AI in the Classroom
The recent explosion in AI-related products has permeated almost every field. Although areas such as biomedical research and engineering were the first ones to be impacted on a large scale, recent developments in machine learning have made the field relevant in everyday lives. Specifically, the creation and proliferation of generative AI resulted in tools such as chatbots. Examples like ChatGPT and other household AI tools have already found their way into the classroom of many schools. But more often than not, it has been interpreted as a negative force. After all, instructors frequently see AI as a powerful yet hard-to-be-traced device students can use to cheat.
That said, AI has much more potential than just a way to cheat. Ironically enough, it can serve as a major source of guidance for instructors. When it comes to researching, designing, and learning of materials for teaching, generative AI can actually be quite a useful tool. This article focuses on how AI can positively impact language teachers in particular, though it can be extended to other subjects. Language learning is unique in that it incorporates elements from both STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes as well as humanities classes like English and history. Specifically, language classes can be known for possessing complex ideas and grammars that can take up an almost mathematical appearance. At the same time, the notion of writing essays and interacting with other people and societies is analogous to work done in the humanities and arts. It can be difficult to balance these two elements, and paired with the momentous amount of material language teachers are tasked with teaching, world language classrooms can often be the hardest ones to get right. As a result, they’re the ones most benefited by AI.
AI Research help
The main reason why AI can be such an annoyance when it comes to cheating is actually the same reason why it can be so effective when researching the best ways to conduct a desirable classroom environment. Generative AI chatbots are customizable and create unique responses. That means these AI tools can respond to almost any question with a helpful response, and that the response given will not be a piece of text found somewhere on the internet, but rather one uniquely generated by the machine learning model. One feature these AI chatbots are especially proficient in is outputting customized summaries (i.e., summaries of a topic that follow a certain set of conditions and restrictions). This is because generative AI models learn from a large dataset that consists of text from the entire internet, which allows the AI model to be aware of almost everything on the internet at the time it was trained. The caveat of this is that any model will always be a little behind on news and contemporary information. The AI learning process (known as training) often takes a long time for large models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, so no matter what, there will always be a delay between what’s currently available on the internet and what generative AI models know (for reference, ChatGPT 3 is only aware of information up to 2022).
Regardless, this capacity to offer customizable, high-quality summaries is perfect for researching about methods to engage world language classrooms. For instructors new to teaching a subject (or for those seeking to teach themselves a language), using generative AI can be an effective way to reduce the time needed to understand the basics of effective teaching. For instance, a sample prompt available here offers an example of how one might go about researching the best way to teach a particular topic. Since ChatGPT is the most widely-used generative AI chatbot at the moment — and due to its effectiveness in producing quality responses — a sample input and output from ChatGPT are also given below. Note that the sample prompt is easily migratable from LowTech AI to ChatGPT (just click “Show Prompt” and replace the placeholder words in double curly brackets with the topic or language in question).
INPUT: How do I best teach the subjunctive mood in Latin?
OUTPUT: Teaching the subjunctive mood in Latin requires a systematic approach that combines explanation, examples, and practice. Here are some steps you can follow to effectively teach the subjunctive mood:
- Introduce the concept: Begin by explaining the subjunctive mood and its purpose. Emphasize that the subjunctive expresses actions or states that are uncertain, potential, or contrary to reality.
- Provide examples: Offer clear examples of how the subjunctive mood is used in Latin sentences. Start with simple sentences and gradually introduce more complex ones. Point out the differences in meaning when the subjunctive is used compared to other moods like the indicative.
- Teach the forms: Explain the subjunctive verb forms in each conjugation. Start with the present subjunctive, which is often the most commonly used. Teach the formation of regular verbs and the principal parts of irregular verbs. Ensure students understand the endings and how they differ from the indicative forms.
- Present different uses: Discuss the various uses of the subjunctive mood in Latin. These may include purpose clauses, indirect commands, result clauses, clauses of fearing, and more. Provide clear explanations and examples for each type of usage.
