AI Enhanced Classrooms with Bonnie Nieves

Download MP3

AVFL Bonnie Nieves


Welcome to a Vision For Learning. I am your host, Jethro Jones.

You can find me on all the social networks at Jethro. Jones. And a Vision for Learning is a proud member of the BE Podcast Network. The best educational podcasts out there. Check out all of our shows at Be Podcast Network. Today I'm excited to have on the program Bonnie Neves, who is a high school teacher in Massachusetts, a science and ed tech consultant, a presenter, and an author.

She's the founder of Educate On Purpose, where she provides online courses and virtual and in-person professional development training for schools and individuals, especially focusing on AI right now. Bonnie, welcome to a Vision for Learning. So great to have you here.

Thank you very much for having me here.

Well, I'm excited for our conversation. What's your big takeaway from our conversation today?

I am really encouraged by the way people are using ai, the way people are [00:01:00] thinking differently about it and how you are encouraging people to. Just go out and try it. Right. It's this conversation has been very empowering and supportive and also has got me thinking about other things that I'm gonna start looking at in the future.

Awesome. Well, one of the things that I really appreciate is you said a couple things. One, that talking with AI is a very natural language, not a strict programming language. And so it's hard to mess up, which I think is valuable for people who might be a little scared of it. And then the second thing you said is that the AI is trying to make you happy and all it's trying to do is exactly what you told it to do.

And I think that's a great perspective. And I just, I love that frame that you brought to this conversation. So, I'm gonna get to my interview with. Bonnie here in just a moment on a vision for [00:02:00] learning. (ad here)

Well, Bonnie, I think a great place to start is why don't you tell us what it means to have an AI enhanced classroom. AI's been out for a while now. People are starting to experience it and see what it's all about. So what does a AI enhanced classroom look like today? I.

Ooh. Well, there's a lot of things a teacher can do to enhance their classroom with ai. There's the student facing options, there's the assessment options, and also the planning. So I think the easiest first step for a teacher who's inexperienced would be to use an AI platform as a co-planner. And when I say co-planner, I don't mean an activity creator where you would go to.

An AI platform and ask it to create [00:03:00] worksheets for you, but more experiment with chat GPT or clawed or Gemini, and ask it to give you suggestions on activities that you could do and give it your subject, your specific topic and goal, even a rubric. And the age group of your students, and in about 15 seconds it will give you more ideas than you have thought of in the last two years, I'm guessing.

Yeah, so. Why do you suggest having it be a co-planner rather than having it planned for you? What's the difference there?

So. The AI is not going to know the students that you have in front of you. It will [00:04:00] know a general audience and it will know, like in my case, if I told it I was teaching high school students, it would give me examples for typical high school students. But if you're using a platform like an open platform, then you can give it.

Really specific suggestions. The difference between using that and something that's built for education is that a platform that's built for education is based off of chat, GPT or Gemini or Claude, and it already has narrowed down some of the options It's assuming traditional teaching in some cases,

so on that point, like it's assuming traditional teaching. Let's dive into that a little bit because [00:05:00] I. I think that is a really fascinating topic. My struggles with artificial intelligence in educational settings is that's not the way I teach. And so it's not actually helpful. So how do you manage that when it wants to teach in a way that is traditional and you want to teach in a way that is not traditional?

You say, for example, if as a high school science teacher the one project that I see teachers doing often that I feel like could always be done better is. Making cell diagrams and then cell cakes. So you make a cake, you've got the nucleus, that's a gumball or something like that, right? There's gummy worms all over it and things.

So if you go into AI and say, other than a cell [00:06:00] cake, which is made out of this and this, and different candies representing organelles, what could a teacher do? That would have similar outcomes, but encourage more innovation or autonomy or student led activities and tell it to give you 10 suggestions and see what they are.

And you could agree or not agree or ask for more information about any of them. So it's really good to get. Brand new ideas that are, I won't say unbiased because we all know that AI is biased, but they'll be different than the ideas that you may have in your current fishbowl of teachers that you're always looking for ideas from.

Yeah. and I think that's a really valuable point because There's this balance of doing things that are innovative in your own classroom but then doing things that [00:07:00] are innovative in your system and doing things that, you know, an if an AI is just taking junk material from out on the web that's poor teaching practices to begin with it's really not going to be.

That beneficial for you to even use it if the teaching practices aren't aligned with what you think education should be, which is, you know, has largely been my problem with so much of what has been done with AI and education so far. Like I don't wanna do a typical, Worksheet. I want to have inquiry based lessons.

