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A Practical (evolving) Perspective on A.I.

Updated: Mar 13


At Bennett, we are constantly watching the effect of AI on education, and our understanding of what it means for students is always evolving. Our blog content is not meant to provide definitive answers as to how this technology will change education, but rather to join the conversation with respected educators. Likewise, the opinions expressed are those of the teacher being interviewed.


I recently had a great conversation with a former colleague, dear friend, and outstanding educator, Lisa Houston. She holds a BA in English and Theatre from Barnard College and a MS Ed. in Progressive Leadership from Bank Street College. Lisa has spent 27 years at The Pennington School in a variety of roles, from Director of Drama to Middle School Dean to Director of Advisory and Student Activities. She is a member of various professional organizations in her subject areas of English and Theatre and an award-winning classroom teacher and Theatre director.


Here are her thoughts on AI:

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What are the implications of AI across different age groups? How are you addressing the impact of AI in the middle and upper school school classroom?


I think there are different implications, depending on age and the use of technology by students. I think Upper Schoolers have already latched onto AI, producing work for them in crunch times or times of stress (or when they know they can get away with it). I did not see Middle Schoolers using AI in this way yet, although they do experiment with poetry line generators and other apps that change wording so they can copy from each other to speed up homework. I think younger students are actually a bit more creative with AI and put in prompts to get imagery or funny passages of writing that can be shared around in group assignments to be done in class, sometimes by hand.

How can we best support students with this emerging technology?


I think with all emerging technologies, it is better to experience them with the students and not forbid usage or speak negatively about them in front of them. It is a reality that they will use it, so learning how to use it ourselves is the best bet. Then, we can purposely expose them to the aspects we want them to experience and figure out how to check for ways in which they might stunt their own learning experience by taking shortcuts.


How are you teaching students to use AI for “good?"

I didn't get a lot of time in front of students using AI yet, but there are many ways it can be used for good. It can definitely help them find information at their reading level on any subject to deepen their understanding or clarify topics for them. This is how my teaching partner and I used it initially last year. We took more complex passages and had AI put them at an 8th or 9th grade reading level.


I can also see AI being helpful in moments when a student feels a bit stuck creatively in their work. However, we would need to practice the prompts. I plan to teach my advisers to use it for emails. I think it's a great way to make a mundane task go faster. I want to try to create an assignment where a student takes their own story and has AI put it into the style of another author. That would require a great plot and characters on the part of the student and a full understanding of the nuances of the notable writer. I am also looking forward to creating quick scenes with it for my theatre electives.

What are the learning opportunities for students as AI becomes part of their/our lives? What do you see as the pros/cons of AI for students?


I personally hope that the world never goes strictly to AI for writing. There is such personality and beauty in the humanity of the written word. I do think it's important to learn that some of the aspects of AI lack nuance and personality. There is also a bias in some things generated by AI. I ran into that myself; there is a typical white, patriarchal bias to it. I also think it's important for them to explore what they can create using AI. I teach some students with severe learning differences in written expression. AI could be life-changing for such a student and really unlock their potential.


How does AI impact social media and student's use/misuse of that platform?

I think we have seen the widespread consequences of AI on social media. Students using imagery enhanced by AI or even just filters skew their experience of the world and their own self-image and worth. Spreading misinformation generated by AI and bots can affect a wide range of situations and people. Our world is heavily influenced by social media, so it's important for educators to stay current and stay in conversation with students about the ramifications. Partnering with organizations such as The Social Institute or speakers such as Max Stossel is important for schools to consider. Parents should subscribe to Common Sense Media and check out their resources.

How are you integrating AI into the curriculum (or not)? And how are you protecting students from misuse or misinformation created by AI?


Since COVID and online/hybrid learning, I assign much less writing to be done at home or alone. I usually assign longer writing assignments in short segments so I can constantly partner with students and keep up with what they are creating. We are also getting a service on their laptops this year that will help them understand how much of their work they are copying and how much they are generating. But good-old-fashioned writing conferences seem to do the trick best.

How do you imagine a classroom will look 5 years from now with the integration of AI?


I hope it's more creative and vibrant and that there are some students who wouldn't be strong in the humanities who find pathways to more success. However, I also fear that it might become a crutch and make students less engaged in their production of creative work. I really am not sure how to predict!


Thank you, Lisa.


By Erin Brady


Erin Brady wears several hats at Bennett as Co-Director of Private Client Services and as one of our Global Team Leads (GTLs). As a GTL, she supports a consultant team that works with families headed to the greater NYC area, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Canada, overseeing their casework and providing updates to our corporate and RMC clients. She also serves as Account Manager of one of Bennett’s largest financial services clients in New York.


Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.

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