Using AI to assist with Unit Studies

AI - Artificial Intelligence - love it, hate it, or not sure?  I'm still on the fence!  That is a typical writer's response to a perceived threat.

I've been testing it out though, and I think it's a great tool for generating ideas.  For example, today I logged into ChatGPT and asked it to "write a 4 week unit study for children aged 5-7 who are learning about the countries around the world, especially developing nations and less common countries, and include food, stories, and art, as well as academic learning."  

For me to plan this would take maybe an hour or more, and for someone new to homeschooling, it could take a few hours.  In under a minute, ChatGPT gave me this:

Title: Exploring Our World: A 4-Week Unit Study for Children Aged 5-7

Week 1: Africa - A Continent of Rich Cultures
Introduce the concept of continents and explain that we will be starting our journey in Africa, a diverse continent.
Display a world map and locate Africa.
Share interesting facts about Africa, such as its size, population, and unique wildlife.

Academic Learning:
Teach basic geography skills: identifying Africa on a map, recognizing major countries (e.g., Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria), and understanding basic landforms (e.g., mountains, rivers).
Introduce children to diverse African cultures, languages, and traditions.
Teach some common phrases in a few African languages, such as greetings.

Explore African cuisine by introducing children to popular dishes from different regions (e.g., Jollof rice from West Africa, injera from East Africa).
Prepare a simple recipe together, such as South African bobotie or Nigerian puff puff.

Read African folktales or children's books set in Africa, such as "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" by Verna Aardema or "Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti" by Gerald McDermott.

Create African-inspired artwork, such as traditional masks, using paper plates and colorful paints.
Learn about African tribal patterns and create a collaborative mural using various art supplies.

... and so on for four continents over four weeks.  It wasn't on the mark with some aspects of my request, but it did have some ideas and specific suggestions I hadn't thought of myself. You do need to fact-check what is generated, of course.  I didn't check the above, as I only got it as an example for this post.  Spelling is US English and we use UK or Australian English, but since it's just notes for a parent, that's not so important.

ChatGPT and similar programs can generate homeschooling plans, lesson plans, unit studies, learning co-op sessions, and much more.  By asking it to 'continue to generate' or continuing the conversation with instructions such as "rewrite this with more simple activities, and add further suggestions for art, music, and include movies and documentaries too", you can make the plan better suited to your child's needs.

AI is part of some of our frequently-used software such as Khan Academy and Duolingo in that these track progress and tailor content to the learner's abilities.  The latest AI tools are a leap ahead, and may be useful for planning, reporting, problem solving, and feedback on written work.  For teens who are interested in I.T., this is something new to explore with consideration of a possible career path.

There is certainly a lot of controversy around the use of AI in education, and there are plenty of articles and debates out there to read and watch, here's a closer look at the pros and cons of ChatGPT from EdTech.  I suggest families look into it themselves, and have a go if it interests you.

Tip: Menu planning to use up what's left in the fridge/freezer with grocery lists to a specified budget and dietary needs is a popular ChatGPT request for parents!  The more details you give, the better the ideas you'll generally get out.  And remember, if it's not right, ask it to refine the answer with brief instructions like, "make the meals have less carbohydrates" or "omit eggs from this menu" or "make one meal vegetarian".  Have fun!



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