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Here’s what Biden’s AI executive order could mean for schools

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Dive Brief:

  • In an executive order signed Monday, President Joe Biden directed his administration to create resources to help teachers implement educational tools that rely on artificial intelligence, such as personalized tutoring technology.
  • Also under the executive order, the U.S. Department of Commerce will establish guidance for content authentication and watermarking that clearly flags if content is AI-generated, which could help address educators’ concerns that AI can help students plagiarize.  
  • In addition, the executive order calls on Congress to pass legislation that protects data privacy, especially for children

Dive Insight:

Monday’s executive order sets safeguards and guidance on AI use nationwide. It does not, however, impose consequences on businesses that fail to comply with the standards. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will set standards for “red team testing,” a cybersecurity tactic used to guarantee an AI system is safe before it’s publicly released.

These new standards could impact ed tech companies working to integrate AI technology into schools. At a minimum, the U.S. Department of Education needs to be involved in the process to evaluate AI in schools, said Paul Lekas, senior vice president of global public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association, in a statement Monday. 

Lekas added he is concerned the executive order’s call for the Department of Homeland Security to lead the process of monitoring AI in schools — as they are considered critical infrastructure — could “impede the safe and responsible use of AI in the classroom.”

AI poses risks to data privacy because the technology can make it easier to extract and exploit personal information, according to a White House fact sheet on the executive order. On top of that, AI even incentivizes invasive data mining because that information can be further used to train AI systems, the White House said. 

“Using teenager’s personal data to figure out what will keep them glued to their device, AI makes social media more addictive,” Biden said before signing the executive order. “It’s causing what our surgeon general calls a ‘profound risk of harm to their mental health and wellbeing.’”

The call for more secure data privacy follows an ongoing initiative from Biden, who during his State of the Union address earlier this year asked Congress to “stop Big Tech from collecting personal data on our kids.” 

Additionally, lawsuits are mounting against social media companies alleging that their technology is harming students. Meta last week became the latest target as attorneys general in 41 states and the District of Columbia sued the parent company of Facebook and Instagram for designing and deploying harmful social media features targeting children and teens.

To address potential discrimination from AI algorithms, the order calls for the U.S. Department of Justice and federal civil rights offices to set best practices for investigating and prosecuting AI-related civil rights violations. 

Meanwhile, in a poll released this month, 49% of parents said they don’t think their child’s school is well equipped to use AI tools in their education. Still, more than two-thirds of parents said the potential benefits of using AI in schools outweigh or are equal to the potential cons, according to the National Parents Union survey of 1,515 parents. 

More than half — 56% — of parents said AI-driven online tutoring programs could have the most positive impact among the benefits of AI on their children’s education. Some 52% of parents also said their children could benefit from teachers using AI to tailor curriculum and lesson plans. 

Biden’s efforts to steer AI guidance comes months after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released its own report on AI — primarily advising schools to keep “humans in the loop” and saying AI tools should not replace teachers. Rather, the report said, educators should be at the forefront for how the technology is integrated into classrooms. 

Other K-12 AI guidance has also continued to roll in from various sectors including ed tech industry leaders and companies like ChatGPT’s OpenAI.

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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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