Ensuring Our Personalities Shine Through When Using AI to Create Digital Content

  "Female african-american speaker giving presentation in hall at university workshop" by Image by master1305 on Freepik.

Generative AI tools have rapidly become integrated into various aspects of our daily lives, helping us streamline complex tasks and foster creativity. Their adoption within the education sector is no exception.  With over 800 individuals attending the recent conference Empowering Tomorrow: Unleashing Creativity through Generative AI, at the University of Kent, it’s clear that these tools continue to attract a huge amount of interest.

Yet, as we integrate these powerful tools into our educational practices, we must pause to remember a critical element that remains at the heart of learning — our individuality and personal touch. This blog post aims to explore how we, as educators, can harness the efficiency benefits of generative AI tools without losing the unique personal elements that define our teaching style and create meaningful connections with our students in the digital materials we create.

The Personal Touch in Digital Learning

In education, the infusion of the teacher’s personality into the curriculum is not merely about preference; it’s about fulfilling a basic human necessity. Research in social psychology has consistently shown that humans have an intrinsic need for social connection and interaction, a principle known as “belongingness”.  These connections in educational contexts are vital and have been directly linked to students’ increased motivation, engagement, and academic success (Elliot, & Maier, 2009; Roorda et al., 2011).

Further research by colleagues at the University of Kent, investigating what triggers students’ interest in lectures, supports this, finding that teachers’ enthusiasm, approachability, and friendliness all have a significant impact on student engagement (Quinlan 2019).

Seeking Human Connection in Digital Learning Materials

Just as they do in traditional classroom settings, students also want that same human connection in the learning materials they encounter in online environments. So, how do we carry this personal touch into the online environment when working with generative AI tools which can create materials for us?

The challenge with relying solely on generative AI is that it operates without the lived experiences that educators bring to their teaching. Generative AI can provide feedback based on algorithms and the data it has been trained on, but it lacks the nuanced understanding required to personalize this feedback based on each student’s unique learning journey. It doesn’t have the capacity to comprehend the student’s personal learning journey or the subtle shifts in understanding that an educator can detect through personal interaction. AI cannot replicate the warmth found in a teacher’s story shared during a lecture, or the tailored advice given during office hours. These human elements are not just decorative; they are essential components of the learning process, contributing significantly to the sense of academic and personal growth within a student.

Enhancing AI with Educator Personality

The key when we consider the use of generative AI tools is not to view them as stand-alone tools to provide students with feedback or to create all our teaching materials, but as personal assistants to help us co-create materials. For example, there are many generative AI tools now available (Tome, Gamma, SlidesAI) which create presentations around just about any topic. However, without the teacher’s insights, experiences, and personal teaching style, it will always fall short.

It is the teacher who transforms these materials into something far more valuable and engaging, embedding their personality, and creating those memorable moments. They provide the context, relevance and enthusiasm that AI alone cannot, turning information into knowledge and knowledge into real-world understanding.

Navigating content overload through personalized selection

It is important to remember that when using generative AI tools, we must also be mindful of content overload. The ease of generating large volumes of text and images with these tools can lead to a “more is better” approach, which, contrary to enhancing learning, may overwhelm students.  This issue was highlighted in the Office for Students (OfS) blended learning report prior to the advent of generative AI tools, but it has the potential to worsen now.

In the context of blended and online learning, it is essential to strike a balance between providing sufficient content and maintaining clarity and engagement. As educators, our role shifts from content creation to content curation.

This careful selection process involves more than just aligning with educational standards; It’s a process that requires understanding the students’ varying backgrounds, their aspirations, and the challenges they face.  This is knowledge that AI, in its current state, cannot fully grasp. By handpicking content that reflects these nuanced understandings, educators ensure that every article, video, and interactive exercise serves a purpose tailored to their students, thereby mitigating the risk of content fatigue and nurturing a more engaging and supportive learning environment.

So, how can we avoid the trap of content overload when using generative AI?

Prioritize Key Learning Outcomes: Start by clearly defining the learning outcomes for each module. Use these as a guide to determine what content is essential and what can be omitted. This ensures that every piece of content serves a clear educational purpose.

Apply the ‘Less is More’ Principle: Embrace the ‘less is more’ philosophy by focusing on the depth of content rather than breadth. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to learning materials, and dense information can often be broken down into more digestible parts. There are free online reading calculators which will give you rough estimates of reading time, this can be useful when reviewing how long students might spend on each resource.

Smart Integration of Interactivity in Video Learning: Multimedia, especially video content, can significantly enhance the learning journey if utilized strategically. With the aid of AI tools, educators can pinpoint critical moments within a video to embed interactive elements such as quiz questions. These timely, integrated quizzes can serve as comprehension checkpoints, allowing both the student to assess their understanding in the moment and the educator to gauge the effectiveness of the content. By embedding these interactive elements directly into the video, we create a dynamic learning experience that encourages active engagement, catering to the diverse learning styles of our students.

Foster Critical Thinking, Not Content Consumption: Design learning activities that encourage critical thinking and application of knowledge rather than passive consumption. Generative AI can be useful here to help generate discussion prompts or problem-solving activities that require students to engage with the material actively.

The Power of Feedback

While Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) now offer student engagement analytics, often powered by AI, we must recognize that engagement is multi-faceted, with some aspects beyond AI’s detection. A conversation with educational researcher John Hattie reminds us of the power of simple yet meaningful questions like “How are you getting on?” It’s these personal interactions that affirm to students they are seen and supported, not just as learners but as individuals.

When educators ask, listen, and respond with genuine concern and tailored advice, they foster a learning environment where students feel valued and understood. This level of personalized attention is what cultivates a deeper educational connection, transforming routine feedback into a powerful tool for encouragement and growth.


Conclusion: The Essence of Personalization in Content Curation

In harnessing generative AI for education, we must prioritize creating content that reflects our unique teaching personalities over sheer volume. The essence of educational material lies in its personal touch and insights that make learning relatable and memorable. By embedding our personalities into the content we curate when using generative AI, we turn information into engaging narratives, ensuring students are excited and inspired, not overwhelmed, by their educational journey.

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