Debate Continues About AI’s Role in Schools

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Educators continue to debate the merit of artificial intelligence in U.S. schools, with some concerned that its use may cause “equity” issues in the classroom.

AI has already been put to practical use in many areas of modern life. For example, it has been used to catalog trees in urban areas, and in medical settings, it has helped to detect fetal birth defects. However, questions remain about the role of AI in American classrooms.

Carroll ISD recently adopted a new policy outlining the district’s official stance on the use of AI. The policy does not altogether ban students’ use of AI, such as ChatGPT and Bard, but seeks to regulate it. The policy does prohibit students from using AI to plagiarize their assignments.

“We’re going to embrace it. It’s going to happen anyway, so we might as well get on board,” Alex Sexton, a Carroll ISD trustee, told Community Impact.

Other educational institutions have begun integrating AI technology into the classroom. The Connecticut Department of Education recently announced that it would partner with Varsity Tutors, an online tutoring platform, to integrate AI tools to enhance tutoring for its students, according to TS2.

AI could also help lighten the load for educators, according to Nicol Turner Lee, the director of The Center for Technology at the Brookings Institute.

“To a certain extent, the technology, again, is going to help offload some of the other burdens that teachers have when it comes to assisting in attendance and things like that. You know, in light of the fact that there is a teacher shortage,” Lee said, as per The Hill.

“As with any technology, it is important that it incorporates the learning styles and contexts in which they are deployed, and to have AI be an effective tool and resource for educators as well as students,” said Lee, according to The Hill. “There needs to be an inclusive framework for how these resources get integrated into our classrooms.”

Some critics of AI technology in the school setting have raised concerns that it could exhibit racial biases if not carefully vetted.

“Oftentimes tech companies didn’t really seem to understand the experience of Black and Brown students in the classroom,” said Nidhi Hebbar, cofounder of EdTech Equity Project, according to The Hechinger Report.

When tech companies design products for schools, they often partner with districts in wealthier, predominantly white suburban areas or simply rely on the experience of their employees, Hebbar reasoned.

At times, prejudices may be coded into the product through “flawed algorithms, historically biased data sets, or the biases of the developers themselves,” the Hechinger Report noted.

Tech companies don’t always research how their product works for students with different cultural backgrounds, according to Hebbar.

If the AI application is “not trained on students with an accent, for example, or [those who] speak at home with a different dialect, it can very easily then learn that certain students are wrong and other students are correct, and it can discourage students. It can put students on a slower learning track because of the way that they express themselves,” Hebbar suggested, per the Hechinger Report.

On the other hand, some technology experts say that AI may help eliminate disparities in the classroom, especially for kids with special needs.

“I think AI tools can actually help make that happen by helping teachers create lessons and pedagogical practices that are unique to kids, which gets into the other piece of this, which is around neurodiversity, kids who have special needs,” said Jean-Claude Brizard, president and CEO of Digital Promise, according to The Hill.

“So many people have a dystopian view of AI. I’m hopeful, and I’m happy about this development,” said Brizard, per The Hill. “I just think as an education system, we not only have to catch up, we’ve got to get ahead of this.”

“Our leaders in education have to become leaders and activists versus passengers in this kind of effort,” he added.

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