For the past 6 months I’ve been opening keynotes and workshops with one question:
When thinking about your role, who do you want to be?
Another way to think about this is, how would you want people to describe you? It’s a question inspired by the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. And every single time one word comes out on top.
I N S P I R A T I O N A L
It’s closely followed by caring, facilitator, supportive, and one of my favorites, “I want to be that guy.”
I start with this question because as we prepare to have a conversation about AI, I love having the room echo with the qualities that make us uniquely human. This method eases the fear and anxiety in the room, opening up people to be curious and optimistic as we discuss the role of AI.
Clear’s premise is that our habits shape our identity and, conversely, our identity shapes our habits. For instance, if you see yourself as someone who values health and fitness, you would naturally align your habits—like working out regularly or choosing a balanced diet—with this identity. Drawing inspiration from Clear, this blog post shares a strategy for co-creating policies with students.
Co-Creating AI Policies with Students Using Design Thinking
The Plagiarism Challenge and AI: An Opportunity for Change
In education one of the most discussed topics, and perhaps greatest fears when it comes to Ai is plagiarism. With the advent of AI, this issue has taken on a new dimension. Stefan Bauschard, author of recently shared, “How I Defeated a Plagiarism Detector Using Just 2 Words. In a litigious society like the United States, accusing anyone of plagiarism or using AI tools is a losing battle given that there are no AI detector tools that have any credibility.
And as Stefan shares, it takes just 2 words to minimize AI detection scores.
Bringing Atomic Habits to Schools
Instead of enforcing strict rules or policies, what if we encouraged students to identify as responsible digital citizens who use AI ethically? When someone cheats and we label them a cheater, it’s not just about that one action. It’s about attaching an identity to that person. And that’s powerful because people tend to act in line with their identity.
If you see yourself as an honest student or a reliable worker, you’d be less likely to cheat because it goes against who you are. What if we helped students develop an identity that values originality and integrity? If students see themselves as honest learners who respect others’ intellectual property, they’d be less inclined to plagiarize.
It’s not about rules—it’s about identity.
To achieve this, we need to challenge traditional paradigms. Instead of measuring students solely through tests and assignments, let’s focus on who they’re becoming.
Are they learning to use AI tools responsibly?
Are they becoming problem-solvers, creative thinkers, or leaders?
In other words, how might we foster an environment where students identify themselves as ethical, responsible learners and naturally align their actions with these identities? In our new AI-driven world, leading with identity and values could be our strongest asset.
Leading with this mindset is the opening lesson in our course, “The AI Bootcamp: How to Unlock Your Human Advantage in an AI-World.” After running an incredibly successful inaugural cohort, we’re opening enrollment again for those who want to take a proactive approach to the start of the school year. Here’s an example of how you could facilitate this activity with your learners at the start of the school year.
Why Design Thinking?
One of my favorite quotes about design thinking comes from Don Norman where he says, “A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.”
With AI moving as rapidly as it is, it’s essential we focus on the right problem. I often compare the influence AI will have on society to social media. It’s hard to believe it but we’ve had social media tools for about 2 decades now. 20 years. We failed to address it in a proactive way, and today the results are clear. Some people have benefited tremendously, while others have struggled, and continue to do so. We’re already seeing the same with AI. But we can’t wait 20 years for people like the surgeon general make news with headlines like this:
It’s too little, too late. And we can’t afford to make the same mistake again. Design thinking and futures thinking form a powerful duo to solve complex challenges like social media and AI. Problems to which there are no defined answers.
Design thinking, a method and mindset, involves understanding the people you’re designing for, thinking creatively to generate a diverse range of ideas, and prototyping and testing solutions. On the other hand, futures thinking broadens our perspective by considering multiple possible futures and how our actions today can shape them.
In the context of crafting AI policies in education, these approaches invite us to empathize with students, ideate innovative policy guidelines, and anticipate various future scenarios. They promote a human-centric, ethical, and forward-looking view on integrating AI into our classrooms. They allow us to ask: How might we co-create AI policies that uphold our shared values, inspire adherence, and prepare us for a future intertwined with AI?
Back to School with Atomic Habits: A Design Thinking Activity
To put this into action, here is a mini design thinking activity that encourages schools to shape the future of their learning experience in a world with AI by co-creating a policy with their learners. This is an activity we have been doing with school leaders as they prepare for Fall, and is included in the AI Leadership Toolkit that is part of our online course.
Ultimately our teachers need something they can implement immediately, This experience can be done in anywhere between 60-90 minutes, and is a fantastic way to build trust and create a culture of innovation in classes that begins with empathy.
Let’s walk through each stage of the process. For each stage, I’ll share how you can model use of ChatGPT.
This is the first stage of the design thinking process and what makes design thinking unique – the use of empathy. We put our assumptions aside and engage in conversation to learn about one another, and share experiences. Here you can put students into pairs and have them share their learning process and their perspectives on AI’s role in their academic lives.
Here are some questions you can share to spark their conversation:
- How do you currently learn best?
- What areas do you struggle with?
- What challenges do you face in your learning journey?
- What parts of learning do you enjoy the most?
- Have you had any experiences with AI tools in your learning journey so far? If so, could you share a specific story about how it impacted your learning? If not, what kind of AI tool do you imagine could support your learning, and how?
