Inspired by past educators, Aida Hadzovic has built a reputation for innovative teaching strategies for English. Hadzovic earned a degree in English education and later pursued a science degree in part because of the demand for science teachers in Brooklyn, New York. Her diverse background in teaching writing, science and coding positioned her well to participate in the Project Topeka pilot, a multifaceted AI program that gave real-time feedback to students to support the development of argumentative writing skills. Recently, EdSurge spoke to Hadzovic about her experiences using AI in her instructional practices in middle school English classes.
EdSurge: How did using AI tools in your classroom change your approach to teaching writing?
Hadzovic: At first, to be honest, I was hesitant. Like many teachers, I wasn’t sure about using AI in my teaching. However, I think it has been a game-changer in terms of how I approach writing and teaching. I now tell students that the writing experience is not as much about the final product but rather the journey. Project Topeka has helped me as a teacher to educate students about the importance of revision. Through this writing process, they can have their own epiphanies.
I also use AI to create sample writings. Then I have students decipher whether the sample is accurate. They break it down and determine whether the evidence is reliable, reasonable and relevant. This helps them practice the writing and revision process and understand that there are sometimes errors in AI tools.
In what ways have you used AI tools to personalize instruction for students?
My classes have a lot of English language learners, and they speak a multitude of languages. With AI tools, I can provide them with visuals or a lower Lexile level reading rate. But it’s important to remember that everyone learns differently, and there’s no one size fits all. So, in a class of 30 students, every single student needs personalized instruction. And using AI tools makes personalized learning more obtainable.
How have your students responded to the integration of AI in their writing?
Some students expressed concerns at the start. They were worried about using AI in the grading process. I tell students that these are the tools that exist, and we’re going to use them to help us get better. It is really a matter of explaining the way AI works in the writing process, that the AI tool is looking for specific language. We talk about this being an input-output situation, and with practice, they can figure out the desired components and—in their mind—beat the system. But here’s the exciting reality: what they’re doing is improving their writing and learning about input-output relationships. I guide them and prompt them until they come to their own conclusion about how to get a better outcome. And it becomes this interdisciplinary lesson—part science, part math, part writing—where the students learn cause-and-effect problem solving. It’s not just teaching them about AI learning but also how they can change certain aspects and get a better outcome.
How do you ensure that learning opportunities are equitable for your students when using the AI tool?
I think that giving everybody the opportunity to experience AI is the first step to making it equitable. Where I teach in New York, we have culturally responsive educational training and a lot of it involves recognizing your own bias. So sometimes using AI tools in class is an opportunity for us to talk about our own bias, how bias can be present in AI and how we need to be aware of it. I think having open discussions with students about this and really listening to their ideas and perspectives is a starting point. I teach students that AI is a tool; it can be used to push us or provide scaffolding. But I also have students recognize their own agency in this process. They need to be critical thinkers in order to use this tool properly.
What role do you see AI playing in the future of teaching and learning writing skills?
AI can be used as a revising and editing tool for students. We can teach students how to use AI to maximize their resources and expand their horizons when writing. AI also increases efficiency for teachers grading lots of writing.
As with any technology, AI is a tool that can be used to make us better at a skill. We need to help students to use AI responsibly, and we do that by practicing with it in the classroom. AI isn’t going away. So we need to guide students on how AI tools can be beneficial but also talk about things like unconscious bias and critical consumption. I try to teach my students to question more critically and use AI as a tool—but not a full answer.
To learn more about using AI systems to support and augment classroom teaching and Digital Promise’s work with AI, visit our Artificial Intelligence in Education webpage and read about our recent AI work.