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For decades, Washington's Wheat Basket Walla Walla High School has maintained an old redwood barn on campus where students learn time-honoured farming skills: raising pigs and sheep.
As the new academic year begins, some teachers at the school are gearing up to help students learn the latest digital skills: how to use artificial intelligence. chatbots such as ChatGPT.
This month,Walla Walla Public Schools, which serves around 5,500 students, organized a full-day workshop on artificial intelligence. chatbots that can generate homework, fictional stories, and other text. About 100 local teachers attended the high school.
This was a remarkable change for a district that only blocked students from accessing ChatGPT on school devices in February.
“I want students to use knowledge,” says Yazmin Bahena, a bilingual high school social studies teacher. "They will grow up in a world where this is the norm."
Last winter, the chatbot media frenzy rocked school districtsuniversities in the United States. The tools, trained on huge databases of digital texts, use artificial intelligence to create written answers to users' questions. Bots are also generously inventing things.
Tech giants and billionaires have promised that A.I. Tools will revolutionize science. Critics have warned that bots are more likely to undermine education and flood students with themmisinformationand facilitate widespread deception.
Faced with predictions of impending miracles and doom, some public schools have tried to hit the pause button to give administrators time to catch up. In December, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school system, blocked ChatGPT from the school's Wi-Fi network and student devices in the district. Other neighborhoods soon followed suit, including New York City, the largest school system in the US.
Administrators quickly realized, however, that bot bans were ineffective. Initially, wealthier students with smartphones or laptops could simply use ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by San Francisco-based OpenAI, or similar bots such as Google's Bard, at home.
"Children who have devices at home and unfiltered, unfettered connectivity are already reaping the benefits of having access to these tools," said Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, in an interview this week. "Students using devices and connectivity available in the district have limited options."
In May, schools in New York releasedI posted my mea culpa, claiming that the district was acting too fast and would unblock ChatGPT. This week, Mr. Carvalho said Los Angeles schools are also working on more tolerant policies.
As schools reopen in the fall, teachers and district leaders grapple with AI's complex questions. tools: What should writing assignments look like in a time when students can simply implement chatbots to generate prose for them? How can schools, teachers and students use bots effectively and creatively? Does it still count as cheating if the student asks the bot to make a rough sketch which he then rewrites himself?
Some larger neighborhoods, including Milwaukee, still have ChatGPT blocks. Some districts, such as Newark Public Schools, dotry specialized chatbotsspecificallydesigned to guide students.
Other districts use tools like ChatGPT as a lesson planning tool for teachers and as an opportunity for students to learn how bots can produce disinformation and replicate human bias. Administrators say they're just taking a pragmatic stance: Students need to learn to ask chatbots to answer their questions, just as they learn to search on search engines like Google.
“The world our children will inherit will be full of AI, and we need to make sure they are well prepared for it, both in terms of pros and cons,” said Wade Smith, head of Walla Walla Public Schools, in a recent interview. "Putting your head behind a curtain or under a sheet and hoping it will pass just isn't a reality."
Walla Walla portrays a remarkable AI learning curve in one neighborhood. This year. School administrators have sought to capitalize on the potential benefits of chatbots, working to address difficult issues such as cheating, misinformation, and potential threats to student privacy.
In January, Keith Ross, director of technology and information services for the school district, heard about ChatGPT. District teachers noticed that many students were doing their homework via the chatbot just like their own. Obvious clue: chatbots came up with quotes that weren't in the novels asked in class.
District authorities were also concerned about the privacy of students. ChatGPT and Bard require new users to provide personal information such as email address and mobile phone number. But the administrators did not know how A.I. companies may use information about students' accounts or their textual interactions with chatbots.
"We just didn't know enough about the technology," said Ross, who blocked students from ChatGPT in February. "We have disabled this feature to give us some time to work out what it is and how we will support teachers and possibly students in using it."
There is an AI in the circle. an advisory committee of 15 administrators and teachers. The committee examined the potential benefits and challenges of providing students with access to artificial intelligence. chatbots and plans to provide teachers with more training on these tools.
"There are two main categories: using them to increase efficiency and save time in the teacher's job," says Carrie LaRoy, the district tech integration specialist who oversees the committee, "but also how we can teach our students to follow responsibly and faithfully. "
Last Thursday at 8 a.m., about 100 local teachers and principals poured into a glass-fronted conference room in Wa-Hi, as the high school is called. They gave up their vacation at the end of the summer to try out artificial intelligence. lesson planning and student learning tools.
The workshop was led by Molly Brinkley, a regional technology coach who works with 23 local school districts. Most of them blocked ChatGPT last spring, she said.
Some workshop participants describe themselves as novices in chatbots. Others said they came to learn more advanced skills.
One of them was Beth Clearman, an experienced English teacher at the local high school, who wanted to come up with some literary games for the first day of class. So she asked ChatGPT to write a six-word diary about famous literary figures.
the chatbot's AI generated quick descriptions such as "lavish celebrations, unrequited love, green light" and "arrow target, rebel face, Mockingjay fire." Ms Clearman said she plans to ask students to match the names of key players to their chatbot bios. (Spoiler alert: Jay Gatsby, Katniss Everdeen.)
Initially suspicious of A.I. chatbots - Ms. Clearman said she now plans to use ChatGPT "so much"! with his writing students.
"I changed my whole way of thinking," she said.
You. Bahena, a bilingual social studies teacher, discovered another potentially useful feature: lesson translation.
“I wanted to see how well it would work in Spanish,” said Ms. Bahena. So she asked ChatGPT to create a Civil War quiz in English and Spanish for her eighth grade students. “It went pretty well.
However, even enthusiastic Walla Walla teachers expressed concern that students would find it difficult to critically approach material created by chatbots.
"I'm afraid they'll just accept it," says Shauna Millett, a high school English teacher.
For now, the district is encouraging teachers to use chatbots and draw attention to students' apparent shortcomings. Students aged 13 or over can also create ChatGPT accounts if they wish.
As the workshop drew to a close, Mrs. Brinkley, the regional technology coach, looked around the room and was delighted to see that dozens of local teachers were now able to converse freely - if not fluently - with A.I. chat bots.
"I am advising schools to reconsider their bans," she said. "When teachers get training, families get training, and students get training."
Natasha Zangerwrites about technology, business and society. It now describes the far-reaching ways tech companies and their tools are transforming public schools, higher education, and employment. More about Natasha Singer
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