Differentiated Instruction

5 Ways to Use AI Tools to Meet Students’ Needs

Teachers can use AI tools to help generate ideas and learning materials to address their students’ diverse needs.

June 6, 2023
Grundini / Ikon Images

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly shaking up the world of education. With the popularity of mainstream tools like ChatGPT, beta tools like Google’s Bard, and other educational resources developing their own versions of this software, AI is at the front of many educators’ minds. 

Despite the commonly discussed barriers to AI, there are some advantages. For example, it can be used to support teachers as they design instruction and assessments to meet the needs of all the learners in their classrooms. Typically, implementing strategies like differentiation or personalized learning can be a lot of upfront work for the teacher. With AI, teachers can easily seek ideas and inspiration for new ways to reach their students. 

AI-generated responses can act as a starting point for teachers, but it’s important to build on these ideas to make them your own. With the following five strategies, teachers can leverage AI to inspire new ideas to support the diverse learning needs of their students. 

1. Creating Differentiated Materials

Differentiation adjusts the information the student needs to learn, the instructional process, or the culminating project or activity to match student interest and readiness. A common obstacle with differentiation for teachers is trying to create various resources, whether it’s a choice board or tiered activity.

AI can be used as a source of inspiration for teachers. A prompt could be inserted: “What are three different approaches to teaching the central idea of a text?” In this example, ChatGPT suggested a few broad approaches to instruction, including graphic organizers, visual representations, guided reading, and close reading, as well as a description of those strategies. These suggestions are research-supported starting points for an educator. Now, with these recommendations, they can start fully generating lessons and activities for students. 

It’s important to remember that sometimes, tools like ChatGPT might pull from existing teacher lessons online. Consider using a more general prompt, like the previous example, to get broader pedagogical suggestions as opposed to an existing lesson plan or activity online. 

2. Creating Multiple Means of Representation

Within the Universal Design for Learning framework, multiple means of representation require content to be presented in various ways for students. In a classroom, this strategy might look like an opportunity for students to explore different mediums on the same topic and enhance their understanding. For example, you might provide a video, infographic, or notes on a singular topic. 

For teachers, curating various resources on the content they want to teach could be challenging and time-consuming. However, this process can be streamlined using AI. A teacher could enter the following prompt into AI software: “Can you give me multiple resources to introduce chemical reactions? The resources include videos, websites, simulations, games, or infographics.”

This type of prompt will generate a list of resources, websites, and links related to the requested topic. As with any other link, these resources need to be vetted by the teacher before providing them to students. However, AI can help make the search process for finding suitable and appropriate resources quicker than a traditional search engine query. 

3. Brainstorming Alternative and Authentic Assessments

Alternative and authentic assessments can support different learning needs by avoiding traditional test strategies and encouraging students to apply the content they learned directly. Instead of a standardized quiz, students may engage in projects connecting the topic to real-life situations and ideas. 

When planning alternative assessments, AI can help teachers make connections between a skill or topic and real-life applications. These suggestions can be used to inspire ideas for alternative assessments for students. For example, a teacher could use the prompt, “What are real-life applications of ratios?” This prompt offers suggestions between the math concept and baking, maps, sports statistics and performance, photography, scale models, and financial planning.  

The suggestions list can be turned into a list that the teacher uses to think about project-based, more authentic assessments. When drawing on this list as inspiration, new projects can be created for the course. These activities can support students by increasing their understanding of the skill and giving them increased flexibility in demonstrating their understanding. 

4. Breaking Down Complex and Abstract Skills

A challenging strategy for a teacher is to break down abstract skills for students. Offering a concrete approach can help students understand a concept in a new way. However, it’s sometimes difficult to determine just how to break up a standard. One example prompt would be, “How can you break down the concept of ‘theme’ to sixth-grade students? How can this idea be broken into manageable chunks?” 

This prompt offers general recommendations for pedagogical approaches that break down the skill, including distinguishing between theme and plot, identifying key messages, and analyzing character motivations. While this query doesn’t yield full lesson plans or already created activities, it does serve as a springboard for teachers to break down the skill for students who may be struggling. 

5. Providing Different Approaches to Teaching Concepts

One strategy that works for supporting students in understanding a new skill is making a connection to their personal experiences and interests, such as their background or hobbies. Sometimes, this task can be challenging if the teacher has no experience with a student’s area of interest, so it’s important to talk with students and get to know them on a deeper level in order to meet their particular needs.

AI could form a bridge between a skill and the student’s interests. For example, a teacher could use the prompt, “How would you teach a middle school student who loves football about connotation and denotation?” With this prompt, AI could generate a list of strategies for helping students make a connection between this language arts vocabulary skill and sports. These suggestions can be helpful for a teacher who may notice a student struggling with grasping a concept. By using the AI-generated recommendations, they may be able to help the student make a connection to understand the material through their interests better.

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  • ChatGPT & Generative AI
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  • Technology Integration

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