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93. Teaching with AI: How to Transform Teaching & Tackle Burnout with Less Stress, More Student Success with Special Guest Ren Wang

Feb 13, 2024

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One of the biggest struggles that teachers are having with implementing Artificial Intelligence in their classrooms is the fear that somehow using AI will somehow make their jobs obsolete.  That's why I brought onto the show, Ren Wang, the co-founder of HiLink, to discuss the potential of AI in education, debunking myths and highlighting how it's set to support, not supplant, the irreplaceable human element of teaching.

In this episode, we discuss the critical role of data in personalized learning, envisioning a future where technology seamlessly integrates into educational environments to offer bespoke learning experiences.  So, if you're curious about how technology and AI like Hilink can transform your teaching experience, streamline your workflow, and allow you to reclaim your passion for education, this episode is for you.


  • HiLink's Impact on Reducing Teacher Burnout and Enhancing Student Learning
  • Navigating AI Integration in Classroom and Lesson Planning
  • Effective AI Application Workflows and Fact-Checking Strategies for Educators
  • Leveraging Data for Personalized Education and Improved Learning Outcomes with HiLink
  • Future Trends: AI as an Assistant in Teaching and Student Engagement
  • Addressing Ethical Concerns and Adapting to AI Advancements in Education Systems
  • HiLink User Feedback and its Role in Evolving Classroom Dynamics


  • - The only virtual classroom and AI Lesson Planning platform for teachers. Create your FREE account.






The Resilient Teacher Podcast is the show that will give overwhelmed educators the support, tools, and mindset to reduce teacher burnout and keep teaching sustainable. Each week, Brittany Blackwell, M.Ed. & her guests will share inspiration and actionable steps to avoid or recover from the dreaded teacher burnout. You'll be inspired to individualize self-care and learn to prioritize your well-being and mental health, all while making a bigger impact on your classrooms and community.


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[0:00] Hi, Wren. Welcome to the Resilient Teacher Podcast. Hi, Brittany.
Thanks so much for having me.
Yes, I absolutely love Highlink. And as one of the co-founders of Highlink, I would just love for you to share a little bit about how you got started creating such an amazing platform for teachers. Like what inspired this creation?

[0:20] Yeah, thank you so much. And Brittany, first of all, I just want to say thank you for having me.
It's always great to just talk to teachers because really that's why my co-founder and I, we started Highlink to begin with, is we really want to help teachers.
And from a personal standpoint, I think it actually started out a very, very long time ago.
When I was a kid, I was always kind of told, hey, education is the most powerful thing.
You really have to value it. My parents really instilled that in me from an early age.
I remember my dad, actually, when I was in first grade, he used to bike with me behind him on a bicycle for over an hour to take me to a slightly nicer school than the one that was near our house.

[1:03] And it's just stuff like that that has always made me appreciate how much education really matters.
And fast forward a little bit, I made my career more in technology, more in building products to help people with, you know, living better lives and getting more value from the things that they do every day.
But it's only recently that after I've had kids myself, that I've really kind of come back to, hey, you know, look, appreciating how important education is, and really appreciating how important teachers are, and you know, how teachers can really make a big difference in everyone's lives and in society.
So I'm trying to take what I've learned my my experience in technology and apply that to education more so that teachers can have access to better tools.
They can use those tools to teach better. They can use it to combat burnout.
All of those things are really, really important to us here at Highlink.
That's why we're going to platform.

[2:00] Yes, I absolutely love it. I have really taken a deep dive into it, found all of the value that you guys are providing.
And I think one of the things that you mentioned, which is really cool, is that, you know, teachers don't have a whole lot of resources available to them.
And you're kind of making that more accessible for teachers who may be in different types of districts where things are not as available for them, not as available for students. So it's really making that accessible for them.
I've shared Highlink, obviously, like on my social media, because I think it's a fantastic platform.
I think it's really supporting teachers through not getting burned out because it is kind of automating some of that, making what they do so much more impactful because we know that teaching is more than just providing content, right?
It's really instilling a love of learning.
And so I have some teacher friends who are a little bit, I guess, apprehensive about maybe using artificial intelligence because I think they're afraid. They're afraid it's going to replace them.
In your view, how is AI kind of enabling them in the modern classroom rather than replacing them?

