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Bringing AI into the classroom: Will states embrace it or ban it?

Some say artificial intelligence will be a technology they can depend on. For many, A.I. is new and they are taking time to become more familiar.
Bringing AI into the classroom: Will states embrace it or ban it?
Posted at 7:15 PM, Aug 16, 2023

As students head back to class, school leaders must decide if artificial intelligence technology will be allowed in the classroom. 

It has districts throughout southeastern Wisconsin taking a hard look at A.I.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Brandon Pinion says A.I. is something he has come to rely on. But, if you are not familiar with the various artificial intelligence platforms, it may sound like he is speaking a foreign language.

"I use ChatGPT. I use Midjourney," says Pinion. 

For the platform Bard, he says, "sometimes I switch between the Bing chat which uses the GPT port."

With all these A.I. platforms becoming so popular, teachers have been hard at work deciding what their policy should be.

SEE MORE: Teachers and professors now using AI as a learning tool

"We've seen all sorts of different A.I. products pop up in our classrooms. Some being used appropriately by students, others not," said Brian Gannon, technology coordinator at the South Milwaukee School District.

There are concerns students will use A.I. to plagiarize when it comes to things like writing papers. But, the question teachers and administrators are trying to answer is whether A.I. could be used as a tool.

"What level of A.I. work is plagiarism? If I take A.I. and I adjust it, and I edit it and I use some of the points from that, is that still plagiarism? So those are the conversations that we have had in the spring, and plan to continue into the fall," said Gannon.

"You have to moderate what you allow in schools and what you are doing when you work with children. Because, you want to make sure it is safe for them. You want to make sure it is appropriately meeting their needs," said Deidre Roemer, superintendent of schools at the South Milwaukee School District.

Milwaukee Public Schools says it has banned ChatGPT on all school devices. 

However, school districts in Kenosha, Racine, Sheboygan, Mequon-Thiensville, Cedarburg, and Franklin say they do not have policies in place.

David Williamson Shaffer, the Sears Bascom professor of learning analytics and the Vilas distinguished achievement professor of learning sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying A.I. in education. 

He sees districts across the country taking different approaches, all the way from bans to using A.I. to teach.

"People are doing variations of all of these things. I think that because A.I. is not gonna go away anytime soon, simply trying to, you know, ban it, or ignore it, are not gonna work. A better approach is to actually start to integrate it into our instructional practice," said Shaffer.

Schaffer believes A.I. is the future — not only for learning, but in the workforce too.

"Every time a new technology appears, and this is not the first time — we saw this when the internet appeared in the 1990s. Calculators, graphing calculators came into classrooms in the 1980s. Before that, typewriters were a big deal when they were introduced, and so on. So new technologies come and schools adapt," said Shaffer.

"Eventually, do I see us using A.I. tools in schools all over the place? Sure. Because I think it is going to become second nature to all of us in our lives. What does that mean today? That's the exploratory phase we are in," said Roemer.

"It is the future, and if anything, schools and teachers shouldn't necessarily 'catch' kids using it, but figure out how to implement it into their curriculum, into their instruction," said Pinion.

The school district says they hope to have some sort of policy written on how A.I. should be used in classrooms sometime this winter.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Milwaukee

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