Field Report: TCEA Convention 2024

The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) held its 2024 Convention & Exposition February 3–7, in Austin. The following material comes from Tara Rocha, our BridgingApps Digital Learning Specialist, who also presented the workshop “Reading with Tech: I’m All Ears.”

TCEA Theme of the Year: Artificial Intelligence

“Where is artificial intelligence (AI) going?” is a question on everyone’s mind these days, and a special concern for educators, who regularly have to consider the “legitimate tool vs. cheating machine” issue. Most students have heard all the basics (and all the rumors) about how “AI can do your homework for you,” so teachers no longer dare assume that written assignments will accurately measure everyone’s abilities.

How much can AI legitimately contribute? A TCEA workshop from shares a spectrum of 12 options, from "AI does student work for them" and "AI writes content but student edits it," to "Student writes all content but asks AI for feedback" and "Student does all work without any assistance."
How much can AI legitimately contribute, and how much should students do themselves? A TCEA workshop from shares a spectrum of options.

Not that such a change is necessarily for the worse. The traditional “reading, writing, and note-taking” approach has always been a problem for students with communications disabilities—many of whom wound up in “slow learner” classes despite having naturally high IQs. It’s a positive step forward if AI concerns keep any student’s potential from being judged by such narrow standards.

It’s equally important that teachers not rely solely on AI detectors to spot cheating. Detectors are far from foolproof, and about the worst thing a teacher can do is accuse any student of plagiarism on a computer’s say-so. If AI concerns instead motivate teachers to consider a performance-based approach to learning, and to become familiar with each student’s individual writing and learning styles, that can bring everyone closer to the inclusive-learning ideal.

How Teachers Can Use AI in the Classroom

When it comes to legitimate uses, AI is a great brainstorming tool for helping students and teachers get a look at what’s out in the digital universe. Just about everyone understands the basics of remote research: the teacher’s role is to show students how research is best done in conjunction with critical thinking, source evaluation, and a focus on objective viewpoints.

A good teacher will also show how AI can help learning by:

  • Running more focused searches
  • Answering questions more specifically and accurately
  • Helping student writers get “unstuck” when at a loss for ideas
  • Suggesting ways to make writing more readable

More tips for teachers:

  • Where problems have clear answers (as in math), use software that highlights step-by-step paths to the solution. (See the Photomath app for one example: others are noted below.) Also, tell parents how to use such resources to explain thinking processes that solve multi-step homework problems.
  • Do encourage students to check their own answers—but post the answers after they’ve had a chance to try problems on their own.
  • With more creative assignments, challenge students to “teach the AI” by giving it their own original material to work with. (If everyone always let AI do all the work, how would it ever learn any new or better approaches?)
  • Try a collaborative-whiteboard system (FigJam is one option) where you can observe students’ contributions and preferred approaches in real time, while also encouraging them to help each other. 

Favorite New Technologies from the TCEA Convention

Here’s a sample of the many learning/assistive technologies that were showcased at the February 3–7 convention.

Flip (formerly Flipgrid) is a longtime teacher favorite, offering a grid for creating video assignments and responses on different topics. It’s especially helpful in individualized teacher-student communications.

A newer tool, Snorkel, uses AI in a similar approach: students record their reasoning while solving math problems, and teachers can use the recordings (screen and/or voice) to follow each student’s thought process.

Snorkel displays steps to calculate the area of a rectangle.
Snorkel in action

Storied lets users share and talk out their ideas. It’s helpful for getting students to share their thoughts, especially when they have trouble putting those thoughts in writing. It also demonstrates how writing can be a form of talking.

"Storied" screen, displaying: 
The heading "Talk out your idea: Start by describing what you want to create, then provide the details." 
An orange-button icon with a microphone image and the word "Record." 
An arrow indicating where to "Hit record and start talking."
The Storied system

Riffusion sings what you type—a high-tech version of the classic “learn facts by rhythm and rhyme” approach.

Riffusion screen, with the header, "This AI will literally sing whatever you type. Add lyrics to generate a song." 
Below that text is a data-field box to "Enter lyrics here," with a blue-oval "Riff" button.

Knowt is like having your own “live chat” bot for big PDF files: ask it as specific a question as you need, and it’ll quickly locate answers in the document.

Curipod, an AI-based presentation platform, includes open-question creation, polls, word clouds, drawings, and other tools teachers can use to create interactive lessons. A great technology for classrooms that emphasize live student participation. 

Watch for future blog posts to further highlight new AI learning technologies!

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