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Educators Need To Play Offense with AI

In your day-to-day life, you have likely encountered Artificial Intelligence (AI). Perhaps it was while shopping, scrolling through social media, or at work. AI’s capabilities are remarkable, and they only continue to get more complex by the day. In my day job, I work alongside fellow academic directors of programs across different industries: health care, financial technology, digital marketing, communications, project management, etc. In our many, many conversations around AI, my counterparts share practical examples and applications about how AI is revolutionizing their industry; about how AI is being used to make jobs more efficient and innovative. They are playing offense with AI, a phrase coined by a friend in a meeting recently.

My “circle” remains educators, though, and in education, we largely remain in a defensive position. When AI gets brought up in education circles, particularly with teachers and administrators, conversations revolve around “How do we get kids to stop cheating with AI?” From a practitioner standpoint, I get it. We are looking to teach and promote independent and critical thinking. And what type of learning are students doing if they prompt ChatGPT to craft an essay and they copy and paste the response into their assignment?

But what if we were to add to our discussions an offensive mindset? What if we started talking about how AI could be used to promote the skills we are looking to teach, versus seeing AI as preventing them? For example, as the teacher, I can use AI to help me create a lesson where students are using critical thinking skills, but are not able to use AI to help. So I went over to ChatGPT to actually ask that question. Here’s how it went:

My prompt:

I need an idea for a 7th grade classroom that teaches critical thinking skills where AI cannot be used.


Escape Room Challenge

Create a physical or virtual escape room experience where students work in small teams to solve a series of puzzles or challenges. The key is to design puzzles that require critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills without relying on AI or technology beyond basic tools like pens, paper, and perhaps simple mechanical devices.

  • Scenario Setting: Set the theme of the escape room around a historical mystery, a scientific discovery, or a fictional problem.
  • Puzzles and Challenges: Design a variety of puzzles that require different types of critical thinking skills:
  • Logic Puzzles: Sudoku-like puzzles, riddles, or mathematical challenges.
  • Physical Challenges: Manipulating objects, decoding messages, or finding hidden clues.
  • Creative Thinking: Brainstorming solutions to hypothetical scenarios or crafting a narrative based on given clues.
  • Teamwork Emphasis: Structure the challenges so that students must collaborate and communicate effectively to succeed. Each puzzle could potentially unlock a clue to the next step, encouraging them to think sequentially and strategically.
  • Debriefing Discussion: After the activity, facilitate a debriefing session where students discuss their problem-solving approaches, what strategies worked best, and how they applied critical thinking skills.

This approach not only promotes critical thinking but also fosters teamwork, creativity, and effective communication—all crucial skills for 7th graders and beyond. By focusing on hands-on, interactive learning experiences, you can create a memorable and impactful lesson without relying on AI or advanced technology.


Okay, but what if as the teacher, you actually wanted to have students use AI as a part of the learning process. Let’s go back to my ChatGPT thread to ask “Now change this lesson so that AI is integrated into the process of the learning.”


AI-Enhanced Escape Room Challenge:

Scenario Setting: Set up a storyline where students are tasked with solving a mystery using AI as a tool.

Puzzles and Challenges:

  1. AI Data Analysis Puzzle: Provide students with a dataset related to the mystery (e.g., historical documents, scientific data, fictional clues). They use AI tools to analyze the data for patterns, anomalies, or hidden information that can unlock the next clue.
  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) Riddles: Create riddles or coded messages that require students to use AI-powered NLP tools to decipher meanings or uncover hidden clues within texts.
  3. Image Recognition Challenges: Incorporate puzzles where students must analyze and interpret images or symbols. They can use AI image recognition software to identify objects, decode symbols, or find visual clues.
  4. Simulation and Prediction Tasks: Include a challenge where students must make predictions or decisions based on simulated scenarios. They can use AI simulations or predictive models to explore different outcomes and make informed choices.

Teamwork Emphasis: Encourage students to collaborate on interpreting AI-generated insights and applying them to solve the puzzles. Each team member can take on different roles, such as data analyst, NLP specialist, or strategist, leveraging AI tools effectively.

Debriefing Discussion: After completing the escape room, facilitate a discussion on how AI tools assisted in problem-solving. Discuss the strengths and limitations of AI, ethical considerations, and how human critical thinking complemented AI capabilities.


As the teacher, I am still responsible for creating the means to make these lessons happen, I am responsible for facilitating the learning, scaffolding students as they move through the process, and assessing the learning. But I hope you can see the engagement levels that can be reached in these types of activities, and how AI very quickly helped me as a thought-partner in crafting this lesson. Interestingly, the benefits of AI (below – and yes, ChatGPT helped craft these) mimic many of the same desired outcomes we have as educators outside the discussion of AI.

  • Enhanced Learning Experience: Students gain hands-on experience using AI tools in a meaningful context, promoting digital literacy and technological fluency.
  • Critical Thinking Development: Encourages students to critically evaluate AI-generated insights, fostering a deeper understanding of data interpretation and decision-making processes.
  • Real-World Application: Shows practical applications of AI beyond traditional learning methods, preparing students for future technological advancements.

Does taking an offensive approach to AI as educators means we need to stop playing defense? Of course not. We need to make sure students still practice original thought and creation in their work. But I believe that two things can be true, and I can assure you that when our students matriculate into the real world, many of their future jobs will require them to have AI competencies. And if one of our goals as educators is to prepare our students for career-readiness, then we need to allow them to learn proper, ethical, and practical use of AI now.

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