Our Year 6 students got an AI-powered boost to the development phase of their PYPX project this semester with the introduction of Wesmigo, Wesley’s new AI chatbot.
The Primary Years Program Exhibition (PYPX), an annual rite of passage for our Year 6 students, involves them working in small teams on their own passion project, developing their own field of inquiry and ultimately, presenting their tangible response to a real-world issue. Delving deeply into a specific subject of interest is central to the journey, but often the first steps are the hardest - finding your way through a tangled forest of ideas to arrive at that topic focus.
Enter Wesmigo, a friendly AI-powered hand to help guide students down the right path. If it sounds a bit like ChatGPT, that’s because it actually is ChatGPT, but mediated through our own WiSE Online Education Management System to suit our learning aims – essentially, ChatGPT with guardrails, focused on a specific purpose.
Developed by our Digital Learning and Practice team, Wesmigo won’t write an inquiry question for students, but rather, through a series of prompting questions, encourages deeper thought in their areas of interest by opening up more meaningful lines of inquiry.
When a student visits the Wesmigo page in WiSE, they are greeted with, ‘Hi, I'm Wesmigo, your friendly AI powered assistant for your PYPX. Think about your passions and interests. What are some things that you enjoy or are interested in?’ This greeting and provocation starts the conversation in a direction that benefits the task.
Year 6 teacher Hadyn Thompson reflects that ‘having the prompts to guide students in their inquiry allowed them to develop deeper levels of thinking. By not giving students complete answers, Wesmigo allowed them to think about what was important in the response given and do further research where required.’
It also develops their skills as critical thinkers. ‘It helps us reflect on what’s true or not,’ says student Ellie.
‘It shows that you shouldn’t always trust what it tells us,’ adds classmate Willem. Hudson agrees: ‘You have to have your own opinions.’
It’s music to the ears of Year 6 teacher Russell Walsh who sees Wesmigo as a useful resource to support the students thinking, not dictate it. He’s keen for them to take an assertive role in their PYPX journey: ‘We’ve got good brains, and we’ve got a group of four people, and we can have a discussion first, and then we can see if Wesmigo thinks it’s a good decision.’
According to Sarah Ho, PYP Coordinator at St Kilda Road Campus, one of the many benefits of being able to connect WiSE to ChatGPT in this way is that we have been able to nurture this sense of agency, building ‘a guide that describes how to be a Detective, Judge, Explorer and Superhero, right beside the chat function, that supports students in understanding the strengths and limitations of AI and using it effectively.’
Here’s how those four roles are described for our students:
Be a Detective: AI makes mistakes! Be vigilant and always on the lookout for clues that it might be wrong. Always cross examine.
Be a Judge: Judge what is valuable and what is not. When it doesn't have the information, AI will default to making it up. So, you need to choose what is helpful to your thinking and recognise what is not helpful.
Be an Explorer: Explore new knowledge and new ways of thinking... Explore these new connections with the AI, but then go beyond AI to confirm that you have indeed discovered something new and valuable.
Be a Superhero: Keep your identity a secret! Be a noble protector who always acts with honesty, fairness, and justice. Use AI to help you learn – not to write things for you. Keep all of your files and email yourself your AI chats to protect your academic integrity.
Get this right, and our students grow as active learners, their academic integrity intact. Central to the use of AI at Wesley is reinforcing the concept of the ‘human in the loop’. By hosting Wesmigo on the WiSE platform, we can monitor student use, keep our students safe and progressively develop the tool using real-time data. Students are not required to register or reveal any personal information. All conversations with Wesmigo are logged and can be reviewed by our Digital Learning and Practice team at any time.
Along with Khan Academy and Harvard University, Wesley College is one of very few educational institutions thus far to have developed a custom AI tutor. For us, like the pocket calculator, the laptop and Google before it, an AI chatbot like Wesmigo is just the latest tool to enter the evolving educational landscape.
And as with all useful tools, the more we use it, the better we get. Having started with PYPX, Wesmigo is currently being used in a similar way to help the big kids at the other end of the school find their way through their own forest of ideas as they develop their research question for their Extended Essay in the IB Diploma Program.
‘Wesley recognises that AI is the next wave of technology and digital evolution,’ says Wesley’s Director of Learning, Cameron Paterson. ‘Students will need to develop the literacy to be users, and also create with AI in the future. We’ve only just begun to explore what we can do with AI at Wesley.'