After the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, I, along with a group of National Writing Project (nwp.org) teachers whose students use Youth Voices (youthvoices.live), wondered how the young people we work with might use this new Emergent-AI Literacy to achieve their goals. On Youth Voices, students publish and discuss multimodal responses to literature, conduct multi-week inquiries on self-chosen questions, engage with each other on current events, write poems, short stories, and point-of-view pieces, and develop arguments over time. We wanted to know how Large Language Models (LLMs) could enhance their thinking, creativity, and discussions.
To explore these questions I added a WordPress plugin, AI Mojo (wordpress.org/plugins/ai-mojo) to Youth Voices. On the post authoring screen, students can now access OpenAI’s tools (platform.openai.com); the youth’s privacy is protected because no login is required. In addition, the AI Mojo plugin has a system for creating and duplicating templates which contain prompts that shape and give voice to the results returned by the OpenAI’s LLM.
We created 80+ templates that students use to specify the kind of fine-grained, text–dependent feedback from LLMs that they need. We take pedagogical frameworks and “teach” LLMs how to partner with our students. Peter Elbow’s ideas for feedback (Writing With Power) are one example: one template returns non–judgmental “sayback”; another “points” to memorable sentences; a third returns questions that are “lurking” in the text. Students select the most helpful templates and reject the rest. Each returns different results based on the criteria and voice we craft into the prompt for a specific template.
When we asked 8th graders we have been working with to reflect on AI, they said that they liked the templates “that students can choose from in order to receive more specific and narrowed-down feedback from Artificial Intelligence.” They see that “by putting AI technology into its platform, Youth Voices allows us to do what we want with automated analysis and feedback.” And they pointed out that they “have the choice of whether to accept those recommendations or not.”
A teacher who has been doing this work with seniors says, “I teach the world, the majority of my students are students of color.” She continues, “What usually happens with new innovation for people of color, we’re the last ones to get it,” but with Youth Voices and AI Mojo, she says: “my students are out there first, right now. When we don’t get it first, we’re given all these different reasons why we should not use it. So first and foremost they’ve been told that it is a cheating mechanism. And so I’ve told them, no it is not, it’s your partner, your collaborative partner for you and your thoughts. No one is cheating. This is you.”
Our spring adventure into AI literacies promises to become a summer of experimentation and exploration, and in the coming fall we are planning for how many more ways we can invite our students to partner with AI.