This is a great opportunity to model how ChatGPT can be used to extend the learning experience using this prompt:
Hello ChatGPT, we’re doing a design thinking experience in our English class to shape an AI policy for our English class. Our goal is to understand how AI can align with our identities, uphold our values, and navigate the challenges it presents. To start, we’re in the empathize phase. Could you help us craft questions that promote deep discussions about students’ identities, values, learning experiences, and their views on the role and challenges of AI in education?
You can find the full ChatGPT conversation here.
Ask the class what questions they like, and give them a few moments to answer them.
Then as a group, have the students share and identify themes that . Use these themes to define the area you want to focus on in the next stage.
In this second stage, we’ll take the themes from the empathize phase and distill them into a shared challenge or aspiration. The aim is to articulate a ‘How Might We’ question that encapsulates the students’ shared experiences and aspirations.
As an example, let’s say that from the conversations, a few key themes emerged:
- students loved the idea of more personalized and interactive learning
- they are curious about using AI tools but worried about ethical implications
- they are eager for more project-based learning but struggle with time management
From these insights, we could formulate a ‘How Might We’ question such as: “How might we create an AI policy that supports personalized, project-based learning, helps manage time effectively, and ensures ethical use of AI tools in our English class?”
Create a How Might We… Statement
After the class has identified the themes, show how ChatGPT can be used to extend learning using this prompt: ChatGPT, we’ve found these recurring themes in our conversations: ‘project-based learning’, ‘ethical considerations’, ‘personalized learning’. Could you help us construct a ‘How Might We’ question that encapsulates these insights?
This question gives a direction for the ideation stage and ensures that the solutions generated will resonate with the students’ lived experiences and aspirations. Now that we are solving the correct problem, we can move ahead and design a solution.
This phase is the epicenter of creativity where students explore a variety of solutions to our ‘How Might We’ question. Remember, no idea is too wild here; we’re trying to open up all possibilities. Students may also suggest values-based learning projects using design thinking that are co created with AI tools, ways to use AI to foster deeper connections between subjects, or methods for AI to encourage more self-reflection and self-direction in their learning. They might brainstorm how AI could be harnessed to provide real-time feedback during the project development process or how it could support their individual learning goals.
Once the students have their initial set of ideas you can model how to use ChatGPTChatGPT, we need to brainstorm solutions to our ‘How Might We’ question. Can you help us generate ideas on how AI could support project-based, personalized learning and ethical considerations in our English class?
In the next phase we’ll narrow down the wild ideas, and focus on creating an initial prototype. Remember, a prototype is not a final product; it’s a living, evolving representation of the students’ shared vision. Its main goal is to invite feedback, and spark discussions.
Drawing from these ideas, students will construct a draft AI policy reflecting their collective vision for a values-driven, project-based learning environment. The policy might include guidelines on how AI should be used to promote ethical thinking, foster curiosity and creativity, and enhance interdisciplinary learning. For instance, there could be a provision that AI would be used to help students see connections between their English class and other subjects, tying in real-world issues and themes. The policy might also articulate ways AI could support self-paced, personalized learning and how it could help students gain a deeper understanding of their learning style and preferences.
It’s at this moment that AI tools can really accelerate our ability to go from idea to implementation. You could draft a policy, or you can simply ask ChatGPT to work with all the information you’ve created.
Through this design thinking experience your prototype policy does not merely focus on AI tools and plagiarism detection but on how AI can serve the core values and goals of education, turning a class into an inspiring and engaging learning journey.
In a world rapidly embracing AI, every action we take, every conversation we hold, every choice we make, sends a direct or indirect message about how we navigate this new frontier. The Design Thinking activity we’ve explored here is more than just a project—it’s an opportunity to shape the narrative of AI in our classrooms. It is a chance to reflect upon and redefine the role of AI in education from a standpoint of empathy and collaboration.
Design Thinking provides us with a framework and mindset that encourages innovation, creativity, and most importantly, human-centric solutions. By actively involving students in shaping their AI-inclusive educational experience, we’re empowering them to become critical thinkers and responsible digital citizens. We’re teaching them to consider not just the capabilities of AI, but the ethical implications, the societal impact, and the potential for innovation.
Embrace the potential of AI
The power of this method lies not just in its ability to solve problems, but in its potential to inspire. It provokes us to question the status quo, to imagine what could be, and also to take an active role in shaping our futures. This isn’t just about teaching students to navigate a world with AI—it’s about equipping them with the skills, mindset, and confidence to transform that world for the better.
Remember, AI is not a distant, detached concept—it’s an integral part of our world that will increasingly impact our lives. So, let’s embrace this opportunity. Let’s use design thinking to inspire our students, to foster meaningful conversations, to encourage critical thinking, and to craft innovative solutions. The future of education is in our hands, and together, we can ensure it’s a future that respects and uplifts every learner in an AI-driven world.
I encourage you to try out this Design Thinking activity in your own classrooms, to be open to the potential of AI, and to embrace the journey of learning and growth it brings. After all, the best way to predict the future is to create it. So let’s create it together, with empathy, creativity, and courage. Let’s empower our students to be not just consumers of AI, but active, informed, and ethical shapers of it.
Join the AI Bootcamp
If you’re interested in learning about how to leverage AI in your work and life then I invite you to learn more about the AI Bootcamp. And if you made it this far, I appreciate you reading 🙂
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I believe that the future should be designed. Not left to chance.
Over the past decade, using design thinking practices I've helped schools and businesses create a culture of innovation where everyone is empowered to move from idea to impact, to address complex challenges and discover opportunities.