[3:14] Yeah, absolutely. Great question. And I think it's something that we're all hearing, right?
I think AI has really just taken the world by storm. It's very natural to think about, oh, like, how is this going to completely change and upend everything?
So it's a very understandable kind of perspective.
But I want to go back to actually something that you said, which is helping instill a love of learning.
I think that is really the key here is what is a teacher's job?
You know, I would argue that it's not to, you know, build content or not to, you know, do a lot of administrative work and, you know, plan lessons and things like that. I think it is at the core exactly what you said.
How do you create connection with students? How do you inspire students?
How do you become that helping hand that really will change someone's life?
And that's not something that AI is going to do at least anytime soon.
That's not even something close to what AI can do today.
So the way that we think of AI is that it's something that's designed to allow teachers to refocus on what makes them really good at their jobs, which is that human component.
AI is going to be good at letting teachers focus on the teaching because they're going to have more time if they don't have to do all this extra busy manual work, all this extra administrative work.

[4:41] And I think if you think like when I think back to teachers that have made a big difference in my life.

[4:47] These are people that I remember, they are the ones who asked me a specific question at the right time or they're the people who made me believe that I could do something that I didn't have faith in myself for.
Like, I'm sure, you know, when people think back to teachers that made a difference in their lives, these are the types of experiences that they remember.
They don't think of teachers as, oh, this teacher was really good at, you know, giving me a test in their class or something like that, or their content was really great. I really admire that.
It's always about the human element. So, yeah, AI is going to help teachers.
It's going to really make teachers able to concentrate on the things that matter more.
It's definitely not going to replace teachers and what they're good at. I completely agree.
I think that even when it comes down to creativity, there are components of artificial intelligence that really enhance those more human characteristics, that creativity piece, being able to focus, like you said, on those more important pieces of teaching, like building those connections and establishing those relationships, which at the core of learning is part of that.
If you don't have a good relationship with your students or the teacher, then you're not going to be learning as effectively.
And so I love what you said there. I love what you said.

[6:15] So when it comes to saving time using artificial intelligence, we kind of touched on why AI, I think, wasn't going to take over in previous episodes, how it really just enhances that teaching.
But because you kind of helped create this platform for teachers, can you talk a little bit about what is the role in generative AI, maybe in instructional design, maybe some of the limitations that might be for that?
Yeah, absolutely. So I think the most important thing to remember is that AI is just a tool, right?
Let's treat it like what it is. It's a tool like anything else, like your computer, like the internet.

[6:59] It's only as good and as powerful as the person who's using it, right? Right.
You can give a really great tool to someone who doesn't know how to use it.
They won't really get the full value out of it.
Consequently, you can give a very simple tool, maybe something that's a little bit outdated even to someone who's really good at what they do and they'll make the most out of it.
They'll use it and enhance what they're already good at. So I think in terms of instructional design, using AI has to be looked at as, look, you have to have a vision of what you want, and you use this tool to help you get there.
So if you understand what is going to create a dynamic and engaging class, and you have a, you know, that that goal in mind, you can use AI to do a little bit of the, you know, the content generation.
But then you have to say, Oh, like, what do I like about this?
What do I not like about this, and then further kind of fine tune that right to get it to the place where you want it to go.
If you just go to, you know, high link or chat to BT or any other, you know, kind of generative AI tool.

[8:04] And you just take the first thing that it gives you, it's going to be okay, right? But is it really what you needed?
You know, probably not, right? So you have to kind of give it a little bit more of that interaction, like you have to tell it what else you want, or what I don't like, and edit it a little bit.
I think also a very important key is there's a lot of like AI right now is not always perfectly accurate, right?
There's sometimes where like, it's called called hallucinations, like AI will actually generate false content.
So a really important part of this is actually the fact checking is making sure that it's giving you the right type of content as well.
And again, that's a very human activity to be able to kind of say, Oh, how do I make this more what I want?
And how to ensure that it's giving the right content that I can, you know, have confidence and stand behind this when I go and use this in my class.

