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ICYMI: AI In Schools Webinar Recap

ICYMI: AI In Schools Webinar Recap

In today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making serious waves in various sectors — including education. As schools struggle with the impacts of AI in the classroom, it’s important to understand both the challenges and opportunities of AI, and how to adapt in order to align and direct AI towards positive educational outcomes.

Understanding The Basics Of AI

In a recent ClearGov webinar, “AI for School Simplified,” Chris Bullock, CEO of ClearGov, provided a comprehensive overview of the subject.

In case you missed it, the webinar did an excellent job of simplifying AI, explaining that it refers to a technical model created to solve a specific problem or provide a particular service. In short, AI systems are designed to mimic human cognitive functions and make decisions and recommendations with limited explicit guidance from humans.

Whether you realize it or not, you have already been interacting with AI for many years. Alexa and Siri are AI assistants, and Netflix uses AI recommendation engines to help you find your next binge-worthy series.

The Rise Of ChatGPT In Education

When we talk about AI making waves in education, the biggest is ChatGPT. Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT is a chatbot designed to provide human-like conversational answers. When ChatGPT exploded onto the scene late last year, it became one of the fastest-growing technologies in history.

For some context, it took Netflix about 3.5 years to reach one million users. It took ChatGPT just five days.

In the education sector, the sudden emergence of this technology has led to concerns about its potential misuse — especially when it comes to academic integrity.

The main concern for educators has been the potential for students to use AI tools like ChatGPT to complete assignments and write papers — essentially bypassing parts of the learning process altogether. This has led to varying reactions from schools, from outright bans on AI use to more welcoming approaches that recognize the use of AI in the learning process.

And while we’re still in the first full year of seeing AI in schools, significant studies have already been conducted to gauge its effects. Some highlights from a Center for Democracy & Technology report show that over 50% of teachers are aware of students disciplined for using generative AI. Additionally, 67% of teachers felt more distrustful of students due to AI, while 58% of students admitted to using generative AI during the 2022-23 school year.

ClearGov AI Framework for School Districts

AI is in schools — whether we like it or not.

Instead of resisting the change, schools should try to adapt in order to align and direct AI towards positive educational outcomes.

To address both the opportunities and challenges that come with AI technology, ClearGov proposed a four-part AI framework for school districts. This framework recommends that schools create AI task forces responsible for understanding the technology, setting clear policies, exploring new AI use cases, and monitoring trends and usage.

#1 Understanding

  • Goal: The primary objective is to gain a comprehensive understanding of AI technology and how it’s currently being used by both students and staff.
  • AI Task Forces: Schools form task forces to determine how to implement safeguards, capitalize on AI’s benefits, and regulate its use.
  • Internal Surveys: Conducting surveys of students and staff can provide insights into AI usage. Questions might include whether they’ve used ChatGPT and how they use it.
  • Encourage Exploration: Staff should be encouraged to explore AI software to understand its capabilities and limitations.
  • Knowledge Base: Before establishing policies, it’s important to understand how to use and critique AI systems.

#2 Policies

  • Goal: Establish ethical guidelines for AI usage within the school district.
  • Stance on Generative AI: The district needs to decide its position on the use of generative AI by both students and staff. This could range from a conservative to an avant-garde posture.
  • Stakeholder Input: Input from staff, students, and parents should shape the overarching AI policies.
  • Acceptable Use Cases: Define scenarios where the use of generative AI is deemed acceptable – for both students and staff.
  • Monitoring and Consequences: Determine how these policies will be monitored and the repercussions for any infractions.
  • Communication: Clearly communicate these policies to all stakeholders to ensure they are aware and understand them (Don’t forget to include parents in your communication plan!).
  • Evolution of Policies: Recognize that as AI and its applications evolve, policies will need to be updated accordingly.

#3 Usage

  • Goal: Promote the responsible and beneficial use of AI tools.
  • AI Literacy: It’s becoming increasingly important for both students and staff to be AI-literate. Some colleges are already introducing AI courses to prepare students for an AI-powered workforce.
  • Guidance: Students need guidance on using generative AI. Schools that treat AI as a mere trend or an enemy will miss out on its potential benefits.
  • Training for Teachers: Educators should receive training on AI detection so they can identify and manage AI-generated content.
  • AI in the Classroom: Explore how AI can be integrated into the classroom, from assisting with lesson planning to aiding special needs students.

#4 Monitoring

  • Goal: Keep track of AI usage within the school and stay updated on market trends.
  • Partnership with IT: Collaborate with IT departments to monitor AI-related website visits and software installations.
  • Content Blocking: While it’s essential to monitor AI usage, care should be taken to ensure that content blocking doesn’t hinder student learning.
  • Stay Updated: Attend webinars, read articles, and engage in discussions to remain informed about emerging AI technologies.
  • Listen to Students: Students are often early adopters of new technologies, so their feedback can provide valuable insights.
  • Inform Policy Changes: Use monitoring data to understand and inform necessary policy adjustments.

Real-World Applications

Some examples include tools like Khan Academy’s Khanmigo chatbot that can tutor students, while others like Gradescope offer AI-assisted grading. These examples highlight the potential for AI to support traditional teaching methods and provide personalized learning experiences for students.

It should come as no surprise that ClearGov uses elements of AI to drive our budgeting and planning solutions, too! One example is forecasting within Operational Budgeting. With just one click, ClearGov quickly generates a forecast based on your historical budget data. This sophisticated yet easy-to-use AI module enables you to create unlimited forecasts and plan for different what-if scenarios.

Our Digital Budget Book solution also leverages AI. The FirstDraft feature automatically generates an initial pass of fact-base content for several key sections within the budget book. This helps get staff past the dreaded “blank page” and allows them to focus on adding personal narrative faster.

The impact AI will have on schools is a complex issue, with both challenges and opportunities. The key lies in understanding, adapting, and harnessing AI’s potential for the betterment of education.

October 31, 2023

Matt Benati

Matt Benati is Vice President of Marketing for ClearGov®, the leading provider of Budget Cycle Management software for local governments. Matt is passionate about helping organizations modernize their annual budgeting process by automating workflow, increasing collaboration, and improving transparency between governments and citizens.

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