Implementing AI with digital wellbeing at its CORE

Scott Hayden
Scott Hayden

Basingstoke College of Technology is supporting staff and students in the ethical use of technology, including AI, to augment learning and support staff wellbeing.

Girls studying in a library

The use of AI in education can lighten the load for educators and improve the student experience. However, there are many challenges to implementing AI ethically and inclusively for all.

At Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) we embarked on our AI journey with an early adoption of Century Tech, designed to craft personalised learning pathways, in 2018. These initial first steps gave us a flavour of how AI could liberate teachers from routine tasks, allowing them to devote more time to crucial aspects like coaching and mentoring.

Seeing this in action in our classrooms led to us placing compassion, originality, responsibility and empathy (CORE) at the heart of our teaching, learning, and digital strategy with the aim of nurturing essential human skills in our students.

AI to help lighten the load for teachers

We use Jisc’s digital elevation tool to help us identify our blind spots. I thought we were doing quite well, but AI was something that we’d not really given the time and attention to because we were a bit intimidated by it.

But when November 2022 came around, everything changed with the launch of ChatGPT, and it expedited our focus.

In 2023, I got a new role focused on teaching, learning and digital and made it my priority to focus on teacher wellbeing after seeing some stats around the number of educators leaving the sector.

The first thing we did was collectively develop prompts in Google Bard for each teacher’s scheme of work, which we did in the summer of 2023, and those prompts snowballed. It was great to hear the conversations and chats in the staff room once the project was up and running.

Our teachers and staff were coming up with creative and innovative ideas, using tools such as Canva and Teachermatic, to develop classroom activities as soon as they were freed from spending so much time on admin.

Those using AI to help with their classroom planning and resource development saved an average of 5.1 hours a week to focus more on teaching and helping learners build the human skills that are needed now more than ever.

The big thing for us has been staff saying they have their evenings and weekends back to recharge, to spend time with their families and friends, and come back to work refreshed and energised. Safeguarding teacher wellbeing and using AI for that reason is our intention.

Choosing the right tools

Since the introduction of ChatGPT at the end of 2022, thousands of new AI tools have been launched, making it difficult to keep up with the pace of change.

At BCoT we select tools after prototyping them with small samples and ensuring they contribute to our educational goals. We also run each tool past our internal AI ethics group to ensure any decisions align with our college strategy.

We discuss and debate the implications of tools in the classroom and require three ticks (teaching and learning team, IT team, and GDPR team) before we move ahead.

Century Tech offers personalised support for GCSE re-sits, identifying and addressing learning gaps. EdPuzzle is widely used in construction and customer service courses for self-marking interactive videos, prepping students for practical tasks. Mote has been revolutionary in providing instant audio feedback, even translating it.

Google Bard, our staff's personal assistant, has been instrumental in planning and resource creation since June 2022. Finally, Google Classroom practice sets with their self-marking questions and instant feedback reinforce learning through a cycle of attempt, feedback, and retry.

What about students?

I’ve spoken a fair bit about the use of digital tools and AI to free up our teachers from mundane (but necessary) admin tasks, and ensure they have a good work/life balance. But we also want to make sure that our students are living their lives to the fullest, and technology can certainly impact their real-life experiences.

With this in mind, we developed a ‘Digital Wellbeing’ module for all our full-time learners in September 2021 which helped learners understand and moderate the use of digital while focusing on the positive, collaborative, and creative potential it can unlock for them.

The module, filled with games, quizzes, and case studies, starkly highlighted the time our young learners spend on their devices – an eye-opening average of 5.7 hours daily (roughly 13.8 years of their life if they live to 80). Our ongoing commitment is to help our learners and teachers navigate this digital landscape mindfully and healthily.

What’s next for BCoT?

We’re committed to continuous growth in the integration of AI in education. This includes ongoing coaching for teachers on how to leverage AI to enhance their teaching practices.

We will ensure the use of AI continues to align with and support our core educational objectives and values, and we will continue to adapt and grow these objectives as we learn more about how AI can support our teachers and staff to get the most out of our students whilst prioritising their own wellbeing.

It’s all about ensuring that we value and - importantly - retain the fantastic teachers and staff working across the FE sector and allow them to continue doing what they do best: teaching, mentoring and building human skills in our students, abilities that are important, rare, and hard to replicate.

More information

You can learn more about BCoT’s approach to AI with digital wellbeing at its core at Digifest 2024, where Scott Hayden will be presenting on the subject. Jisc members and customers receive two free in-person tickets per organisation – register now!

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

About the author

Scott Hayden
Scott Hayden
Head of teaching, learning and digital, Basingstoke College of Technology