[8:59] Yeah. Just because you mentioned that, and I've looked at it, and I have a kind of a workflow that I do.
Do you have any workflow that you suggest for teachers when they're using generative AI to kind of fact check that? Is there something that you kind of recommend for that?

[9:15] Yeah. So I think...
Again, it comes down to if the teacher is an expert in the subject already, obviously, if there's something that they'll just be able to spot very, very easily, like, oh, that's, you know, either not going the right direction that I want, or, you know, that seems questionable.
I've never heard that before. Like, let me look that up elsewhere.
I think it's the same thing as when you're finding anything on the internet.
It's like, don't take one source as the only source.
Check it in a few different places. So I would recommend the same sort of workflow for anything that you do in AI.
I think it's because it's so powerful, it's easy to just stay within an AI platform and say, oh, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this.
You just move on to the next thing and suddenly you've got all this content. It's great.
But it's important to step out of that bubble a little bit and say, okay, so in this section.

[10:08] Here's some claims that maybe I want to read more about elsewhere and confirm that this data is accurate, or maybe there's some additional context I can give there. Yeah, I like that. I like that a lot.
I personally like I will go.
I know this sounds very cliche, but when I'm using like an AI for coming up with a lesson plan, maybe it's on a topic that I'm not familiar with because I don't teach necessarily a content.
I teach special education. education. So when I'm looking for things, I may not know that content, but when I see something, I want to go and look straight to Google. Like I just type it in. Is that accurate?
And then, you know, find more reputable sources just as like how I tell my students to do.
That's what I tell like teachers to do too. So I was curious if there was like a workflow that you suggested. So that kind of follows with that.

[10:58] I know that you've said before that data is really crucial crucial for that next leap in learning outcomes.
Can you elaborate a little bit more about that?
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, this is a really interesting topic and a personal passion point for me as well, because I think there's just so much more that we can do with data in the context of education.
And what I mean by that, so just give a little bit more kind of background context, I think, you know, at the very basic level, when you are, you know, for an organization that is maybe not well versed in how to use data, right? Right.
They're more concentrating on just doing the activity at hand. Right.
Teaching the class, doing the activity, you know, and maybe the data of what's going on.
Right. Just isn't being tracked at all. And that's and that's too bad. Right.

[11:53] Or, you know, if you get a little bit more mature about how to use data in education now, maybe you're using some tools to track the data.
Right. Maybe you're using like some quiz software, you know, like an LMS. mess. And suddenly you're starting to track, okay, I've got my assessment data.
I've got, you know, student performance data. I've got, you know, their, their homework data. Like, are they submitting it? You know, what's their scores? What's their grades?
Okay. Now you're starting to track a few more things, but there's still a problem there, which is you still have all this data living in different places.
And it's, it's really hard to use that data.
So oftentimes, even if it gets collected, it doesn't get looked at afterward and doesn't get used the the way that can be.
And a lot of these problems are due to, you know, these platforms not talking to each other, or, you know, it's just, again, it's hard to use.
So I think where we need to go as an industry directionally, is get to a point where we're tracking more data, and we're making that data kind of shareable, and letting these platforms talk to each other more, so that we can use this wealth of data to kind of paint a more complete picture of the student.

[12:59] And I think if we can do that, if we can paint a more complete picture of the student, then actually AI is going to come into play here.
Because one, you know, there's two things that AI is really good at.
One is alleviating some of that busy work.
So teachers don't have to track everything manually, right? AI can kind of do that for you.
And two, it's really, really good at analyzing huge pieces of data, like huge data sets.
So if you can imagine, you've got all this data surrounding a student, a teacher doesn't have time to just look at all that and review all of that before class.
But AI can do that. And it can tell you specifically, okay, based on this profile of the student, based on where they're at, based on their previous performance, here's something I think could make a really big difference in terms of next time you're interacting with the student.
I think that is going to unlock some very, very personalized, you know, types of teaching and really increase the speed at which students can improve and, you know, really make sure that all students are getting the experience and the direction that they need. Yeah, absolutely.

