Bridging Knowledge Gaps with AI

Meet Barbara Anna Zielonka, a high school educator at Nannestad High School in Norway, is pioneering the integration of AI into education to foster critical thinking and to help students boost their linguistic and research skills. As the creator of AI Advisory Boards, she also provides guidance to fellow educators on establishing these boards in schools and shares lesson plans, and the latest trends, research and innovations in the field of AI.

This month she is our Teaching with Machines Maverick! Learn how she and her students are harnessing the power of AI that goes beyond task reduction and into innovation!

Below, in her own words, Barbara describes her process of using hexagonal thinking and AI in a lesson focusing on sustainable development goals.

Every April and May, my students embark on a journey to explore the diverse facets of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and sustainable lifestyle. While sustainable food, beauty, and fashion often take center stage, I encourage my students to exercise their agency and select any topic that resonates with their passions within the world of sustainability.

As an advocate of hexagonal thinking, I previously created a set of physical hexagons to facilitate students' understanding of the intricate connections between different goals and subgoals. This year, I was glad to discover the online version of this activity, named “SDGs Hive Minds”, which eliminates the need for printing materials and embraces a more environmentally friendly approach.

The biggest advantage of Hive Minds is that there are no right or wrong answers. The most important thing is to have fun while engaging in meaningful discussions about global challenges and sustainable futures. This fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives, regardless of their language proficiency or background. 

To begin, I divided my students into groups of three, ensuring efficient use of technology. To assess their grasp of the interconnectedness between various SDGs, I incorporated hexagonal thinking. I find this approach particularly valuable because it allows students to explore the complex relationships between different goals in a visual and engaging way. The hexagons serve as a springboard for discussions, prompting students to consider the various connections and implications of each goal.

Recognizing that some students might encounter challenges in identifying these connections, I encouraged them to use ChatGPT/Copilot as a valuable resource to overcome obstacles and foster deeper comprehension. AI proved to be a valuable tool in enhancing their understanding and participation. When a student encountered a concept, they didn't fully grasp, AI translated it into their native language, making it easier to comprehend. Additionally, AI's ability to simplify complex ideas into more accessible terms further facilitated their understanding. Moreover, AI served as a collaborative tool, enabling students to communicate with each other in their native languages, fostering collaboration and mutual understanding within the group. By integrating AI into the learning process, students who were not native English speakers were able to fully participate and contribute their unique perspectives to the discussion, creating a more inclusive and enriching learning experience for everyone involved.

Here is how you can replicate this activity in your own classroom:

  1. Choose a challenge, common goal, or question: This will guide the construction of the hive. For example, "How can we make Nannestad High School more sustainable?"

  2. Navigate to: +

3. Select the hexagons: Choose a set of hexagons to build the hive. You can either choose the 17 SDGs hexagons, hexagons related to a specific SDG, or all 187 hexagons.

4.Divide and reflect on ideas and trends: Once the hexagons are chosen, divide them equally among the participants. If someone doesn’t understand a concept, they can ask for help from others and collectively define it. Use a glossary (click on the tiny “I” icon) if there are terms you do not understand.

  1. Make connections and discuss: Students take turns contributing a hexagon to the hive, considering the common goal. Justify the placement of each hexagon and explain its relationship to other hexagons. All hexagons should be connected to at least one other hexagon. Use guiding questions to support the justification process.

  2. Use AI for assistance: If you are stuck and unable to explain connections between hexagons, you can use AI as a resource/tutor. AI can provide insights, suggestions, or additional information to help you better understand and articulate the relationships between hexagons.

  3. Reach a consensus and share: The game concludes when a consensus is reached among group members regarding the structure of the hive and the proposed connections. Hexagons can be moved if agreed upon by all students. The constructed ecosystem serves as a visual representation of collective imaginations and can be shared to propose present and possible futures for making Nannestad High School more sustainable.

Below you can see three beehives created by my vocational students:

Thank you so much Barbara for sharing the amazing work you are doing with your students and identifying the role of AI as a learning tool for your classes.

Barbara encourages you to reach out to her should you have any questions. You can email her at [email protected], connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on X.

If you’re an educator and would like to share with the world what amazing things you are doing with AI, don’t hesitate to reach out and become the next Teaching with Machines Maverick. Just hit reply to this email!

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I love reading your feedback, it helps me design effective solutions for others. I try to respond to all my emails. Just hit reply to this email. Rooting for you and your students! Love, M.

Beep. Boop.

Need more guidance? I can help you, friend! Here’s how:

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