We are thrilled to introduce new developments of Active Learning with AI. We have learned that readers of the book are in fact adapting the ideas in creative ways, and would like to share those with the broader community. The first such post is below, from Jay Larson, and we welcome any other such contributions. Please contact us to have your activity posted.

I was inspired by your government activity at the end of Chapter 7 to try the following, and I think it could be powerful for our learners in Kenya, who are learning about graphic design. We could even have them create infographics on their own, then upload two different students' graphics for the whole class to compare and then debate.

The AI is really good at supporting thinking around the images. Apparently, GPT does not yet support sharing of conversations with images, so I've copy/pasted.

Create two images describing the checks and balances of the US government. You're the teacher, ask me a series of questions (awaiting my response after each) to help me decide which image is better.

Now that we have two images representing the checks and balances of the US government, let's discuss which one might be better for educational purposes.

First, consider the first image, which illustrates the legislative, executive, and judicial branches with their respective iconic symbols connected by arrows.

How effective do you think this representation is in conveying the concept of checks and balances to someone learning about it for the first time?

Pretty good, but it doesn't show how they interact

Understood, the first image shows the branches and their connections but may lack details on the specifics of their interactions.

Now, let's consider the second image, which uses geometric shapes to abstractly represent the branches of government, with bidirectional arrows indicating their interactions.

Do you think the abstract approach using shapes instead of specific buildings makes the concept of checks and balances more understandable, or does it lose context by not depicting the actual institutions?

It's unclear to me what they represent

That feedback is helpful. The abstract approach might require additional context or explanation for learners to understand which shapes represent which branches of government and how they interact within the system of checks and balances.

Given this, it seems that while both images have their strengths, there may also be limitations in each for effectively conveying the checks and balances system.

Considering your feedback on both images:

Do you think combining elements of both approaches, such as using recognizable symbols for each branch and clearer indicators of interaction, would create a more effective teaching tool?

Or is there one aspect of either image that you find particularly effective or appealing for educational purposes?

The first one is more compelling to me, because it gives me more to grasp when considering what things mean, e.g. the bird

That's a valuable insight. The first image, with its recognizable symbols for each branch of the government—the Capitol for the legislative branch, the White House for the executive, and the Supreme Court for the judicial—provides concrete imagery that can help anchor the concept of checks and balances more firmly in the learner's mind. These symbols can indeed make the abstract concept of checks and balances more tangible, especially when learning about the specific roles and powers of each branch.

Since you find the first image more compelling for its concrete representations, let's focus on enhancing understanding through that approach:

Would incorporating brief descriptions or examples of how each branch checks the others directly on or alongside the image improve its educational value for you?

Also, how important do you think it is to show specific examples of interactions, like legislation being reviewed by the Supreme Court, or the President vetoing a bill?

The interactions are important - along with descriptions

Great, your feedback highlights a crucial aspect of teaching the checks and balances system: the importance of not only identifying each branch of government but also clearly illustrating and explaining their interactions and how they check and balance each other.

To make the first image a more effective educational tool, it would be beneficial to:

Add Descriptions: Include brief, clear descriptions next to each branch's symbol, outlining its main functions and powers.

Highlight Interactions: Use labeled arrows or lines to denote specific interactions, such as the legislative branch passing laws, the executive branch having the power to veto, and the judicial branch's ability to declare laws unconstitutional.

Provide Examples: Where space allows, include real-world examples of these processes in action to help learners connect the concept to actual events or decisions.

This approach combines visual elements with textual explanations to cater to different learning styles, making the concept more accessible and understandable.

For future lessons or discussions on this topic, would you prefer materials that always combine visual elements with explanatory text, or do you think there's a place for more abstract representations, perhaps as a complementary tool?

The abstract ideas could lead me to stretch my mind to come up with meaning, like some abstract paintings

That's an insightful perspective. Abstract representations, much like abstract art, can indeed encourage deeper reflection and creative thinking. They prompt learners to interpret the concepts actively, making connections based on their understanding and insights. This approach can complement more concrete, detailed representations by offering a different angle from which to engage with the material.

Using both concrete and abstract representations allows for a broader educational strategy:

Concrete for Foundation: Begin with concrete, detailed images and explanations to establish a solid understanding of the checks and balances system. This ensures that learners have a clear grasp of the fundamental concepts and the roles of each branch of government.

Abstract for Exploration: Introduce abstract representations as learners become more comfortable with the basics. This encourages them to think critically about the relationships and powers of each branch, inviting them to explore the material in a more conceptual manner.

This dual approach can cater to diverse learning styles and preferences, offering multiple pathways to understanding complex concepts.

How do you feel about using abstract ideas as a secondary tool for deeper engagement after establishing a foundational understanding with more concrete materials?

That's a good idea, perhaps I could give you instructions on how to improve the abstract art and which descriptions to include

Absolutely, that sounds like a productive approach. Tailoring the abstract representation with your specific instructions can help create a more meaningful educational tool. You can guide the adjustments to the abstract art based on what aspects you found intriguing or what elements you think would enhance its educational value. Similarly, for the descriptions, focusing on key points or concepts that you believe need emphasis can make the material more impactful.

Let's start with the abstract art:

Visual Elements: What adjustments or additions would you like to see in the abstract representation? This could include changing the shapes, colors, or the way interactions are depicted.

Symbolism: Are there specific symbols or motifs you think should be included to represent the checks and balances more effectively?

And for the descriptions:

Key Concepts: What are the crucial points about checks and balances that you think should be highlighted in the descriptions?

Interactions: Which specific interactions between the branches do you find most essential or interesting to include in the explanatory text?