[14:06] And, you know, you mentioned that about how, you know, platforms don't talk to each other.
That is something that teachers, they really struggle with that.
I started looking for things a couple of years ago, excuse me, a couple of years ago, because I had some data in this location, some data in this location.
And I actually had to create a way I had to learn how to use Google Sheets and Excel to really be able to put all of that stuff together.
But again, that was just one more step that was kind of taking away from my students.
And so automating those types of tasks was huge for me and being able to get my students the growth that they deserved.
And I'm really excited for what this kind of is moving towards with AI and being able to utilize AI for that kind of analysis and that sort of thing to really just merge those two things together.
How does how does Highlink kind of utilize data to enhance learning or how might you guys use that in the future?

[15:10] Yeah, absolutely. Great question. So our belief at Highlink is that we need to provide a more comprehensive platform so that we can allow all that data to essentially live in one place.
So really, the platform is designed to be used before class, during class, and after class.
The before class components, which you're familiar with, Brittany, are more around, you know, lesson planning, around creating content for class and just taking a lot of that busy work away from teachers.

[15:42] But then that content is already designed to be used in our virtual classroom, which can be used for e-learning, kind of virtual learning, as well as inside a physical classroom as well.
So the data then that is collected during the in-class component, like, you know, anything from students raising their hands, participation in quizzes.

[16:05] Even how much they're talking during the class, things like that can all be captured.
And then all of that data can be used to then generate a after class summary, which is a feature that we're currently working on.
So that summary can give the teachers like kind of a bite sized component of, you know, they want to look back on, oh, like, what did we cover in this class with this student specifically, they can just quickly get that they can even send that to parents if there's something that, you know, they want the student to work on more at home, etc. et cetera.
So again, all these things traditionally are done kind of in different platforms, different pieces of software.
They don't talk to each other, but we want to create kind of an end-to-end workflow where teachers can plan, they can teach, and they can take all the data that they're gaining to then help them go in the right direction after class and even plan for the next class.
So it all becomes kind of this loop at the end. So that's kind of what we're building towards. I am obsessed with the end piece because I am familiar with the before and the during class features that you guys have got going on.
But that end component, that ability to then take that data and share it with parents or to share it with the student to get that student engagement piece or even to share that with other teachers or administrators.

[17:22] Those types of things makes that so much more powerful.
And that gets me so excited for those newer features to come out. That is really awesome.

[17:32] How do you kind of envision the future of teacher-student interaction with the continuous evolution of technology in education?
How do you think Highlink is going to kind of grow with this?
Yeah, this is super fascinating. And I think, you know, nobody knows for sure, but I do have some theories just based on, you know, some existing evidence.
For example, if you look at how teachers and students are using AI today, I think you can extrapolate a little bit into how that might evolve naturally. naturally.
So, you know, again, teachers today are experimenting with AI as a kind of a little bit of a shortcut. I mean that in a very good way, right?
It's like now you don't have to spend tons and tons of time planning, for example, okay, I can, you know, be my assistant, I can tell it what I want, and it will, you know, deliver me, you know, mostly, you know, some good results that I still have to do a little bit of work on, but it saves me a ton of time that way.
For students, they're using it as an additional resource, right?
I think, you know, some of that is to the chagrin of educators because it's, you know, it can be used unethically, right, for cheating and things like that as well.
But, you know, from a theoretical standpoint, it is an additional resource that students now have access to, whether we like it or not.

[18:53] So how might those things kind of evolve together? Well, I think in the future, right you if you supercharge those efforts teachers will basically have this super assistant that's kind of like following them around and always around when they're you know planning or teaching and the assistant can give them you know valuable cues they can save them time and all those things the student will essentially have kind of like this learning companion where ai is there to help them understand hey like you know here's here's what um you learned today and maybe i can can summarize that for you and help remind you, or maybe I can be like a study partner for you when you want to go back and review the content, that sort of thing. Yeah.

