How to use your ‘SPARK’ to get optimal results from AI

“Technology is not destiny. We shape our destiny.” This quote from Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s The Second Machine Age, Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, could not be more true in today’s era of education. Edtech has evolved into this brilliant, complex enhancement of the student learning process, especially when you bring artificial intelligence into the mix. However, despite the persistent stigma and concern surrounding AI, educators can harness its power to obtain skills that will make them irreplaceable.

The key is to develop a framework and attitude supported by design thinking, which focuses on the collaboration between designers and users. In the age of AI, it’s all about understanding how to get what you need from tools like ChatGPT in order to streamline tasks.

Sabba Quidwai, CEO of Designing Schools

“Innovation begins with empathy,” says Sabba Quidwai, CEO of Designing Schools, an organization that helps prepare people and businesses to obtain the necessary technological skills for the future through design thinking.

For instance, Quidwai spearheads The AI Bootcamp, a hybrid program that helps introduce educators and other professionals to AI and its capabilities. So far, the course has been a hit per Quidwai and the overwhelmingly positive testimonials on her website. Jennifer Meeter, edtech director at Huntington Beach Elementary, wrote that her perceptions about AI have completely changed for the better.

“Before Sabba, I was very very hesitant about AI,” she wrote. “After Sabba, I can’t imagine my personal or professional life without it. This doesn’t take away that, like anything, there are precautions to take with AI, but I now clearly see when used properly AI actually allows us to be MORE human, not less. Sabba’s boot camp thoroughly showed that AI does far more than mundane tasks and data. AI is not Google. AI can help identify themes, collaborate and dig much deeper than question answers. Sabba’s boot camp helped remove the fear of AI and moved me from ‘no way’ to ‘how did I live life without it?'”

She says her mission with the bootcamp is to help folks leverage AI as a way to “turn obstacles into opportunities.” Just think of all the bureaucratic struggles and mundane responsibilities educators are tasked with each day. A person is only capable of so much, she explains, and the student learning experience is inevitably what suffers as a result.

“The goal of the bootcamp is to show you how you can use design thinking to problem solve through things by thinking of AI tools as members of your team,” she says. “Who would you hire? What tasks would you delegate?”

It’s hard to come up with solutions for your problems all the time, she adds. Thankfully, AI can relieve up to 70% of your workload. But it’s up to the user to identify the initial problem, underscoring the fact that AI can never replace the human element.

“We really try to break out of this idea of using AI tools to automate existing work,” she explains. “How do we use our AI tools to design new ways of work to give us more freedom and time in ways that are aligned with our values?”

If you’re struggling with that concept or you don’t know where to start, try using the framework taught in “Quadwai’s” AI course: “SPARK.”

It’s an acronym that serves as a guide to help users engineer their prompts to get exactly what they want from artificial intelligence. AI can only produce content in response to what she describes as “the human spark.” But oftentimes, educators struggle to leverage this technology in a way that truly captures its capabilities. Here’s a tip: The more specific, the better.

Say you’re describing your job responsibilities to ChatGPT and you tell it that you’re an
“expert biology teacher” or another generic persona. Quidwai says that because these chatbots are pulling from a large pool of already existing data, you’re likely to get a generic response in return.

“When you take the time to define your own expertise, you’re defining what expertise means in your own context,” she says.

You can do so by following “SPARK”:

  • Share your situation
  • Share your problem
  • Describe your aspirations
  • What results are you looking for?
  • Kismet: Ask your AI tool for three to four ideas or strategies to help you get started

“The last step is probably the most game-changing,” she declares. “Once you see three to four new strategies, ideas you didn’t think of 20-30 seconds earlier come flooding out your brain. It’s the most interesting phenomenon I’ve ever experienced.”

The beauty of this framework is that it can be used with or without an AI tool, she adds. It’s meant to foster strong conversations and collaboration.

“We often tell people not to start with an AI tool,” she says. “Find another person and interview each other and use the notes you’ve taken as the foundation for your prompt. We call it prompting the human before the machine.”

Quidwai wants educators to understand how valuable they are. In her book coming out soon, she writes that the teaching profession ought to be revered and respected, yet it’s so far removed from that.

“I can’t think of another industry that touches the lives of every single person the way educators do,” she says.

If we really believe that the job market is going to change in the next several years because of AI and other technology, then how will we succeed if our teachers aren’t prepared and upskilled for this era, she asks. Harnessing AI is a perfect start.

If you’re still on the fence about AI or you’re simply unfamiliar with the tool, Quidwai recommends that you start out by taking notes throughout the week on the tasks you wish you didn’t have to do or that eat up the most time.

For example, she cites a recent report from Grammarly highlighting the state of business communication which revealed that the average worker spends nearly 20 hours a week on written communication. That alone can be streamlined by AI.

“Any time you have that feeling of, ‘Oh I wish I didn’t have to do this when I get home,’ write it down,” she says. “One observation that I’ve made is that we’re so used to doing things that we don’t want to be doing that if somebody were to ask you what they are, you wouldn’t be able to list them. You might have one or two, but we have no idea how many things we do during the day that can be delegated to AI.”