‘Future-ready’: Some Mass. schools embracing artificial intelligence to transform way kids learn

WORCESTER, Mass. — While some of the nation’s largest school districts from New York City to L.A. temporarily banned the use of chatbots like ‘ChatGPT’ over fears of cheating, some local school districts are embracing the technology.

Worcester Public School leaders are training teachers on how to use this new tool in their lesson plans for students as they start the new school year.

Sarah Kyriazis heads up Technology in Digital Learning for Worcester Public Schools and says if schools ignore Artificial Intelligence, they’ll be doing students a disservice.

“It’s already in their pockets, we want to teach them the skills and the future-ready skills to embrace it and then to be able to use it safely,” said Kyriazis.

Kyriazis says students need critical thinking skills more than ever with this new technology to decipher what’s real or what’s fake online.

That’s one exercise she’s using in the classroom.

“We have to figure out how to handle it, not by ignoring it or banning it because that doesn’t work,” said Wesley Wildman, an AI and Ethics professor at Boston University.

Wildman has been studying the rapidly changing technology and says there are ways for school districts to figure out how to implement this as soon as possible.

“What they need to do is find expert help so they can produce the sorts of materials that teachers need for modifying their curricula, for evaluating students without AI and for incorporating AI into assignments, both, and to send materials home to parents so that they can wisely guide their children as their kids try to figure out how they’re supposed to adapt to this new environment,” said Wildman.

Wildman says ‘AI’ will be a part of every student’s job in the future.

So now is the time to teach them skills like ‘prompt engineering’ or how to get the best results from a chatbot to enhance their assignment.

He’s already implementing AI in assignments with his students at Boston University.

“Stage one: you use generative AI and only generative AI to produce a project, stage two, you criticize it as profoundly as you can and stage three, you write your own project, drawing on what you did before, but also drawing on your criticism to create something genuinely new,” said Wildman.

Wildman says teachers want to consider more hand-written essays or exams.

“More oral exams, more oral testing, more on the fly spontaneous testing where people can’t use a phone or computing device,” said Wildman.

Wildman says this should challenge students to dive deeper to create something more unique from what the technology can do.

“Increase standards so people strive for even greater excellence than what we’re used to now,” said Wildman.

The U.S. Department of Education is trying to come up with national guidelines for school systems to safely implement Artificial Intelligence in the classroom.

The Department released a 70-page paper in May of insights and recommendations so far, as they work towards creating more concrete standards.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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