[19:37] Well, what's the role left for the teacher and student interaction there?
And I think there's still a very, very crucial role. So if you think about, um, Well, again, assistants are very good when you give them good instruction, but teachers are still needed to be that leader, right?
I think teachers will naturally fall into that role of, okay, I need to think more strategically about, you know, what I want to teach, you know, where I want to go with the student, what, you know, kind of strategies I want to use with them.
So they're going to be using that higher order of thinking, which is obviously much more valuable than just kind of writing stuff down or searching teachers, pay teachers and things like that.

[20:18] And I think for students, they will have this really powerful resource in that learning buddy or whatever you might want to call it, but they still need good direction. They still need someone to push them in the right direction.
It's like, hey, you know, you have access to all this content, but what should you be looking at? How should you be interpreting it?
How does this, you know, maybe inspire you to take the next step in your learning journey?
I think the teacher-student connection, in a way, will be more important than ever in that type of world. Yeah, absolutely.
And, you know, there's actually a school in Austin, Texas. It's a private school that is being in news articles, news headlines. It says there are no teachers.
In fact, there are teachers, but they act more as a coach.
And the students are being taught by artificial intelligence with more personalized learning, things like that.
And at first, when I read the headline, it freaked me out.
I was like, oh, goodness, like there's no teachers.
But in fact, there are, they are just doing more of the human aspects of teaching and it's allowing them that opportunity to be that, um, sounding board and, um, just that coach in that situation.
So I thought that was really cool that you even kind of brought that up because we already see, you know, some schools or at least one school that I know of, um, kind of moving towards that and seeing how that works. Um.

[21:48] And I think it's really, I think it's really impactful to kind of think that we're going to see some learning that is happening at exponential speeds.
Like we're going to see some things that are happening really, really quickly.
And I'm excited to kind of see where that goes.
I think a lot of teachers kind of struggle with the idea of students using artificial intelligence.
But at the end of the day, I think it's kind of our job to give our students that 21st century skill that they're going to grow up with.
They're going to grow up with more artificial intelligence, more automation than ever before.
And we'd be really doing them a disservice if we didn't allow them that opportunity.
So I think it's really cool that you kind of brought that up.

[22:35] I think my favorite thing about Highlink specifically is the fact that it is always always growing.
It's constantly adding more ways for teachers to save time, more ways to interact with students.
So can you share a little bit more where teachers can learn more about use cases, maybe where they can find you, where they can learn more?

[22:57] Yeah, absolutely. And it is, first of all, it's just very fulfilling to even be here on this podcast with you, to be talking with you and to hear the great experiences that you're having.
And we hear that from other teachers, And this is really the best part of our day is when we hear that, hey, we are providing value for teachers.

[23:15] And, you know, we're trying to build more resources to help teachers get the most out of our platform.
Because, hey, at the end of the day, we want more teachers to use it.
We want them to get more value out of the platform.
If you head over to, we have a knowledge base that's built for teachers to get the most out of the platform as it is today.
Day but um i also want to just put out there like hey if you're using the platform um send us your thoughts right we have an email address it's hello at we use it to basically take feedback from teachers if there's something that you're trying to do on the platform that you can't figure out we're here to help where we want you to get that full value out of it if there's something that you're trying to do just in your general teaching journey that we don't have you know know, something that can help you with that, we want to hear that too.
Because, you know, if we understand, you know, the pain points that you're having, we can potentially create, you know, new features in the future that will help you do more things and, you know, create that more complete journey for you.
So we're trying to build the best tool for teachers.
We can't do that without hearing directly from them. So I really would love to hear from anyone who has ideas and thoughts. and if you want to connect with me personally, I'm happy to do that too.
You can find me, you can search for me on LinkedIn.

[24:35] Ren Wang, Highlink, connect with me, send me your thoughts. I'm always happy to talk to teachers.
Yeah. And so we'll put some of the links for that down in the show notes.
That way everybody can go check out Highlink and go connect with you if they have questions or just want to bring some ideas to you.
I know that there will definitely be some teachers in your inbox to share their experiences with you, their great experiences using Highlink.
But thank you so much, Ren, for being a part of the podcast and for sharing your experience and sharing your tools with teachers.
I just really enjoyed our conversation today.
Yeah, same here, Brittany. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah.

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