Using AI To Create Teaching Resources

By Dawn Cox

 

In the summer of 2023 it was unclear if I would have anyone teaching in my department in September so I knew I was going to have a challenge to create resources that ‘anyone’ can use to run a lesson. I didn’t want to have to change our curriculum due to not having specialist teachers so needed a plan to ensure students would have high quality resources regardless.

One challenge for RE is that as it isn’t National Curriculum; any existing textbooks won’t match the planned curriculum. So I thought about writing my own to cover precisely what I would usually teach and more!

This is when I turned to AI.

I had signed up to ChatGPT from home early on after its launch and had done some initial searches. I then saw others discussing other sites on Twitter such as Bing AI and Bard. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to use AI to my advantage and announced that I would be making a textbook for our Year 8 Hinduism unit using AI.

I personally like using Google for creating resources and using Slides makes things even easier in terms of design and editing. So I decided I would write the textbook using Google slides to make it easy to access at school, home and to share with others.

Because of the design process, I managed to get a two-screen set up for my computer: one for the textbook slides and one for the AI bot. However, on day 1 in school I came across a barrier; my school had blocked ChatGPT and Bing AI.

I was interested in how many schools had also done this so did a small-scale poll on Twitter.

 

I suspect as things are new that school internet filtering systems are not up to date with new practices in teaching. So I had a choice, to do it all at home or to find a solution. I then saw people on Twitter discussing Anthropic’s AI offer, Claude and went to try it. Thankfully it worked so then became my AI bot of choice when in school.

I started by planning a list of the content that I knew I would need to cover our scheme. I designed a basic slide that would be repeated throughout the textbook including the same page title header, a section for keywords, page numbers and sections for activities. I knew I was going to print the textbooks in colour so I considered the colour of these.

So, I began with Claude and asked for content that I needed for each page. I began to use different prompts. Prompts are the questions or tasks that you give the AI bot and the wording of these matters a lot. I started off very polite and verbose and then as I went on I didn’t worry about spelling/manners/grammar and it still worked.

An example of content that I needed was some historical background on the British in India.

And this is what I ended up with, using the content it had given me and adjusting for our students.

One thing that became important was including age in the prompts. Some of the ideas and content in the topic are complex and needed to use simpler language. For example, the belief in Brahman….

I previously had a few quotations from the holy texts for this unit but I knew I wanted the unit to be fully text based from a Theological perspective so this is where the AI bot was excellent. I asked it for quotations to support each concept that I wanted students to learn about and it did exactly that. It gave me more than I needed but it meant that I could choose which quotations would be most suitable. And after an initial prompt of ‘give quotations from the Bhagavad Gita on death’, if I wanted more, I just added the prompt ‘more’ and it gave me more! The number of hours saved either looking inside a book or searching online for these specific quotations was huge.

I could then easily copy and paste the information into my textbook.

I also asked it to draw me a diagram to illustrate a concept however it didn’t work well. Maybe it was a step too far for Claude AI to create something in this way. Maybe other AI sites would do this better.

When I started writing I had in mind a textbook that would be a mix of information and activities for students to complete. I had to ensure that a lesson could happen without a specialist. I experimented with prompts to write activities.

I used the prompt: “Write 5 multiple choice questions on this text” and pasted in the text from the page of information. It quickly (much quicker than I would have done it!) created the questions with different possible answers. And they were good! I then realised that I hadn’t been specific enough for what I actually wanted so asked it for questions with four answer options. Throughout using AI it is what you ask the bot to do that matters in what you get back. The more specific you are the better. The content that I had pasted I had written because it was very specific to our curriculum but if it was general content I have had to add prompts like “for an 11 year old” to ensure it is at an appropriate level.

I then asked for general activities. This would be a real test for the AI as it is asking them to plan appropriate activities for students to complete using the content given. I was sceptical. However, it did really well. It suggested doable and appropriate activities for the Year 8s. My editing of these was down to pedagogical choice and practicalities. Some involved group work or getting up around the room which I didn’t want for potential supply teachers to have to manage. I wanted basic comprehension and simple creative tasks that a student could complete by themselves in their exercise book.

I also asked it to create some basic comprehension questions on the text. It did well and I could add to/edit these.

Since writing this first textbook, I have found some other AI sites that I think will do some of this in a better way. For example, QuestionWell (https://www.questionwell.org/) will create the multiple choice questions but also, creates learning objectives from these and will export to many other platforms e.g. Google Forms, Kahoot so will have multiple possibilities for using the content. I think the content creating bots like Claude will be my go-to for the information but other sites for activities.

Things I’ve learnt along the way

  • Prompts matter – refine these to get the best from the AI bot
  • Training – Schools need to do some awareness training of the existence of AI (especially that students can use) and then some practical training on how to use AI to our advantage in our teaching.
  • AI Bots – Consider using different sites for different tasks. There are an increasing number of sites that are using AI however we need to be clear on how they can be useful otherwise it might become overwhelming.

I’m now writing the next textbook for the next topic and it will hopefully be quicker to write than the first one.

 

You can read other articles by Dawn Cox here.

Author

Dawn Cox is a Head of RE & SLE in Essex. She is also an education author and blogger.

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