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D.C. State Board of Education Gears Up to Discuss AI Use in the Classroom

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As teachers, parents and young people continue to debate the merits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence (AI), one state board representative has set out to ensure that the District standardizes the use of education technology in classrooms.  

D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) representative Brandon Best told The Informer that SBOE will host a roundtable about education technology on Nov. 27. He said that he intends to ask families, teachers, community members and representatives of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to weigh in on how to shape policy around education technology

This roundtable, Best said, will lead to the development of a resolution. Earlier this month, SBOE’s State Level & Systemic Policy Committee, chaired by At-Large SBOE Representative Jacque Patterson and Ward 1 SBOE Representative Ben Williams, approved this process. 

Years before taking public office, Best, a Ward 6 SBOE representative, worked on machine learning, a precursor to ChatGPT that won the first-place prize in an eBay startup challenge. He said that project and subsequent experiences further convinced him of AI’s significance in an increasingly advancing society. 

Best told The Informer that failing to seize the moment places District students at a disadvantage. 

“The best approach is to provide a structure where our students can use AI safely and understand the power it can yield. I don’t want us to be that school district [that doesn’t want to use AI],” Best said. “If we want our students to be successful, we need academic standards associated with this technology. It should guide the instruction to give our teachers a framework so they’re not [going in] blind.” 

Technology Steeped In Controversy and Promise

The District’s newly adopted social studies standards, a collaborative endeavor between SBOE and OSSE,  require students to develop and enhance their digital literacy and evaluate the role of government, people, and corporations in ensuring public access to accurate information. An OSSE spokesperson said that the agency is in the process of forming an exploratory committee on AI use in classroom instruction. Part of that work would also involve some work with SBOE.  

Within the past year, ChatGPT, Photomath and Symbolab have emerged as AI tools that, with a few verbal and written commands, can write essays, answer test questions, develop computer programs, and compose music, among other tasks. The tool has become increasingly popular among high school and college students who’ve reportedly used it to complete assignments that would’ve otherwise taken hours, and a strong command of the subject matter, to navigate. 

In response to AI’s use, many teachers have reverted back to pen-and-paper assessments to discourage cheating. Other methods include in-class assignments without Wi-Fi access and oral presentations that accompany written work. Leigh Ann DeLyser, the founder-executive director of CSforAll, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding computer science education, recently told EducationWeek that such a pivot could potentially slow down AI’s impact and allow policymakers more time to standardize use of education technology. 

survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and policy research nonprofit ParentsTogether found more than three out of four parents supported the use of technology to facilitate teaching. 

Two out of three teachers also believe that education technology positively affects students’ learning, according to the survey. While parents and teachers support education technology, 84% of teachers and more than half of parents said they wanted more of a say in how it was used in the classroom. 

Three out of four teachers said their students never used AI software or AI-enabled search engines in the classroom, while nearly 80% of educators said they never used the technology for their own work. AFT President Randi Weingarten said that while the findings have debunked myths about AI’s controversy, teachers and parents should be more involved in discussions about how to use education technology in the classroom. 

“This survey underlines a prevailing truth when it comes to education — listen to teachers, listen to parents, listen to students,” Weingarten said. “And it illustrates what we have always known — that parents and teachers are much more closely aligned when it comes to the education and well-being of their students than some politicians would have us believe.”

One Teacher Weighs In

Eastern High School teacher Lee James is scheduled to speak before SBOE in November about how he has been able to integrate AI into classroom instruction. Over the past couple of years, James has embraced ChatGPT as a tool for modeling quality writing to students. 

For James, an IT, International Baccalaureate (IB), and world history instructor, the journey started upon hearing about ChatGPT while in IT education spaces. He has since introduced the 1tth and 12th graders in his world history and IB theory of knowledge courses to ChatGPT.  He recounted seeing English instructors taking a similar course of action while teaching students about tone and mood in narrative and essay writing. 

In James’ classes, students first learn to not think about ChatGPT as solely an answer generating machine. From that point, James uses ChatGPT to model suitable answers for prompts. His students would later practice their writing using those answers as a guide. James also spoke of instances where students examined answers generated by ChatGPT and debated among themselves how to improve them. 

While James has used ChatGPT with upperclassmen, he also supported the idea of exposing freshmen and sophomores to AI — albeit with a bit of caution. He told The Informer that younger students should become aware about how easily teachers can detect AI-generated answers, and the consequences for students who are caught using the technology for those means. 

“There are teachers who are not keen on new technology and are worried that students will be able to use language models to answer questions and it might replace some of the skills,” James said. “ When I integrate an AI lesson, I share the success with my peers. A lot of people are encouraged. It’s unique and it gets the students’ attention. It’s an ever-increasing challenge to keep and sustain their attention but we definitely have it when you show them what AI can do.”

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Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama, a lifelong enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, has been exploring technology and the digital realm since childhood. Known for his creative thinking, he's dedicated to improving AI experiences for all, making him a respected figure in the field. His passion, curiosity, and creativity drive advancements in the AI world.


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