I wanna have things that are student driven. I wanna have things that are interesting and unique to students specifically. And those things are not always easy to get the AI to create. And there have been a lot of places where it's just fallen down as I try to make it do things like that.

Yeah, it's really a skill to [00:08:00] be able to learn the prompting that will get you the responses that are helpful. But then once you do, then you've got it. It just, it really takes a lot of practice.

And you really just say what you're thinking, right? Just type right into it, what you're thinking, and when it gives you a result, that's not something that you want.

Like I say things like, that's close, but that's not what I was thinking. What I would like is something that is less traditional, something that requires students to think about global goals, global health. But how is it going to impact people 100 years from now? That really changes the way the AI will respond to the prompts that you give it.

But at first, what I found was [00:09:00] that it really just wants to make you happy. It wants to give you a really quick response, whether it's good or bad, true or false. So you have to. Keep at it.

So how do you recommend people go through those iterations? What are the things that are importantto think about and pay attention to as you're trying to trying to make it work how you need it to work?

That's a really good question. I'm trying to think back to when I first started using it. And I was asking it things like you are a high school teacher with 20 years of experience and you're replacing your traditional tests with project based learning. What are some ideas for projects that will address.

And then whatever the targets are, [00:10:00] and then it will spit something back out. And then you can say things like, you know, these suggestions are okay, but can you include more of this? Can you include less of that? And the, if it misses the focus, just really. Give it a hard time. It's a machine. It won't be offended.


Right. It's so much easier than having a conversation with a colleague that you can't say, oh, you know what? Your idea is no good. This is just ai. You can tell it's idea is no good and it will give you more So,



And that's a really powerful piece of advice also, because a lot of times you think, oh, if it doesn't get it right the first time, then it's not gonna get it right at all. And that's not entirely true. And there, there are ways that you can get it to do the [00:11:00] things that you need it to.

But it does take some coaxing some adjustment and some figuring out how to make it work better. That isn't always. Totally clear. You know, you gotta fiddle around with it a bit. So what are some of the common mistakes you see people making? Now as they're trying to use ai and maybe don't have the experience or the understanding.

And you did a lot of work with school ai, a friend of the show in their program where they were having teachers design a bunch of things. So feel free to bring in some of those experiences as well. 'cause I think that was pretty Transformative also.

Oh my gosh, absolutely. My time at school AI was really important toward my understanding of what AI can do. And I say that because I was in a cohort of 20 educators who met weekly and just talked about [00:12:00] the prompts we were using and how we were improving them, and how we would ask differently if we were talking about different student groups.

Like if it's middle school, you want it to use more. Student friendly, conversational language or in high school, you want it to be, provide some positive reinforcement, but also encourage students to think harder and you can just ask AI to do that, right? Especially if you're using it to design activities, right?

It's not going to. Produce a worksheet for you, but what it can do is give you the ideas that you can then put into some student facing activity. School AI though [00:13:00] is different because they are student facing. They also have the teacher facing activities that are also excellent, but the student facing part is really neat.

So if you're switching from asking AI to create activities for you, you can use school AI to create. Very specific bots that interact with students in the way that you ask it to. And I have a very specific and detailed example that I can share. So every year. My students take part in a science symposium at our school, and this is meant to be like a capstone for their science career at the school.

And it involves lengthy research. They have a poster [00:14:00] presentation, they write articles. It must be a PA cited in an a PA format and. Every year it, as you can imagine, it takes hours and hours of iterative feedback with students and taking home a practical suitcase of work or dozens of Google Docs to check.

And this year I used school AI and prompted the school AI bot with the expectations for the project, so I just copied that and pasted it right in and told it to guide students toward the research article that they have chosen. Tell them to return to that article when they need specific answers. Do not give them answers to questions.

If they ask, [00:15:00] always tell them to ask your teacher or refer to your documentation. And then they tried, they tested it, believe me, and it did not give them any answers.


The next step was I created a bot that was a proofreader for their article. So the instructions were for the, when the kids logged in school, AI said, I am your editor.

Please paste your first draft of your article here, and then they would paste it. The instructions that I gave were find grammatical errors and scientific, in so like things that are scientifically inaccurate and it would tell them where the scientific things were that they had to go back and check and it would tell them to check your documentation or ask your [00:16:00] teacher and then it double check their a PA citations at the end.

So. It forced the kids to write everything and saved me from taking anything home. I took zero things home.

well, that's nice.

Yes, and it was me prompting it. So it took me maybe 15 or 20 minutes to get a really good prompt because you can test it as you're writing it. And I wanted to make sure kids could not break it and have it do work for them. And then after that, kids were amazed. It was the first time they had used a student facing AI because.

