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Indian Prairie School District embraces AI

Indian Prairie School District 204 is planning to incorporate discussions of artificial intelligence into its curriculum at all grade levels and give high school students access to AI tools like Microsoft Copilot next school year.

A task force created to look at the potential uses and downsides of AI in Indian Prairie schools presented its findings to the district’s Board of Education at its meeting on Monday.

Task force members said AI has the potential to transform education, both for students and teachers, but that these tools must be used in an ethical and responsible way. They recommended the district embrace AI tools instead of blocking them, which is the district’s current policy.

“This is happening faster than anything I’ve seen in my 30 years of education,” said Steve Wick, a task force member and teacher at Neuqua Valley High School. “It’s almost astounding what generative AI can do for us and some of the possibilities it will open the door for.”

Generative Artificial Intelligence, more commonly known as AI, is a computer software tool that studies a large amount of information, such as documents, photos or audio, and then, when prompted by a person, can create similar content based on the information it was trained on, according to a blog post by IBM Research.

The point of using AI tools in classrooms is not to replace jobs, creativity or human connection, task force members said. Instead, these tools should be used to enhance what teachers are already doing, making their jobs easier and helping their students learn better.

For students, one of the main uses of AI tools in the classroom will be creative brainstorming, particularly through photo generation tools like Adobe Firefly and Canva’s AI tool, according to the task force’s presentation.

These tools will not replace normal brainstorming steps but will instead be an additional tool that students can use, task force members said.

AI tools like Microsoft Copilot can also act “almost as a tutor” for students who are struggling with certain content, said Tania Moneim, a task force member and instructional specialist for equity and innovation. Not all families are able to pay for tutors, so these tools might help fill that gap, she said.

However, task force members were careful to say that these tools will not replace face-to-face human interaction between teachers and their students. Wick said he has previously used an AI tool to help him tutor a student in a subject he had not personally taught in several years, helping to remind him of certain things while checking behind the tool to make sure it was correct.

New technology often shifts education in new directions, according to Moneim.

She said that, because of calculators, teachers now place less emphasis on students memorizing simple math, which has freed them up to teach students an explanation of how those answers are found and how to solve more complex problems.

Using AI tools in classrooms will likely have a similar effect, Moneim said.

While AI tools will be widely available only to high school students in the district, with middle school students having access to some tools like Adobe Firefly, lessons about AI will soon be integrated into curriculums from elementary to high school.

In elementary school, students will learn what AI is at a basic level, according to Moneim. She said these students are already being taught how to correctly and safely use the internet, so these lessons will fit right in.

In middle school, students will begin using the AI tools and learning more about them, with a particular focus on the ethics of using AI, according to Shelli Kelsey, a task force member and instructional technology educator at Fischer Middle School.

She said sixth-grade students will get a deeper look at what AI is, seventh-graders will begin engaging with AI tools and eighth-graders will begin creating their own AI tools.

At the high school level, AI tool use will likely vary between schools and individual classrooms, Wick said.

AI tools are not only being considered for student use. Task force members said that teachers will be able to use these tools to speed up their everyday tasks, create better assessments and personalize lessons to individual students based on their progress.

Indian Prairie School District Board members expressed some concerns about AI use in schools, particularly around academic dishonesty and writing. However, they said they applauded the task force’s efforts and intentional look at the new tools, and they agreed that their use should be encouraged.

Board member Justin Karubas said that, in addition to other efforts, new policies should be made defining what academic dishonesty looks like after AI tools are allowed to be used.

Ethical use is one of the four focus areas in a document created by the task force that is designed to guide AI use in Indian Prairie schools. That document, available on the district’s website, says that students will be taught to critically analyze the information and content that AI tools produce for them.

Students will also be taught the limitations of AI and their biases, the document says. Because generative AI tools are trained on large sets of data, any biases in the data they are trained on will appear in the outputs of the tools.

Task force members said these lessons are important because students are likely already using AI tools on their own time. As tools advance and become part of everyday life, students may also have to use these AI tools in their future careers, they said.

According to District 204 Director of Innovation Brian Giovanini, the AI tools being opened up for high school student use next year will not cost the district any extra money as they are already built into existing digital platforms the district regularly pays for.

The task force is set to meet twice next school year to evaluate the current implementation of AI across the district, Giovanini said.

“I think it’s incredibly important to keep this task force going into the future, as this is going to evolve constantly,” said District 204 School Board President Laurie Donahue.

Originally Appeared Here

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