gap fills, topic summaries and more, on the spot, often using AI to provide additional support. As students were completing a fifteen-minute task, I would work with the higher and lower ability students to help them expand their knowledge and progress.

New AI products launch every day it seems and, having started with Chat GPT (perhaps the most well-known AI chat tool to date), I became a big fan of the speed and accuracy (more on that later) of the text it often produces. However, what I really wanted was a nicely formatted pdf or similar which I could send to my students or print.

Enter Education CoPilot, a tool that could help me generate resources with the speed of ChatGPT and in a highly accessible format. Using Education CoPilot allowed me to produce the resources I wanted in an effective format for all my students, not just those that happened to fall outside of the ‘norm.’ It wasn’t long before many of my classes featured topic summaries for all students, tailored to all levels. I quickly built a collection of pdfs ready for almost any of the common topics I deliver in Further Education IT.

Understanding the limitations

As much as AI can be an extremely helpful tool for both educators and students, it is important to remember there are limitations when it comes to accuracy. Generative AI text will often read extremely well and give the sense that it is completely correct. Often, though, this isn’t the case.

Generative AI is outstanding at being confidently wrong. To understand why, it’s important to appreciate that these tools aren’t intelligent at all. In reality, they are incredibly good at combining words that look and sound like they work well together. This is because many use large language models (LLM) based on massive data sets that take a huge amount of work to update, meaning the information provided can be out of date or inaccurate.

With this in mind, it is important to understand the limitations of generative AI and the tasks assigned to it and focus on using tools such as ChatGPT to cut down on admin, freeing teachers up to do what they do best, teach.

More time spent where it’s needed

Over the last year my use of generative AI has blossomed to help me to draft those tricky emails to parents, structure my schemes of work and provide me with lesson outlines. AI is not a tool that will replace us: we as teachers and educators are some of the most valuable and crucial parts of the education jigsaw puzzle.

As AI continues to develop, we are discovering more ways to cut down the time educators spend in front of a screen, allowing us to dedicate more time where we are most needed: in front of and with students in classrooms, 1:1 sessions or small group settings. That’s something that is highly skilled and hard to replicate.

This is only the beginning

As my years at the college progress, I will continue to develop my use of AI, creating training for staff at Exeter College, sharing my passion on blogs, at conferences and online. I’m sure we will all look back and wonder why we thought AI was so powerful at such an early primitive stage.

We must remember that AI is currently the most useless and dumb it will ever be and will only improve as time goes on. I cannot wait to share more.

Further information

To hear more from Chris Temple-Murray, register for Digifest 2024 and join Chris’s session to find out how AI can be effectively implemented in the classroom for the benefit of staff and students alike.

Jisc members and customers receive two free in-person tickets per organisation.

Digifest 2024 is a CPD accredited event. Attendees can contribute their learning time towards individual continuing professional development goals.

About the author

Chris Temple-Murray
Faculty of IT programme leader & advanced teaching practitioner at Exeter College