Instructional designers and generative AI can develop high quality and varied thematic resources that will engage learners.
GUEST COLUMN | by Andrew Pass
Have you ever known an adolescent who hated math? What about an adolescent who hated math and loved sports? Perhaps, this adolescent loved talking about sports statistics with friends? This person probably did not think about the fact that statistics is math. Here’s a similar question—have you ever known an adolescent who loved music but strongly disliked either English/language arts or math? This individual likely did not recognize that both language and math were important variables in great music. Students, similar to these two adolescents, might have struggled to succeed in school—not because of lack of intelligence but because of lack of engagement.
Twenty five, thirty, or even more, students are in any given class. Traditionally, the same content has been used to teach all students. If the students’ interests and the content material align, there is a great match. If a match does not exist, many students find it difficult to engage and therefore struggle to master learning objectives. The school experience is anything but equitable.
‘Twenty five, thirty, or even more, students are in any given class. Traditionally, the same content has been used to teach all students.’
Unfortunately, this inequity related to content that engages learners is easy to understand. Educational publishers that create content are businesses and educational content development is expensive. Traditionally, there has been too little return on investment for educational publishers to develop greater varieties of content. Furthermore, a teacher’s work is incredibly complicated without asking them to use different types of learning resources with different students. Asking teachers to work with students using differentiated content complicates their work even further.
A Step Further
In the last ten years, as technology has further developed, greater differentiation has occurred. Initially, this differentiation included, amongst other things, adaptive tests in which questions became easier or more challenging on prior questions. More recently, student selections could determine entire content paths. Though, in reality, there might have been a total of only two or three different options.
By definition, technology is a tool that assists people in achieving their objectives. Among so many other things, artificial intelligence in general, and generative AI in particular, is in the process of enabling educational publishers to go a step further and develop higher quality content with greater differentiation for individual students. Used correctly, artificial intelligence has the potential to narrow inequities by engaging students with content that they find more interesting. The question is, have we reached a time in which artificial intelligence can truly speed up the content development process so that both higher quality and more diverse content can be developed with an equal amount of resources?
Different Students, Distinct Interests
As the founder of a boutique educational content development company, I have long had a dream of building a specific educational product that will challenge the status quo. This product will be based upon the reality that different students have distinct interests. These include but are certainly not limited to, music, movies, video games, cooking, traveling, entrepreneurship, fashion, and politics. This list is actually unlimited.
This product will include six master courses, English/language arts and math, for the sixth thru eighth grades. Each of these master courses will include scopes and sequences, identifying specific learning objectives throughout the whole of each course. These master courses will not include substantive, student facing information, be it explanation, examples, or student work. Instead, each course will have multiple derivatives. So, for example, you will have sixth grade English/language arts for the future business person. All student facing information will be rooted in the concept that the student plans to enter business. Of course, few sixth graders know what they want to do to earn a living. But, students will find such learning much more engaging than traditional lessons.
Of course, this idea is more involved than the limited space of this article allows me to write. But, two more points deserve mention. First, teaching these courses cannot make a teacher’s job more challenging than it already is, impossibly challenging. Second, students must be allowed to choose different themes as the year progresses. The design of this program is certainly a complicated endeavor.
Coming Soon: High Quality and Varied Thematic Resources
In the past, educational publishers could not have afforded to develop multiple derivatives for each course, as described here. But, generative AI may change this situation. Content developers may soon be able to produce the written word with far fewer resources. Therefore, instead of spending enormous resources on the writing, time and money can be spent on design.
Working together, instructional designers and generative AI can develop high quality and varied thematic resources that will engage learners. This differentiation will make educational experiences far superior and far more equitable than what we have today.
Andrew Pass is the founder of A Pass Educational Group, LLC. A Pass partners with organizations to develop customized educational content. Write to: email@example.com.