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New AI guidelines for Arizona schools aim to make education more human

Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT have become a big topic of conversation - and reason for concern – for many people. The world of education is no different. Lots of new tools are coming out, and companies are starting up offering products and services.

LeeAnn Lindsey and a group of colleagues have come up with a new set of AI guidance for Arizona schools. Lindsey is director of EdTech and Innovation for the Arizona Institute for Education and the Economy at Northern Arizona University. She joined The Show to talk more about this.

Full interview

MARK BRODIE: LeAnn, what was the goal in putting this together? What are you hoping to achieve here?

LEANN LINDSEY: We created this guidance with three goals in mind. Number one, we want to encourage education leaders to step off the sidelines of the AI conversation — if that’s where they’ve been sitting — and kind of get themselves into the game. We want to prompt them to start learning more about AI, to stop banning AI, to start having more conversations with staff and parents and teachers and students.

Number two, and most people probably recognize that the big conversation with AI has been around cheating. Aren’t students just going to cheat? Aren’t they just going to copy and paste from AI? And so another goal of the guidance is to move that conversation past the conversation of cheating.

And then the third goal is to give all Arizona schools a starting point.

BRODIE: I’m curious about what you said about getting teachers and instructors off the sidelines and get them to stop banning things like ChatGPT. And I think that kind of relates to what you said, the second thing, in terms of the conversation about cheating. I’m curious what you have heard — both of among your colleagues at NAU, but also maybe since this has come out — about like how hard of a sell is that to get teachers to try to incorporate AI and try to teach their students about the right and maybe the less right ways to use it, as opposed to just saying, “Nope, we’re not doing it. Can’t use it.”

LINDSEY: That’s a great question. The truth is that we’re all learning this new technology together, right? Teachers, when they were trained to be teachers, nobody taught them how to incorporate AI into the classroom. So within this guidance document, we have implementation recommendations.

And the guidance document really was written less for a classroom teacher and more for a school or a school system leader to say, “What does implementation look like?” And that includes professional development, and that includes a rigorous review of the tools to make sure they’re safe, to make sure they’re productive and to really be intentional about what tools we’re going to unblock and block and so forth.

BRODIE: It sounds like, in your mind anyway, there are some ways for teachers in the classroom to use AI that might actually allow them to spend more time with their students. It almost sounds like at least part of what you’re suggesting teachers might be able to do with things like ChatGPT is more of the — I guess, for lack of a better word — administrative tasks that they have to do. Not so much necessarily just purely teaching.

LINDSEY: Well, I look at classroom use in sort of three different buckets. There is how can teachers use AI — things like ChatGPT but also other tools? And to a large extent, it’s exactly what you’re saying, Mark. It’s how can they be more efficient? How can AI help them write better lesson plans? How can AI help them be more efficient with grading? How can it help them be more efficient with other administrative tasks, which then frees them up to be more human with students? And to spend more time in that instructional space, which we all know is where teachers actually want to spend their time.

The second bucket is with students, like how are students going to use it for learning? And I kind of break that up into two different categories. And one of them is strengthening their own AI literacy. So that’s one. And then number two is what I call AI integration, which really is speaking to how can students use AI to help them become better readers, to help them become better thinkers, to help them interpret material more effectively and so forth like that? So how can it help them in their core content areas as well?

BRODIE: So in terms of teachers, one of the things that caught my eye in your recommendations is it could potentially help teachers, for example, communicate with the parents of their students. And I wonder, as a parent of kids in school, I wonder how I would feel if I wrote to my kid’s teacher to ask a specific question, and I knew or suspected that their response to me was not actually written by them, but was instead written by ChatGPT.

LINDSEY: That’s such a good point. And you’re absolutely right. And I would not criticize any parent for having a concern with, “You know, I, I wrote the teacher, but the teacher wasn’t the one who wrote me back.” So what we suggest in the guidance — and this comes straight from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as several other states — we emphasize a model called human in the loop. Which means we use AI as a tool, but we have, the ultimate responsibility for oversight.

BRODIE: That sounds a lot like a lot of the guidance we hear in terms of how students maybe should use it as well. Not — and you alluded to this — not a copy and paste situation, but like a prompt to sort of maybe get the students started on an assignment or help them do some research or write something that they need to write. But the human is still in the loop, as you say, and the student ultimately is the one writing it, maybe with a little help from AI, but not AI doing the job.

LINDSEY: Absolutely. I think about our common perception of the word cheating, or our common perception of the word plagiarism. And those two words are often thought of as very black and white. You have either cheated or you have not cheated. You have either copied other work or you have not copied other work.

But we have to start really thinking about redefining those terms, cheating and copying and plagiarism and academic integrity, academic honesty. Because in the world of AI, there are so many different levels where we can use it as a coach, as a thought partner.

How many of us use Grammarly or spell check to make sure that when we edit, we sound professional and that kind of thing? So we can use AI as a tool at multiple levels in the process that I think most of us would not consider cheating.

BRODIE: I’d like to go back to something you said earlier about how sort of everybody’s learning this together. It’s new technology. It’s constantly evolving. I wonder if sort of beyond the issue of AI, I wonder if there’s something interesting, maybe about the experience of students and teachers learning something together in real time that at least some number of them recognize is going to be a pretty significant thing going forward.

LINDSEY: You’ve spoken my love language, Mark.

I absolutely love the conversation of teachers and students co-learning together. There’s something so powerful in a co-learning situation. Most of us have been raised on an education model where the teacher holds all the information and passes the information along to students. But when we flip this into either a teacher learning with their students or teacher learning from their students, I think it’s so powerful.

And I think when we look at emerging technologies like that, even more powerful because we have a lot to learn that our students can teach us.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.