How to drive student success with creative Generative AI tools in the classroom

The 21st-century classroom is a dynamic, ever-evolving space where cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), are pushing us all to rethink what students need to learn and how that learning can best be structured to prepare them for the future. One of the most exciting advancements is the emergence of generative AI, a technology that can help produce entirely new creations with just a few directives.

From creating realistic images and art to producing music and writing, generative AI's potential to help students learn and demonstrate their creative thinking skills in fundamentally new ways is truly awe-inspiring. What’s more, at a time when student engagement is more important than ever, creative AI tools can serve as powerful platforms for active, student-directed learning, motivating young learners to showcase their individuality and unique perspectives.

Of course, like with all new technology in education, the promise is coupled with uncertainty. Will generative AI tools like ChatGPT enable plagiarism or complicate assessment? How can schools stay fully informed about how generative AI models are built and trained? What safety and anti-bias measures are in place, especially for younger students?

Perhaps the biggest question on the minds of educators, caretakers and policymakers is this: How can we best integrate these new capabilities into our education system to set up students for success in the classroom and beyond?

The following principles can help ensure your education community is learning how to use generative AI responsibly with user-friendly tools made to enhance creativity and prepare students for the future.

Understand the value of creativity

Creativity is often connected to the arts, but it’s an essential skill to all disciplines and fields because it teaches students how to solve problems in new ways, communicate ideas effectively, collaborate with others and find their voice through exploration and curiosity. ISTE recently outlined why it is more important than ever to teach creativity — how it motivates students to learn, lights up higher-order cognitive skills, sparks emotional development and inspires those who are hard to reach.

Even though 65 percent of students learn more effectively by doing and creating, the opportunities to do so are too rarely available. Imagine if every student learned how to apply creative thinking to every subject throughout their educational experience, from K-12 through college. By intentionally nurturing and scaffolding creativity and creative problem-solving throughout the curricula, educators can empower students with the critical skills they need to confidently navigate their lives and effectively apply them to emerging technologies, like AI.

Beyond academics, creativity is also essential for career success. According to the World Economic Forum, creative thinking is the second most in-demand skill prioritized by employers through 2027, followed by AI.

In the rapidly evolving job market, knowing how to use AI to fuel creative thinking and express ideas in powerful, creative ways will be essential for almost every job and career.

This collective research tells us we need to transform teaching and learning experiences to help students master creative thinking and generative AI skills. And if students learn them with trusted, industry-standard tools, they will be readily equipped for the future.

Supercharge creative thinking, don’t replace it

Calculators in the classroom finally shifted from controversial to commonplace when we saw how they enhance math skills without replacing them. Behind that success was a thoughtful, strategic implementation plan to use calculators at the right time for the right tasks, ensuring students become hyper-aware of the thinking processes calculators support.

Likewise, classroom generative AI tools should fit smoothly into current teaching methods, technology and creative skill-building.

These tools enhance the creative learning journey across subjects, from idea formation to improvement and presentation. Encourage metacognition by prompting students to reflect on how generative AI tools shape their thinking and processes in various ways.

Adobe Express for Education is designed to integrate with existing technology and learning workflows, including rostering tools, learning management systems, safety and privacy features and the ability for K-12 administrators to toggle generative AI features on and off.

Generative AI is incredibly exciting but also opens the door to new questions about ethics and responsibility in the digital age. Thankfully, school systems have made meaningful headway in the past decade by integrating new media literacy and digital citizenship skills into the curricula, such that responsible AI can be a new addition to existing modules.

When selecting a generative AI tool, examine creators, training methods and ethical transparency. Not all image generators are equal; Adobe’s generative AI tools, powered by Adobe Firefly, were trained on Adobe Stock images, openly licensed content and public domain content where copyright has expired. Firefly is designed to be safe for commercial use, and thanks to guardrails encouraging appropriate use, it is ready to be used in classrooms. Plus, Adobe continually tests its model to mitigate against perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

In a world rife with misinformation, students also need authentication skills and responsible creation ethics. That's why Adobe has set the transparency standard through the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI).

Part of CAI’s work includes ensuring all Firefly output is properly labeled with secure metadata Content Credentials, which show the provenance, or origins, of digital file types, including how they might have been edited along their journey from creation to publishing. When it comes to education, this level of transparency and responsibility are paramount for everyone in a learning community, including students, educators, staff and caretakers.

Get started by exploring these content authenticity curricula crafted to help students better navigate the ever-changing digital information landscape with essential media and visual literacy skills.

Promote inclusion, feedback and bias reduction

AI tools must be inclusive and reflect diverse perspectives. It is important to understand the data used to train classroom tools to ensure inclusivity and minimize bias. When selecting tools, prioritize those open to feedback for ongoing improvement, which indicates a good educational partnership.

At Adobe, we use varied datasets and refine our generative AI models to mitigate bias. Our generative AI features, like Firefly and Adobe Express, offer easy feedback options, enhancing dialogue. It's crucial that companies and organizations engage with educators, fostering collaboration to develop and improve generative AI for all.

Get support with professional development, curricula and educator communities

As with any new technology or transformative change, educators and school leaders will need a lot of support, inspiration and a like-minded community to bounce around ideas and share inspiration. When selecting a generative AI tool for the classroom, look for a holistic solution being offered beyond the technology, including ongoing professional development, curricula, community and other support.

Educators are just beginning to discover the most exciting ways that generative AI can engage students, drive deeper learning, save time and streamline mundane tasks.

As we embark on this journey of learning, Adobe is collaborating with educators in K-12 and higher education to develop free opportunities for professional growth. This includes professional learning, in-person and virtual events, and Adobe Creative Educator (ACE) community groups all focused on collectively exploring the innovative realm of creative generative AI within the classroom.

After all, together is better. That’s why Adobe also leads conversations on AI in education with global and cross-industry education partners like the World Economic Forum’s Education 4.0 Alliance. Adobe has also joined the advisory committee for the TeachAI initiative, led by ISTE,, Khan Academy and ETS. In these ways, we invest in a broader, global coalition to learn from and help advise educators, leaders and policymakers with guidance, policies and a vision for continual improvement in student learning and outcomes.

As we embark on the journey of integrating generative AI tools into our classrooms, it is clear that we are on the precipice of a transformative era in education.

There is immense potential for generative AI to foster creativity, engagement and critical skills among students. The questions and uncertainties surrounding the responsible use of generative AI are valid, but they should not deter us from harnessing this powerful technology. Instead, they should motivate us to adopt a thoughtful and strategic approach.

As we move forward, it is crucial that school leaders, educators, caregivers and policy-makers fully recognize the value of creativity as an essential skill. Creativity transcends subject boundaries and prepares students for the future job market, where creative thinking and expression are highly prized. The integration of generative AI, when done with trusted industry-standard tools, equips students with the essential skills they need to thrive in an ever-evolving world. Together, we can embrace this technology's potential to transform classrooms into hubs of creativity, innovation and preparation for the challenges of the future.

Brian Johnsrud, Ph.D., is the global head of Education Learning and Advocacy at Adobe. As a former K-12 teacher, college lecturer, researcher and thought leader in education technology, he’s passionate about helping the next generation unlock their creativity and acquire essential digital literacy and AI skills needed for success in school, careers and beyond.

This article was originally published on EdSurge.