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Generative AI on steroids for science students

A ready-to-go example mini assignment to up skill you and your students to use GenAi as creators not consumers.

I thought nothing is a better teacher than a concrete example. Following that theme, this assignment below models for students first and then lays the foundations for their next step. It models how to create an AI agent. An agent (see this blog) is a tool you craft out of Generative AI to achieve a specific purpose. There are two agents modelled for students in this mini-assignment example. The first one is a tool to help then find a human hormone of interest to them personally. The second is a revision agent to quiz them and correct any scientific errors in their thinking. Now, agents are usually crafted with coding wrappers around a Large Language Model (python is popular and easy) BUT you can create an acceptable agent within a chat-bot by using effective prompts. I refined these using Microsoft's Copilot because it is free for most students and my access has privacy protection (not sure if that is true for all).

Try the second agent without the instruction to carefully check student responses for scientific errors and doing it "step by step". You will notice that it breezes over fundamental errors in the student's thinking without highlighting their misconceptions. So this is a lovely starting point for learning how to craft agent-creating prompts to suit your purpose. Weirdly, the "work on this problem step-by-step does make a difference and usually results in better outcomes.

After the assignment, have fun with your class getting them to imagine a useful agent (perhaps for the nervous system). Perhaps their next assignment could be a journal of how they refined their prompts, tested the results and re-refined to create a robust and useful agent.

These prompts took me about 10 minutes to try-test-break-rework-try again. Sure, they could be better - get your students to improve them!

Oh, and I also modelled the "traffic lights" signalling to students about which parts are OK to use GenAI for and which parts they need to lean on their own creativity.


Student mini-assignment: Endocrine system (as presented to students)

What to do: Find out about ONE hormone of your choice in DEPTH

Product: Some creative way to demonstrate your knowledge

Choose ANY hormone you are interested in

How to choose a hormone: If you have permission, use a GenerativeAI (like ChatGPT, Copilot, Lamda, Gemini, etc). Use my prompt below: 

I am a Year 9 student in Australia and ask your assistance to choose a human hormone that might interest me. Please ask me a series of questions about my interests and then use those to suggest 3 hormones I can choose from. Please present the hormones in a table with the headings: hormone name, gland excreted by, main function, why you think it might interest me. Work on this problem carefully, step by step. Remember you must start by asking me questions about my personal interests.

If you refined this prompt and got a better response, please share this with me and the class.

Research this hormone and take hand-written SUMMARY notes as you go, using these headings below. If you can't find or are not sure - try your best but then move on. It is OK to use Generative AI for this part too, as long as you fact-check what it says using reputable sources of information. GenerativeAI (second generation) are still prone to making things up.

  1. Name the hormone (spell it correctly)

  2. Identify what causes it to be released - what is being sensed by the body?

  3. What is the usual "set point"

  4. Name and locate the sensors

  5. Name and locate the gland

  6. Name and locate the organ[s] with receptors for this hormone

  7. Describe the changes this hormone causes

  8. Explain HOW this is part of homeostasis

Check your understanding. If you are able to, use a GenerativeAI. Copy and paste my prompt below:

I am a student of science in Year 9 in Australia and I have studied  one specific hormone of the human body. Please test my knowledge by asking me questions, one at a time. At the end, explain to me how I can improve my understanding in three simple dot points. Work on this problem step by step and only ask me one question at a time. Your first question must be asking me the name of the hormone that I have chosen. Keep asking me questions about this hormone until I ask you to stop and provide feedback. Review my answers carefully and make sure you correct any scientific errors on my part. Work on this part step by step and carefully.

From this point - develop your own creativity by working on this on your own. In other words, do not use GenerativeAI past this point.

Now, turn this understanding into something to demonstrate your understanding. It needs to teach someone about your chosen hormone. You can choose from:

  • A rap or song

  • A poem

  • A hand-drawn creative artwork

  • A comic book featuring cells or hormones (or whatever)  as the characters

  • A stop-motion animation

  • A TV science segment about your hormone

You have a budget of 3 lessons (plus homework time) to complete - so keep it doable in that time.

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