On Friday I was honoured to be invited to keynote the ALIA Schools Seminar ‘Keeping School Libraries Relevant’, presenting on being AI Ready: How school libraries can lead in the era of algorithms.
I always really enjoy meeting and learning with school library staff – their energy and enthusiasm for staying abreast of the ever changing education landscape and their openness to consider new ideas affirms that school libraries are ‘my place’ and that school library staff are ‘my people’. Even in challenging times, where so many Teacher Librarians are being taken out of the library and asked to teach in completely different areas, their belief in the value of school libraries and the vital contribution they make to the entire school community remains strong.
After the event, I noticed that there were some questions on our Padlet that I had not had time to discuss during the day, and so I want to sharemy thoughts on these now, as I feel that they are representative of the questions many educators (not just in school libraries) are asking. These are my responses in brief. They are not the type of questions that have a simple, concise answer, but ones that spark a lot of discussion, so I hope that my initial thoughts spark further conversations for all of you.
More information: Where can we get more information on these topics? Where do you get your information from?
There is an overwhelming amount of information currently about the topics of AI, generative AI and the potential implications for education. There are numerous Facebook groups discussing the topic, and I would recommend dipping your toe into these, but reading the discussions with a critical eye; as discussed on Friday, there are very few experts in these areas as it is all so new, so even those who sound the most authoritative may not always be correct.
I have included the sources for my presentation in my reference list; you can view here. I would also recommend the following titles for excellent professional reading:
Luckin, R., George, K., & Cukurova, M. (2022). AI for School Teachers. CRC Press.
Dobrin, S. I. (2023). Talking about generative AI: A guide for educators. Broadview Press. https://sites.broadviewpress.com/ai/talking/
I also save as many articles and resources as I see on my Flipboard.
I get a lot of information just by following links shared by others and evaluating their value; this is the benefit of having a carefully curated personal learning network (PLN) – which I encourage every educator to develop!
What is the best way to provide staff and students with awareness of the benefits, challenges and issues of AI tools for life and learning?
A great question with no easy answer! Every staff group and student group will respond differently to different communication channels; you know what works best for your context! However, I believe that small bites of information that hook staff in can be a very useful way to get them talking about these topics, and make them more open to participating in more detailed discussions. I also believe linking these topics to experiences/challenges/tasks they are already dealing with can help them make connections between these technologies and their current practices.
I definitely believe that school library staff should be taking as much of a lead as possible. This might be scheduling a lunchtime or before/after school session (provide food!) for open discussion and Q&A which you lead (you don’t have to be the expert to lead, you just need to be the facilitator), or sharing bite-size strategies and tips (e.g. Did you know…. Or Have you tried??) in a newsletter/staff communication/on a whiteboard in the library where students can share their thoughts also…suggesting articles to staff to read and making these accessible…small strategies which position you as someone who is aware of/informed/interested in the developments in this area can give you a foot in the door to take a more comprehensive role as time goes on.
At what year level should we consider using A.I. in our program? What prerequisite skills should we teach?
I don’t think there is a specific year level where AI should be introduced; it’s not a single tool that is ‘taught’ at a particular time. Even Prep students (or younger) are interacting with AI – when they jump on YouTube to watch Peppa Pig, they are navigating algorithms determined by machine learning. I think in the younger years, there is opportunity to discuss different aspects of AI in a very natural way, as they engage with tools/platforms that feature them, and the discussion should evolve from there.
This question was probably not asked by someone in Early Childhood, but these two articles provide excellent overviews of the benefits, challenges, obstacles and opportunities for introducing AI literacy to students even in the youngest years – thereby confirming that these concepts are best developed over time, for all students.
I recommend all educators read them, as many of the suggestions and findings are also able to be adapted for older students, who did not have the benefit of having this awareness in early childhood.
In terms of prerequisite skills – I would argue developing students’ information literacy skills, digital literacies and media literacy skills would be the most vital. A lot of skills are already being taught in the Australian Curriculum and even more so in the General Capabilities that build students capacities to engage positively with AI, however I also feel that explicit opportunities to teach information literacy skills are lacking due to the assumption that students ‘know’ how to search for information because they can ‘use’ Google. This is where we return to the need for qualified school library staff including Teacher Librarians who can support teachers and students to understand that there are strategies that must be applied for effective engagement with information. Bluntly, ‘students need school libraries’ – and qualified staff to lead them for the benefit of the entire school community.
I was also really thrilled to be invited recently to chat about AI and school libraries with Elizabeth Hutchinson and her colleagues, and the resulting podcast discussion can be viewed below. It is so incredible to be able to connect with professionals from all over the world as we work on developing positive ways to engage with new tools in an informed and ethical manner.
I look forward to continuing to develop my own knowledge and understanding of these technologies and the way they impact on education – and welcome any opinions, discussion or questions in the comments!