AI in Education: Navigating the Impact on the Literacy Classroom


“The age of AI is not merely a step forward in the realm of technology, it is a leap into the unknown.”

Source: ChatGPT

We stand at the precipice of a linguistic revolution, and with the advent of ChatGPT and other AI models, there is no way we can imagine where this will lead. This technology is not only here to stay, it will continue to evolve, and rather than see it as an adversary, we need to think how teachers and students can benefit. In this early stage, some immediate opportunities come to mind:

On the writing side, teachers may be more encouraged to establish a chain of custody for each student’s writing. This means a lot of early drafting in class, which, in turn, will require teachers to confer with writers as their drafts are being written. For years I have maintained that young writers need coaching while the draft is unfolding; this is where I spent the majority of time interacting with my young writers. When a teacher sees an essay in its developmental stages, it is much easier to detect when a later draft deviates from the student’s voice and/or skill level. This, of course, should not be the primary reason we confer with writers—we confer to teach students to make the creative decisions that writers need to make—but seeing early drafts may also serve as an added safeguard against plagiarism.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I am also hopeful that ChatGPT might encourage teachers and students to move away from standardized, cookie-cutter essays. For example, this may lead to a resurgence of narrative writing, where students have an opportunity to tell the stories of their lives. (This would be a good thing at all grade levels). Yes, AI could write a fake narrative essay, but if we teach writing in a way that builds agency, we will create young writers who would rather write their own stories than have a computer do it. We want to create writers who believe they have something to say. There is a difference, as Tom Newkirk says, between writing that is created and writing that is assembled. Let’s not lose that distinction.

On the reading side, I am hoping this new technology will foster a new commitment to teaching critical reading. The demands on readers are different than they were five years ago, and these new demands that questions be asked: Should I believe what I have read? What is not said here? How am I being manipulated? Do I trust these sources? How can I verify this information? What fact-checking organizations can I trust? How can I detect if this is a deep-fake video? To address these reading issues—and more—it is time every school implement a mandatory media studies course to help students to be more consciously aware, reflective, and rational about the waves of news and other forms of “angertainment.” Developing the ability to recognize the theme in The Great Gatsby is one thing. Developing the ability to critically analyze in a way that leads to thoughtful citizenship is another. ChatGPT cannot do this for students. This kind of thinking needs to be taught, and we might begin by teaching students to examine the ethics and morality of this new technology.

Yes, these hyper-fast changes are scary and head-spinning, and it is true we do not know where this technology will take us. But it is also true that whenever there is big change, there is often opportunity. Let’s explore and embrace this opportunity. And as we do so, let’s share our thinking about how it can be used to spark creativity and critical thinking.

Discover Savvas K-12 literacy programs, reading curriculum, ELA lessons, and literacy resources. We combine scientifically based research with personalized learning experiences to make our English language arts curriculum more effective, inclusive, and rewarding.


About the Author

Kelly Gallagher

Literacy Author