Wednesday, 29th May 2024

Wednesday, 29th May 2024

AI say! These primary school students are trading snack time for prompt engineering

03 Oct 2023

A bunch of Temasek Primary School students have been bitten by the AI bug and are using an AI-image generator to create artworks for an e-book on sustainability. How fun has it been? They’re hacking away during recess to level up their prompt writing skills.
By Sabrina Lee

Something is brewing at Temasek Primary School (TPS) among an intrepid group of Primary 3 to 5 students.
As students go about their day, they take every opportunity to connect with teachers before class or during recess to beef up their prompt-writing skills. Their project: Generating highly detailed images using AI image generator Stable Diffusion for an e-book on sustainability that they are working on. The e-book will highlight Singapore’s dedication to sustainability, while also depicting a dystopian future if we do not act.
“I’m always excited about how AI can empower me to be a content creator,” declares Primary 5 student Aakil Rungta, who views AI as a creative buddy. 
Taking cues from ambitious targets laid out in the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the students came up with the thought-provoking title for the e-book, “Is Singapore too small to make an impact?” 

Building on students’ interests to hone future-ready skills

Students gather in the school’s Innovation Lab during recess to brainstorm and improve on their AI prompt-writing skills.

What jumpstarted this e-book project? It all kicked off when Mr Lim Wu Yi, a Science teacher at TPS, took a deep dive into the AI realm during the December school break. Using Stable Diffusion, he created his very own e-book, and was thrilled with the results. 
For the uninitiated, Stable Diffusion was released by generative AI startups StabilityAI, CompVis, and RunwayML in August 2022. Give it a text prompt, and it will generate a photo-realistic image that matches the text input. 
Stable Diffusion belongs to a class of deep learning models that are designed to create new content, such as text, images and music, based on patterns learnt from analysing existing data. In the case of Stable Diffusion, which is free to use, it is trained on existing images pulled from the Web.
After his own successful encounter with the generative AI tool, Mr Lim could not help but spill the beans to his form class, and his colleagues in his Professional Learning Team (PLT). The excitement was contagious. 
The PLT, made up of Science teachers, Mdm Connie Soon, Head of Department (HOD) of Science, and Mr Ernest Choon, HOD of ICT, wasted no time in sharing Mr Lim’s pet project with students, who they knew would be gung-ho about generative AI tools. “It is important to expose our students to AI technology early so that they can capitalise on the trend today, for tomorrow,” says Mr Choon. The aim, he says, is to prepare students for work in a future where AI is the reality.
Science teacher Ms Low Xin Jie adds, “Stable Diffusion is user-friendly and the learning curve is manageable, particularly for these digital natives.”

Good prompt, bad prompt

The image on the left is an example of what a bad prompt ‘A city that is filled with rubbish’ spits out while the image on the right is the result of a well-crafted prompt ‘Vividly depicting litter-ridden Singapore: trash abounds, flies buzz, crows feast, bins overflow. The Singapore River, now foul-smelling and cluttered, meticulously portrayed. Expertly lit, 8K resolution, cinematic depth’.

Under the guidance of their teachers, the students are taught how to write prompts. They also cover negative prompts, so that students know what to avoid and how to improve on their results. Mr Lim believes that when students evaluate the effectiveness of their prompts and make adjustments as needed, they improve their problem-solving skills.

With experimentation comes revelation, as Primary 5 student Alexander Ng Wei Tong observes, “It is very interesting to see how a slight variation in the way we write the prompt can result in a lot of differences in the images produced.”

Armed with the knowledge of crafting more effective prompts, the students skilfully refine their queries based on the generated results. “They demonstrate their adaptability through the application of critical thinking and keen observation skills,” says Mr Lim. “When students don’t get the results they want, it challenges them to think more deeply about the subject matter or explore different facets of the topic.”

To level up, the students are introduced to the tool’s prompt database and guides that explain how to structure prompts and create diverse image styles. Mdm Soon says, “The students’ creativity shines as they experiment through trial and error to see what Stable Diffusion and the like can do.” 

Poised to wrap up their e-book project by late September, the students have proven that when given the opportunity and right guidance, age is no barrier to leveraging AI tools for creativity.

“Generative AI, like Stable Diffusion models, elevates students’ creativity by enabling them to create unique and imaginative images from various prompts, transcending the constraints of reality,” says Mr Lim. 

“When students use this technology well, they can turn their imaginative ideas to life. Generative AI helps them do this by connecting their imagination to the real world, boosting creativity, and inspiring them to explore new ways of expressing themselves.”

The e-book is now available for free on Google Play Books

The e-book’s cover page showcases a dual portrayal of Singapore, juxtaposing the outcomes if we choose to act versus remaining inactive. 

Ready to get schooled in making AI art? Here’s what the teachers tell the students about writing effective prompts for AI:

1) Be clear and concise with the prompts.

2) Provide the context.

3) Search the internet for similar prompts.

4) Use keywords pertaining to the subject, art style, colour and lighting.

3) Experiment with different prompts.

Prompt: A Singapore that is very dirty, full of waste, very polluted and smelly. Singapore’s buildings are very old and dirty.

Prompt: Singapore with a lot of rubbish everywhere, it is dirty, flies buzz around and crows scavenge for leftovers. 

Prompt: Singapore being destroyed with serious flooding, heavy rain at night, best quality. 

Prompt: A Singapore that is very clean, very modern, and eco-friendly, one electric bus that is modern and beautiful, some people are cycling.

Prompt: Green buildings in Singapore, clean rivers, clean streets and plants along the road, green buses on the road, very detailed.

Prompt: Singapore with an extremely serious traffic jam featuring vehicles of various colours and types, including cars and lorries.

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