These are high school kids that have been using chat GPT to write for them. So when they saw that their, the work that they did was actually valuable, it just needed some tweaking. It didn't need to [00:17:00] be thrown out and redone. Now they ask me to create these bots for them when they do projects so they can improve their own writing instead of relying on something to do all the work for them.

Yeah, this is a really amazing change that people are seeing. Smart people have known for a long time that you can have an editor who can help you do things better than you can do on your own. And what's really fascinating is that has been poo-pooed, and frowned upon for a long time in education. Where we have such an emphasis on you doing your own work and not having support. But when you get out in the real world, it's like everything is collaborative and you know, nobody does their own work, it seems. And I know people are gonna be upset with me saying that but that is the truth. there's a book called Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and.

The whole point of that book is find the right person to do the work and delegate everything [00:18:00] to that person, and then take credit for it. And you know that is how the world works. That's how businesses work, the CEO of a company is not typically the one who's out there doing. Being the front facing person, the boots on the ground, they're in the back doing the other stuff and empowering those people on the front lines to be the ones who actually get the work done.

And in education, we still think if you even use AI, then you're cheating. And that's just, it's crazy. So I want to talk just a little bit about this idea of engineering prompts. Is that needed? Is that a needed skill or are other people making prompts that are good enough that you really don't have to know much about prompting?

And for context, that's one of the things that school AI has done so well,

Is they've created these great prompts that have been really beneficial for people. Andyou don't have to be the one there. You know, creating all that prompt stuff, somebody else [00:19:00] can do that, and then you can just use it for the things you need to what are your thoughts on that?

I agree with that because It's always useful to start with something that has been prebuilt and then personalize it. So you can always use a prompt that's already built and then get the response and then ask it to be refined. But it's better to start there than to start from zero. (ad here)

Yeah, for sure.

Yeah. And along those lines, when. I first started using chat GPT before all of the education ais started popping up. The first thing I did was join the open AI discord and watch the prompt engineers do their work in there. It's mind-boggling, the things that they do, [00:20:00] but. What I found was that it doesn't really need to be any specific language, right?

This isn't Python and this isn't c plus. It's natural language, so it will understand what you say and it will start to respond using the language that you've spoken to it in. So if you're trying to get something that sounds natural, you have to. Give it natural sounding prompts. I, in my experience, yeah.

Yeah. And this goes back to that idea of iteration that you have to keep working through it and that the first draft that it creates is cool. And that's neat that it can do it. But if that's good enough, then your expectation is probably not high enough for what it should be doing. Yeah. Alright. Last thing that I want ask you is if somebody's listening to this and they're like, gosh, I'm overwhelmed, I'm behind. I don't even know where to start, what would [00:21:00] you say, where should they go to start? You already mentioned using AI as a co-planner. What specific thing would you say besides that?

'cause that was your first suggestion, what would you say they should do if they're not sure where to start with AI in their classroom right now?

They could try using some of the education ais that are already built. Like school AI has a really good one and Diffit is another good one, where it will take the text that you provide and make some really.

It really effective student activities based on it. So once you start getting familiar with those that are programmed toward education, then maybe you can become more confident in going into other spaces. Right? And most of these [00:22:00] things will be free also. Right, there's no shortage of educational ais, and most likely there is someone in your district.

That has tried some. You could try asking people. I don't, I honestly used to be on Twitter all the time, but haven't been there for years. I'm sure. Whichever social media you happen to be on, you can find lots of suggestions. There are people on Instagram and TikTok that are doing great short tutorials.

That you can just scroll through and find. Larissa Black is one amazing person who's putting out some good short content for AI tutorials.

Did you say Lisa Black?

No Larisa, L-A-R-I-S-A black.

Okay. Thank [00:23:00] you.


Good. So how can people learn more from you, get involved in the work that you do to support people in doing this AI stuff? I.They can find me on LinkedIn, and of course LinkedIn has those big, long streams of names, but it's just Bonnie Vez and my company where I do coaching and consulting is educate on purpose. I can do virtual meetings or with a group or with individuals to help coach people through things. I have a weekly newsletter and follow other folks that have amazing weekly newsletters, so you can connect with me on LinkedIn.

And I'm always happy to respond to people who have questions either in the stream or in a direct message, or like I said, with a virtual call. Always happy to help.[00:24:00]

Yeah, very good. And if you go to the show notes at a vision for, you will be able to see a link to Bonnie's LinkedIn page and to her Educate on Purpose website. Bonnie, thank you so much for being part of a vision for learning. I appreciate having you here.

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you very much.

AI Enhanced Classrooms with Bonnie Nieves