It’s so refreshing to talk to an educator who is genuinely excited about bringing artificial intelligence into the classroom. This seemingly unstoppable force of futuristic brain power has sparked legitimate fear in the hearts of teachers working hard to keep a handle on fairness and legitimacy in academia. Indeed, the threat of what AI can allow students to get away with not doing, has so far overshadowed what students can actually do with it.
For Donna Lubrano, Virtual Exchange Officer at United Planet – an international volunteer organization focused on building global community, with a strong scholarship component – AI is a tool like any other, with a huge potential to accelerate innate creativity. Lubrano is currently spearheading a digital storytelling pilot program that brings together 60 students from 3 classrooms in 3 different countries to create an AI-illustrated book project around three global themes, and she’s using Linkr to pull it off.
A Visual Storytelling Dream
The goal of the program is to introduce students from Grade 6 through Grade 11 to the power of AI as a tool for image generation in a defined, directed, and safe space. In the first 4 weeks, students work on scripts centering around the topics of climate change, food security, and equity and inclusion. In the last 4 weeks they use Microsoft’s Bing AI image creator to illustrate their work. Students will quickly discover the importance of meta knowledge, conceptualization, and clarity. How many prompts before you get the perfect visual? Students will learn that AI will never think for them, and that it takes a lot of creativity, intelligence, and problem-solving to give the AI image generator the right instruction to create the output they’re looking for.
One of the features that make Linkr the perfect platform for this type of project is an interface that allows commenting and discussion around any posted item. As students post iterative drafts of their scripts and accompanying imagery, teammates can comment on, question, and discuss each element separately, while having all resources, drafts, and iterations organized and in the same place. This incredible freedom allows for maximum innovation and growth within the program framework.
As organizations like United Planet push the envelope on cross-cultural learning in the global village, many are outgrowing their institutional tech, and as Lubrano warns, “the last thing you want is for your tech to confine innovation.”
Image created using Microsoft's Bing Image Creator
Community vs Classrooms
Coming from an academic background, Lubrano has experience with multiple learning management software platforms to run various programs. While each platform was useful in its own way to get projects done, the overarching goal for every program was continually missed – that was and still is, to create a community of learners around a program or topic. With traditional LMS and CMS’s, once the program or project is over, all connections made within it disappear. It’s up to individuals to track each other down and keep in touch, or find a new virtual space to come together in. That last box turns out to be one of the most important to tick.
Linkr’s “in perpetuity” feature, where you can remain a member for life, even after whatever program or class you were a part of has long since graduated, allows participants to continue relationships easily and naturally. The fact that the Linkr interface is far more reminiscent of a social media platform than an academic LMS, makes bond-building over learning that much better. For Lubrano, it’s an ideal environment for the type of cultural programs United Planet offers, which are far more focused on quality engagement vs quantifying stats through quizzes and tests. For her, Linkr is the most interpersonal LMS she’s ever worked with. “It allows members to cross boundaries between personal and topic, opening up exciting possibilities for alumni engagement down the line.”
The "Virtual Exchange: Digital Storytelling Using AI Image Generators" program is a first for United Planet, and part of a concerted effort to move the organization’s programs into the 21st century. However, this isn't the first UP program using Linkr. "Virtual Exchange: Voices of the Earth" was their first program to run on Linkr in 2022, followed by "Virtual Exchange: Global Goals" in 2023. For Lubrano, Linkr is the perfect partner to leap with into this exciting future. With all the features in place to dynamically engage in real-time with the topic, it’s not surprising that both teachers and students are already having a blast. Lubrano's hope is that the project takes flight and helps frame virtual exchange as a broad palette of enriching experiences, where AI is seen as just another tool to drive creativity and thought.
We’re very excited to see the results of United Planet’s digital storytelling program, and rather thrilled that Linkr is holding space for such progressive dreams to come true.