- Practice exercises: Offer a variety of exercises to reinforce the understanding and usage of the subjunctive mood. Include translation exercises, sentence completion exercises, and transformation exercises where students have to change sentences from indicative to subjunctive or vice versa. Encourage students to create their own sentences using the subjunctive mood.
- Read authentic texts: Once students have grasped the basics, introduce authentic Latin texts that feature the subjunctive mood. This allows students to see how the subjunctive is used in context and exposes them to a wider range of sentence structures.
- Review and reinforcement: Regularly review the subjunctive mood throughout the course to ensure students retain their understanding. Incorporate the subjunctive into other aspects of Latin instruction, such as translation, composition, and reading comprehension exercises.
- Engage with resources: Utilize textbooks, online resources, and reference grammars that provide comprehensive explanations and exercises specifically focused on the subjunctive mood. These resources can offer additional support and examples for both you and your students.
Remember that teaching the subjunctive mood requires patience and repetition. Offer plenty of opportunities for students to practice and seek clarification when needed. With consistent reinforcement and exposure to Latin texts, your students will become more comfortable and proficient in using the subjunctive mood.
Alternatively, generative AI chatbots can even string together lesson plans. Again, an example is provided here, and the ChatGPT input and output are provided below.
INPUT: Design a lesson plan for the subjunctive in Latin directed to high schoolers
OUTPUT: Title: Exploring the Subjunctive Mood in Latin
Objective: By the end of this lesson, high school students will be able to:
- Understand the concept and purpose of the subjunctive mood in Latin.
- Recognize and conjugate verbs in the present subjunctive.
- Apply the subjunctive mood in various contexts, including purpose clauses, indirect commands, result clauses, and clauses of fearing.
- Whiteboard or blackboard
- Markers or chalk
- Latin textbooks or online resources
- Handouts with practice exercises
- Authentic Latin texts (e.g., excerpts from ancient literature)
- Introduction (10 minutes):
- Begin by discussing the concept of mood in Latin, explaining that the subjunctive mood expresses actions or states that are uncertain, potential, or contrary to reality.
- Give examples of English sentences that use the subjunctive mood to illustrate its purpose.
- Connect the concept of the subjunctive to daily life by giving examples of situations where uncertainty or potentiality arises.
- Presenting the Subjunctive Forms (15 minutes):
- Explain the formation of the present subjunctive in Latin for regular verbs, including both the active and passive voice.
- Introduce the principal parts of common irregular verbs and how they form the present subjunctive.
- Provide clear examples on the board, highlighting the differences between the indicative and subjunctive forms.
- Subjunctive Usage and Examples (20 minutes):
- Present different uses of the subjunctive mood, such as purpose clauses, indirect commands, result clauses, and clauses of fearing.
- Explain each usage using simple and relatable examples.
- Discuss how the subjunctive changes the meaning or structure of the sentence compared to the indicative mood.
- Engage students by encouraging them to create their own examples using the subjunctive in various contexts.
- Guided Practice (15 minutes):
- Distribute handouts with practice exercises featuring sentences in Latin where the subjunctive mood needs to be correctly used.
- Guide students through the exercises, addressing any questions or challenges that arise.
- Provide opportunities for students to discuss their answers and explain their reasoning.
- Authentic Texts and Application (20 minutes):
- Introduce short excerpts from authentic Latin texts that contain examples of the subjunctive mood.
- Read and analyze the sentences together, discussing the function and meaning of the subjunctive in each context.
- Encourage students to identify other instances of the subjunctive mood in the texts or propose alternative phrasing.
- Independent Practice (15 minutes):
- Assign additional practice exercises for students to complete independently.
- Provide a variety of exercises, including translation, sentence completion, and transformation from indicative to subjunctive or vice versa.
- Circulate the classroom to provide individual support and address any questions.
- Review and Wrap-up (10 minutes):
- Recap the key points covered during the lesson, emphasizing the formation and usage of the subjunctive mood.
- Address any remaining questions or areas of confusion.
- Summarize the importance of the subjunctive mood in understanding and interpreting Latin texts.
- Assign relevant exercises or readings from the textbook for further practice at home.
