How is AI changing these school classrooms?

How is AI changing these school classrooms?

Teachers were among the most concerned demographics when the AI-powered ChatGPT chatbot debuted less than a year and a half ago.

The query-based platform, trained on vast amounts of data sourced from the Internet, appears to have made a quantum leap in simulating human responses to questions and prompts. Its fanbase grew at a record rate, attracting an estimated 100 million users just two months after its launch, making it, at the time, the fastest-growing internet app of all time.

But this same ability to remember assimilated information (accurate or otherwise) coupled with its uncanny ability to parrot also made the new gadget a veritable homework machine, capable of producing student research papers, solving math problems, writing quick college admissions essays, and much more. .

Just weeks after OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, opened its doors to public access in November 2022, Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at Wharton Business School, tweeted that “AI has basically ruined homework” but called his announcement “but it has upsides.” also”.

Is artificial intelligence education a friend or foe?

Jordan School District Superintendent Anthony Godfrey was among the education professionals who, at the time lacking sufficient information to assess the potential harms of ChatGPT and other emerging AI platforms, found themselves obligated to limit access to the new tools in school.

“AI was all the hype,” Godfrey said. “But we had to shut it down in our district and not allow access to ChatGPT… because we didn’t know what problems it might cause for our students or our digital infrastructure.”

Caleb Hicks, founder of School AI, and Cahalan Sharp, CTO of School AI, work at School AI headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

Christine Murphy, Deseret News

But Godfrey has closely watched the development of AI-driven tools, knowing that the technology will eventually lead to applications aimed at “harnessing what AI can do for students and teachers.”

Then he met veteran Utah educator Caleb Hicks at an education conference and heard about Hicks’ startup, SchoolAI.

Godfrey was impressed by what he heard from Hicks, particularly regarding SchoolAI’s robust safety protocols and the system’s robust tools for both students and teachers. He said the way the platform works reflects that it is not just a product of random software engineering, but rather a product built by actual teachers.

This is the kind of response Hicks and his team have been aiming for since launching SchoolAI last summer.

Teachers helping teachers

“We like to say we were built by teachers, for teachers,” Hicks said. “Many of the people on our team are former teachers and we meet regularly with a community of current teachers who are using our product in new and interesting ways. There is a big difference between our approach and someone trying to design educational tools that have never existed in the classroom before.”

SchoolAI touts its offering of over 1,000 activities with dedicated AI teachers, interactive games, simulations, wellbeing recordings, and a library of grade-specific and subject-specific activities. Teachers who use the platform also get the benefits of dashboards with real-time feedback and supervision, according to the company, so they can easily track student progress and create personalized learning plans to meet students where they are.


Caleb Hicks, founder of School AI, works at School AI headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

Christine Murphy, Deseret News

Hicks is well aware of the daily challenges teachers face, some of whom are tasked with teaching new lessons every day to groups of 30 or more students who move through their classrooms every hour or hour and a half.

“We all think of teachers working with 20 to 25 students at a time — which is already a high bar — when in reality most teachers work with many more,” Hicks said. “We built SchoolAI because we see a significant opportunity to bring AI into classrooms in a safe and secure way that benefits teachers and students in a way that parents approve of.”

Hicks said the decision by Godfrey and several other school administrators to limit access to the new AI-powered tools was the right decision at the time. But SchoolAI, powered by ChatGPT and other AI-based engines, has harnessed the capabilities of AI while building critical safeguards and developing tools that meet the evolving needs of students and teachers.

“Although many school districts have banned ChatGPT, we have found that they are eager to adopt SchoolAI in their classrooms once they see an AI-driven interface that enables teachers and students to connect with daily check-ins, personalized tutoring, simulations, and games,” Hicks said. “Adapts to each student’s interests and skill level.”

SchoolAI in the trenches

Sam McGrath, an English teacher at Payson High School, said ChatGPT’s arrival was a bombshell that sparked a level of panic among teachers and parents about what the tool might portend for teacher-based learning and how it could be used as a crutch by students who might turn to it for solutions. Easy to complete homework.

But McGrath saw the positive potential early on.

“As I explored ChatGPT, a big thing for me was thinking about how to put AI in the hands of students in a way that included appropriate boundaries and safety measures,” McGrath said.

This opportunity came about when his district obtained a limited number of SchoolAI licenses to allow interested teachers to try out the platform.


Caleb Hicks, founder of School AI, works at School AI headquarters in Lehi on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

Christine Murphy, Deseret News

McGrath said he introduced SchoolAI as a tool that allows him to tailor exercises specifically to different student interests and abilities while targeting specific lessons and concepts.

He also added it as a gateway for students to get input on their writing, in a way that guides the process without doing the work for the students.

“It’s a space where they can get immediate feedback and allows me to monitor the process and provide additional guidance,” McGrath said.

He has also used SchoolAI features to add new curricular exercises, such as creating a mock trial plan to explore a reading assignment from one of his classes, Reginald Rose’s novel, Twelve Angry Men.

McGrath also appreciates the opportunity to incorporate the use of SchoolAI as a pathway to expose students to AI tools, which he sees as an important body of knowledge for the future workplace.

“I feel like we owe it to our students to provide some guidance on how to use these tools before they enter the professional world,” McGrath said. “It’s about safety and how to best use these tools.”

Artificial intelligence in the workplace and classroom

Godfrey also believes that AI is set to reshape the world of work and sees the technology as a tool that has the potential to provide a powerful boost to both teachers and learners.

To that end, the Jordan School District announced Wednesday that it will make SchoolAI available in its 67 schools, which include 3,350 teachers and more than 57,800 students.

Nationally, 1,500 school districts have adopted the SchoolAI platform, totaling more than 20,000 teachers and 100,000 students in Utah, New York, Ohio and Connecticut, according to the company.

“Educating our future generations is crucial; to say that our teachers work hard and go the extra mile in their classrooms to meet the needs of every student is an understatement,” Godfrey said in a press release. “Partnering with SchoolAI allows us to bring a tool into the classroom that allows teachers Gain valuable insights into their students’ readiness level for each subject, making it easier to help them in a personalized way that wasn’t possible before. It does all of this in a scalable format that ensures our teachers can do more amazing work without being overburdened or burned out.

Jordan-area teachers had the opportunity to test SchoolAI, and the decision to offer the platform district-wide was the result of a competitive process in which the company distinguished itself as the “clear front-runner,” Godfrey said.

He also pointed to overwhelmingly positive reviews from teachers who have used the platform and “enthusiastic” support from community school board members in the area.

Godfrey stressed his belief that AI tools like SchoolAI are not on their way to replacing teachers, but rather creating opportunities for teachers to “save time on the things they already do and make things possible that they would never be able to do, no matter what.” “They’re brilliant.”

“Teachers can never be replaced,” Godfrey said. “The relationship between teachers and students is essential. SchoolAI enhances this as an effective teacher’s assistant and student mentor.

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