AI program creates personal chatbots for elementary school students – CBS News 8

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For these students, getting answers to their questions within seconds is fueling their curiosity to ask more.

SAN DIEGO — Teachers are always looking for things to add to their bag of tricks to help students learn. And a principal at a San Diego Unified School District school says a trial run for an AI program they’re using is a smashing success.

Toler Elementary School is using the SchoolAI platform:

It creates customized chatbots for students. It’s like a personalized digital student aid for each student. And for these students, getting answers to their questions within seconds, fuels their curiosity to ask more.

Ken Shelton with Elevate Education, helps school districts create emerging AI policies. He says, “The main thing, with respect to the AI bots, is it encourages students to start asking questions.”

Because each student has their own chatbot to ask their own questions, their learning experience is personalized. Their critical thinking skills are sharpened. Instead of being something educators are afraid of, Shelton says they can start teaching kids how to use it to make the kids feel invested in what they’re learning. He says, “We can guide them toward ‘here’s how you can use it to augment it and support your learning process’.”

Toler’s Principal Laurie Brady Francis says she and her staff are always looking for innovative ways to engage students, to find the joy in learning, and make it more meaningful for them. She says Toler is the only school in the district using the SchoolAI program that gives students their own chatbot experience.

Students have been using it for a month and she hopes she can get the program for them again for the next school year. She says, “When you think about the cognitive struggle when you’re trying to come up with a question rather than information being fed to you, you’re having to design how you’re going to ask that question to solicit the information you need. That’s really a higher depth of knowledge of learning.”

Francis brought in AI education specialist and author of the book AI Infused Classroom, Holly Clark. She tells students in a 5th grade Social Studies and Research class, “We’re actually going to talk to artificial intelligence today and the thing we’re going to talk to is a robot, or for short, a chatbot. We’re going to interact with this bot and ask it questions about the Southern Colonies. As it tells me, I’m going to ask more questions. I’m going to think of some things I need to know. And we’re actually going to write a paragraph about what we know about the colonies and AI is going to give you feedback on the paragraph. So you’re going to want to gather some ideas from your chatbot.”

The students say they enjoy this way of learning.

5th grader Tyler Fischer says, “I like how you can ask any questions you want and you don’t have to raise your hand in class.”

5th grader Julianna Hurtado says, “I think it’s really interesting and I like it a lot.”

5th grader Mabel Smith says, “If you’re just reading a book, there’s some things that can’t be answered. If you’re using AI, you can ask any question and get a good answer.”

Clark also teaches the teachers how to use AI in the classroom. 1st-grade teacher Amber Burkett has been teaching for 16 years. She says, “I see improvement. They’re able to talk and participate and share. Even the ones that don’t usually talk and participate.”

Multiple languages are spoken at Toler. And for all the students with English as a second language, AI meets them where they are. Clark says, “Kids who have English as a second language, they can use the Spanish feature to do the same activity in Spanish.”

Brady Francis says normally students still learning English can sometimes struggle to participate and be involved with their peers. She recalls how one first grader responded when her chatbot communicated with her in her language.

She had only been in the United States for one week. She says, “As soon as were able to get on AI and she converted into Spanish, she was able to be right there with her peers. The joy on her face was just unparalleled. She was so excited to be able to say- I’m right with you! I get it!”

So after a room full of 1st grader get to ask their AI Chatbot anything they want, in any language they way, they have a lot to say.

One says, “Caterpillars are kind of like a tiny worm that’s soft with lots of legs.”

Another says, “The chrysalis, it’s like a cozy sleeping bag for them.”

One boy says, “The best thing about butterflies is the changing.”

According to the San Diego Unified School District, close to half of its schools have now started incorporating AI in some form as part of classroom instruction.

WATCH RELATED: First of its kind artificial intelligence conference held in San Diego (April 2024)

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