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Framing AI Chatbots to Write your Emails


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Of the many exciting aspects of the recent innovations in generative AI chatbots (i.e. Google Bard) the potential to save teachers time on administrative tasks is near the top. Writing emails is one of those tasks that tends to take up disproportionate amounts of time for teachers whose time could be better spent planning lessons and assessing student work (which AI can help with too, but that is for another article). 


Simply asking Google Bard to write an email on a certain topic is already helpful,

but often requires a lot of editing to get the email to the point where it feels authentic and usable. Let’s face it, a lot of Google Bard’s responses sound a little… robotic. 


Example of Bard output

You can shortcut this editing for voice and style by framing your request in such a way that the AI chatbot produces writing in your own voice and style (or that of another author you might be studying). 


AI expert, Rachel Woods, suggests the following prompt to produce a “voice paragraph” that you can continue to provide with your AI chatbot prompts whenever you’d like the output to sound like it was written by you. The following prompt can be copied and pasted into Google Bard: 


"You are an AI system that has been trained to analyse the below text for style, voice, and tone then use NLP to create a voice paragraph. A voice paragraph prompts a future AI system to write in that same style of voice and tone. here is the input text:"

Then you provide Bard with an email that you’ve written and that you feel accurately reflects your voice and writing style. 


What the chatbot produces is your NLP (natural language processing) paragraph and should be bookmarked or saved in a place that can be quickly and easily accessed for future prompting. This paragraph contains the style and text that will enable a generative chatbot like Bard to write in a style that sounds more like you. 


Example of Bard input and output

Saving Your Prompt

Staying organised with your AI prompts is going to be one of the main factors in how helpful and time-saving these tools will be. You might decide to save this NLP paragraph in Google Keep, which can be easily accessed in the side-bar of most Google Workspace tools. 


Or you might consider trying a tool like PromptBox, a “freemium” Google Chrome extension that allows you to not only organise and share your AI prompts, but also create templates with variables so that your prompts are easy to continually re-use. 



Framing Email Prompts Using Your Voice Paragraph

Now that you have your voice paragraph saved, you are ready to start prompting Bard to write your emails for you. When I am writing AI prompts, I use a modified version of Dan Fitpatrick’s P.R.E.P model that goes as follows:



Letter P

Prompt


Letter R

Role (including voice style)


Letter E

Example


Letter P

Parameters




Here is what that would look like in this email example:


Prompt

You are going to write an email home to a student's parent discussing the issues with their student continually being late to class.


Role

Imagine you are a 7th grade teacher whose NLP voice paragraph is as follows: "Informal and conversational, it uses contradictions and colloquialisms and personal pronouns to create a sense of familiarity and rapport. The author also uses humor."


Example

This is an example of an email you've written that I want you to use as a model: "I'm writing to you today to share some information about tomorrow's meeting. As I mentioned before, I'm trying to avoid unnecessary meetings, so I've put together a list of things for you to read ahead of time. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them to the collaboration agenda. Today, a group of us met to fine-tune our weekly tasks. We also decided to keep the "Learning Coach Checks" that we've been using. These are little directions at the bottom of your Google Classroom assignments that tell learning coaches how to determine whether their students have completed the assignment. To get the red push pin emoji, right-click your mouse and select "Emoji keyboard." Please add a "Learning Coach Check" to all of your asynchronous assignments. If you could also "like" or "thumbs up" this email to let me know you've read it, that would be great. I'm always happy to answer questions, so please don't hesitate to reach out of you need anything. See you tomorrow! 8am in room 104 or 105 (depending on where all those laptops end up)."


Parameters

The email should sandwich the critiques about the student's lateness with compliments about the student's creativity and participation in class.



Based on the updated prompt, here is the updated email:


Example of Bard output for an email following the PREP template



All the drafts of this updated email are much more positive, solution-orientated, and

closer to something that I would send; and the time investment of setting up the voice

paragraph and prompt template will ultimately save me time as I reuse it again and again for future emails.



Creating Email Templates From AI Chatbots

Creating templates for your AI prompts is useful, but taking it one step further and creating actual email templates to save in your Gmail could be even more efficient.

Think about the most common emails you have to send home:


To communicate about student progress

Teachers often send emails to parents to share information about their child's academic progress. This information can include grades, test scores, and behaviour reports.


To request parent involvement

Teachers may send emails to parents to request their help with school projects, field trips, or other activities. They may also send emails to invite parents to volunteer in the classroom or attend school events.


To address concerns

If a teacher has concerns about a student's academic performance, behaviour, or well-being, they may send an email home to the parent. This is an opportunity for the teacher to discuss the concern.


Then take some time with the NLP voice paragraph email prompt you’ve created (and saved) and have Bard write email templates on these topics. 


Add output as an email template

Once you have a template provided by Bard, you can go to your Gmail, click “Compose” and paste the email template into the body of the text. In the subject line start with the word “TEMPLATE” and then the type of email template you’ve created. 


Instead of sending this email, click the “three dots” in the bottom right corner of the email's tools, then “templates” and “save draft as template.”


Now, instead of going to Google Bard every time you have to write an email, you might have the template already created in your Gmail and you simply have to fill in the blanks! Leaving you free to spend the rest of your plan period actually planning. 



Help Me Write

As AI continues to rapidly develop, Google is already working on a tool that will integrate all these steps into a click of a button, called “Help Me Write” by Workspace Labs. You will soon be able to prompt Gmail to write your emails for you.


Gmail will even be able to read and reference former communications on an email thread using details you’ve previously discussed - just don’t forget to carefully review and edit!



The AI Teacher

If you are looking for more time-saving, student engaging, and digital-citizenship teaching AI material, check out my free guide: The AI Teacher




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