As we bid farewell to a summer of rest and reflection, educators everywhere are gearing up for a new school year filled with hope and curiosity. The past two years have been transformative, with virtual and hybrid schooling leaving a lasting impact. But with change brings growth, and as we move forward, I invite each of you to get excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our learners and ourselves. The following are five ideas about how we can better equip our students with the necessary skills to thrive in school, their worlds and eventually the workforce. My purpose in exploring these ideas is to promote hope and inspiration for this future while harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to support us along the way.
- Embracing AI With Confidence
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, AI tools have become invaluable resources for teachers and administrators. While it's natural to feel some apprehension about adopting new technologies, we have proven time and again that through shared vision and collaboration, we can overcome challenges. As educators, we must embrace AI with confidence, recognizing that it has the potential to enhance the learning experience and create more personalized pathways for our students. This does not mean that we should expect educators to master every tool as they come out, which is unnecessary and unrealistic. It does, however, mean we need to be open to exploring some of the popular tools out there and get to know their basic purpose. I made a personal commitment to explore at least one tool a week. I started with ChatGPT, then added a few others such as DID studio, HeyGen and Midjourney. They have free versions and tutorials to show how they can be used. I found they sparked my curiosity, and I was excited to see how I could use this with teachers and students and get some great conversations going.
- Teaching Resilience for an Uncertain Future
In an era of uncertainty and the "great resignation," it is vital to equip our future learners with the resilience to face any challenges that come their way. We must teach our students how to name and understand their feelings beyond emojis, express their thoughts and needs with clarity, and prioritize their time effectively. For example, there are many distractions that previous generations do not fall prey to as easily as they have developed tools to help them adapt. Many adults do not feel the same pull to engage with social media at high levels as their Gen Y, Z, and Alpha cohorts are still working out. Challenges like how to manage simultaneously receiving a text from a best friend in need, a boss´s email requiring immediate action, and a news alert of a devastating world event they are deeply connected to. By helping them to better understand and manage intense emotions and how to prioritize their actions, there is a higher potential for successful reactions that can serve them best.
- Nurturing Critical Thinking and Creativity
In an age of information overload, it's essential to nurture critical thinking and creativity among our students. Instead of merely absorbing content, we must guide them in exploring and taking risks, encouraging them to think not only outside the box, but between boxes. Incorporating activities that challenge their minds, such as hands on games and problem-solving tasks, can foster genuine connection and collaboration among peers. For example, I had an experience with an artist interested in creating a specific piece of art. He was having trouble translating his ideas to canvas, so using a series of prompts, each one more detailed than the next, I helped him articulate his ideas, inputting them into an AI tool that uses text to image. The result produced a similar result to what he had in mind. He used the image as inspiration for his work rather than directly trying to copy it. Additionally, this interaction provoked a wide range of valuable opportunities such as a deeper connection, intentional listening, understanding to form critical questions, as well as evoking passion to complete the project.
- Balancing Technology and Human Interaction
While technology offers a wealth of opportunities, we must strike a balance between its use and genuine human interaction. Encouraging students to spend time being still with their thoughts and managing the urge to reach for their phones can lead to deeper introspection and better focus. We should emphasize that tools are there to support us, not control us, and teach students to manage their screen time effectively. Sara Kubrick makes this crucial point about boundaries during an interview with Simon Sinek in his podcast, A Bit of Optimism. She talks about the risks involved when we outsource our wellbeing by way of seeking appreciation from strangers. She goes on to say that there is an “assumption that because we are on social media we are connected” and how “there is a difference between being noticed and genuinely acknowledged and someone liking something of yours and actually validating you as a person.” We cannot trade likes to avoid loneliness, and this is risky as we engage more frequently with social media without any guidance. By encouraging self-awareness and the ability to disconnect from social media's validation, we empower our students to forge genuine connections and focus on personal growth.
- Emphasizing Progress Over Perfection
In a world where everything is recorded and feedback is instant, we must teach our students not to fear failure or struggle but actually lean in. Emphasizing the journey and progress towards goals rather than perfection can help students develop a growth mindset. Encouraging them to ask questions, actively seek help, and explore new ideas will foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
As educators, we shape the future of our students and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. By embracing AI with confidence and instilling in our learners the skills of resilience, critical thinking, and creativity, we can create a generation who are ready to excel in the workforce and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the world. Let us inspire hope in our students and guide them towards a future filled with endless possibilities and a zest for lifelong learning.
Jessica Schultz holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Education. She is the Academic and Curriculum Director at San Roberto International School in Monterrey, Mexico.