Decision Tree for Student AI Usage

The buzz around generative artificial intelligence (AI) has raised challenging questions for educators, particularly regarding the appropriate use of AI tools by students. While these tools can sometimes hinder the learning process, they also have the potential to provide valuable enrichment, insights, and perspectives if used responsibly.

To support teachers and students in the responsible utilization of AI, we have collaborated on creating a decision-making framework for students. This framework aims to assist students in making informed decisions about using AI tools and enables teachers to confidently support students in their usage. Developing critical engagement with AI tools, which involves questioning their outputs, recognizing their limitations, and considering the ethical implications, is crucial for fostering digital literacy and good citizenship.

Following the Decision Tree Process

Permission: Are AI tools allowed for this task? Generative AI is hard to detect, so instead of imposing bans, teachers should establish trust-based norms and transparent processes for AI usage. Implementing a simple “red light, yellow light, green light” system can help set initial boundaries. Teachers need to be knowledgeable about AI tools to determine students’ access, while students should understand the reasoning behind such decisions, enhancing their AI literacy.

Enhancement: Am I using AI tools to improve my learning experience? AI tools, like other educational technologies, can either enhance learning or replace it. Students should consider not only whether they are permitted to use the tools but also how to use them responsibly as supplements, not substitutes. Encouraging students to reflect on the task’s objectives and the tool’s suitability can lead to more successful outcomes, especially when teachers provide clear guidance and communicate learning objectives effectively.

Understanding assignment goals is key for students to comprehend the rationale behind using AI tools. Clearly defined objectives help students evaluate the tool’s effectiveness in aiding their understanding and learning progress.

Iterative use: Am I employing PROMPT and EDIT to generate and evaluate AI outputs? Iterative engagement with AI tools enhances their effectiveness. Our model introduces PROMPT (Purpose, Role, Organize, Model, Parameters, Tweak) and EDIT (Evaluate, Determine, Identify, Transform) as mnemonic devices to assist in designing and refining prompts, fostering critical metacognitive processes in students’ tool utilization.

Guiding students to shape prompts that elicit helpful responses using PROMPT and engaging in an active analysis of AI outputs through EDIT enhances the learning process. Teachers can benefit from this approach when creating study materials or designing customized classroom chatbots.

Aligning PROMPT with the “AI roles” framework by Ethan and Lilach Mollick encourages students to assign a specific role (e.g., tutor, coach, mentor) to the AI tool, optimizing its outcomes within the teacher’s guidelines.

Transparency: Can I explain how and why I used AI tools to support my work? Emphasizing the metacognitive process, this question prompts students to reflect on integrating AI tool outputs and prioritizes the process over the final product.

Teachers can guide students on ways to share their process, such as sharing conversation links and annotating sections where AI served as a coach. Proper citation guidelines such as MLA, APA, and Chicago Style can also be followed when citing AI usage.

Reflection and metacognition: Am I actively assessing my use of AI tools? Encouraging students to reflect on assignment objectives, personal growth, and responsible tool use prepares them to be tech-wise individuals, equipped to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and ethical awareness.

Educators are instrumental in fostering nuanced understandings of AI usage through scaffolded reflection, empowering students to discern appropriate and inappropriate tool applications. Engaging students in discussions, experimentation, and feedback on AI use facilitates a collaborative learning process, guiding them towards tech-savviness and ethical clarity in the digital realm.

Banning Isn’t the Solution, Embracing AI Responsibly Is

Attempting to ban AI tools is ineffective due to their undetectable nature, their increasing prevalence, and their potential for transformative learning experiences. Rather than banning them, educators should thoughtfully integrate AI tools into learning processes, fostering iterative brainstorming and reflective thinking, preserving the human connections that are fundamental to education.

By employing structured frameworks like our AI decision tree, implementing clear guidelines such as the red, yellow, or green light system, and engaging in ongoing discussions about the role and impact of AI, teachers can guide students in utilizing AI to enhance their learning experiences while also understanding the responsibilities and challenges associated with this technology. Educating students about responsible AI usage empowers them to shape a future that prioritizes humanity, reflection, and thoughtfulness.

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