- Encourage students to explore additional online resources or reference grammars to deepen their understanding of the subjunctive mood.
Note: The time allocation for each section is approximate and can be adjusted based on the needs and pace of the class.
Every response returned by AI chatbots are based on statistical relationships they gather from existing information online, including high-quality research on relevant subjects. As a result, these models only output “educated responses” backed up by existing research. Moreover, both of the two prior prompts can be adjusted based on the instructor’s need, whether it be an emphasis on listening practice or techniques like communication in a restaurant. Additionally, one can generate a list of lesson plans that span an entire unit if need be. However, when handling long lists of lesson plans it’s suggested that instructors add more restrictions to guide this list in a certain direction. Otherwise, the AI might stray the overall lesson goals far from what the instructor initially intended.
Research through generative AI can also aid in one-to-one help with students. Language classrooms require an engaged atmosphere to develop skills in interpersonal communication. Therefore, it’s especially important for world language teachers to maintain a high level of interest in classroom participation. An example prompt to help with this is provided here and the ChatGPT input and output are given below.
INPUT: Generate steps on how to improve motivation in a high-school foreign language class
OUTPUT: Improving motivation in a high-school foreign language class can be a combination of strategies that engage students and make the learning experience more enjoyable. Here are some suggestions:
- Create a positive and inclusive learning environment: Foster a supportive and inclusive classroom atmosphere where students feel comfortable and valued. Encourage participation and respect for diverse perspectives.
- Make it relevant: Connect the language learning to real-life situations and contexts that are meaningful to the students. Incorporate culturally relevant materials, authentic resources, and topics that pique their interest.
- Use interactive and engaging activities: Integrate a variety of interactive activities such as role-plays, group discussions, language games, multimedia presentations, and technology tools. These activities can make the learning process more enjoyable and promote active participation.
- Incorporate multimedia and technology: Utilize multimedia resources, videos, online platforms, language-learning apps, and interactive websites to provide a dynamic and interactive learning experience. These tools can make language learning more engaging and enjoyable for students.
- Offer choice and autonomy: Provide students with some choice and autonomy in their learning. Offer options for project topics, allow them to select materials or topics of interest, and encourage them to set personal language learning goals. When students have a sense of ownership and control over their learning, it can increase motivation.
- Celebrate progress and achievements: Recognize and celebrate students' progress, achievements, and efforts. Acknowledge their successes and provide constructive feedback to help them build confidence and motivation.
- Connect with the culture: Help students develop an appreciation for the culture associated with the language they are learning. Organize cultural events, guest speakers, or field trips to expose students to the richness of the target language's culture.
- Encourage collaboration and peer interaction: Incorporate opportunities for students to work collaboratively, engage in pair or group activities, and practice the language with their peers. This can create a supportive learning community and foster motivation through social interaction.
- Personalize the learning experience: Recognize and cater to individual learning styles, strengths, and interests. Provide differentiated instruction and offer learning opportunities that align with students' preferences and goals.
- Be enthusiastic and passionate: Show your own enthusiasm and passion for the language and culture you're teaching. Your excitement can be contagious and inspire students to develop a similar level of enthusiasm.
Remember, every student is unique, and what motivates one may not work for another. It's important to be flexible and adaptable, continuously evaluating and adjusting your strategies based on student feedback and needs.
As for all other prompts, this one can be used for both self-learners and classroom instructors. Either way, maintaining engagement and motivation are extremely important when learning something as time-consuming as a language. And of course, this prompt’s objective is not limited to maintaining engagement. The customizability of modern generative AI models allows the user to substitute “engagement” with any factor learners are struggling with, leading to a truly personalized learning experience.
It can be difficult navigating the process of teaching a language. After all, the job requires instructors to teach a momentous bulk of information and rules, all the while training learners’ ability to apply those rules in a split-second. But with recent innovations in AI, researching the best way to do so can take no more than a few minutes of prompt engineering. So regardless of the current reputation AI may have in educational environments, in the end, it might be able to serve as a beneficial — and perhaps even welcome — force in the classroom.