Opinion with Linden Walcott-Burton

Linden Walcott-Burton
Friday, March 1, 2024

How can we use AI in the drama classroom?

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I have two key recommendations for approaching AI as an arts educator and an expert in AI for the creative industries. First: to explore its creative possibilities with an open mind. And second: to double down on what makes us human.

To the first – think of AI as a tool, not an overlord. It's not about to replace the drama educator, and you certainly can't outsource your creativity to it. AI is a very broad term, but generally speaking, generative AI can generate text, images, video and music almost instantly, and in some cases, to an exceptionally high standard. But like any tool, they require some skill to get the most out of them, and they're certainly not perfect. One of my personal best use-cases is to ask the chatbot Claude. AI to constructively criticise things I'm writing. But I'd never ask it to write something for me and to just copy and paste the results.

Therefore, educators and students will need to experiment with these systems to learn their strengths and limitations. This technology is here to stay, so those that dive in will have an advantage over those that don't. So, give it a go. And if you don't know where to start, ask ChatGPT.

And to the second – we need to remember that for all of AI's potential, it can't replace the core aspects of drama's educational and social value. Laughing together, movement, games, the human touch – these in-person experiences give us what AI can never give. For me it's a reminder that as technology gets more advanced and more complex, what we need is much more simple: more human connection rather than technological. Less looking into iPhones, more looking into people's eyes.

The elements that make a great drama experience are timeless. In my book The Drama Workshop Leader, I cover all the elements needed to deliver a great drama workshop, and nowhere in there is there a mention of AI. Because yes, we should use it to support our work where we can. But is it essential? Certainly not.

So ultimately, we should embrace the creative possibilities of AI and combine them with drama's human elements. That way, we can nurture students to be ready for tomorrow, while keeping what's always made the arts essential. Our task is to figure out how to wisely integrate the two.

- Linden Walcott-Burton is an actor, director, producer and workshop facilitator. He is the author of the recent book The Drama Workshop Leader: A Practical Guide to Delivering Great Sessions, published by Nick Hern Books. He is also a global expert on the impact of AI in the creative industries.