Classroom Technology

‘Day of AI’ Spurs Classroom Discussions on Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

By Benjamin Herold — May 19, 2023 3 min read
Conceptual image of artificial intelligence workforce.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Several thousand students worldwide participated in the second annual “Day of AI” on May 18, yet another sign of artificial intelligence’s growing significance to schools.

“It’s been a year of extraordinary advancements in AI, and with that comes necessary conversations and concerns about who and what this technology is for,” said event organizer Cynthia Breazeal, who is the director of the Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE) initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

America’s K-12 schools are already using artificial intelligence for everything from personalizing student learning to conducting classroom observations, as Education Week described in a special report earlier this month. A coalition of influential groups such as Code.org and the Educational Testing Service recently launched an effort to help schools and state education departments integrate artificial intelligence into curricula, and the International Society for Technology in Education has made related learning opportunities available to students and teachers alike.

The RAISE initiative at MIT builds on those efforts by offering free classroom lessons on such topics as “What Can AI Do?” and “ChatGPT in School.” Overall, said MIT doctoral student Daniella DiPaola, who helped develop the Day of AI curriculum, the approach is to weave ethical, social, and policy considerations throughout technical explanations. Central to that aim is fostering discussion of the “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights” released by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in late 2022.

“We want to make sure societal impact is part of the process,” DiPaola said.

That’s exactly what the White House hoped to spur, said Marc Aidinoff, who helped lead the creation of the Bill of Rights during his time as OSTP’s chief of staff. Aidinoff spent the “Day of AI” working with a group of Massachusetts middle and high school students debating potential legislation for regulating the use of artificial intelligence in schools.

“Unlike the adults who talk about AI as this unknowable, all-powerful thing and let their fear take over, the students all treated AI as a knowable thing that’s complicated, but we can take action on,” he said afterward.

Aidinoff said he particularly appreciated the MIT RAISE initiative’s focus on engaging artificial intelligence as a potentially helpful companion, rather than a threat or silver-bullet solution. One benefit of that approach, he said, is an emphasis on considering specific use cases and threats rather than getting paralyzed by amorphous fears. Thinking about how AI can best support humans also encourages discussions of general themes and principles such as fairness that teachers are already accustomed to exploring with their students.

That sentiment was echoed by Kristen Thomas Clarke, a literacy and information technology teacher at the private Media-Providence Friends School in Pennyslvania. Now in her eighth year at the school, Thomas Clarke said she’s long mixed digital citizenship and media literacy activities into her lessons on coding and robotics. But in the wake of ChatGPT’s emergence this year, she and her head of school decided that a broader school-wide discussion of artificial intelligence was warranted.

That included use of MIT’s curriculum, which Thomas Clarke praised as highly interactive and effective at helping students see both the promise and potential pitfalls of AI, including discrimination that can result from biased training data.

But the most important impact, she said, was on the adults at her school.

“I think our initial reaction [to ChatGPT] was maybe a little bit of fear, like ‘what are the kids going to do with this?’” Thomas Clarke said. “But now I think of it more in terms of enhancing their knowledge than doing their homework for them.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology From Our Research Center The AI Classroom Hype Is All Wrong, Some Educators Say
Amid all the encouragement to try the technology, there are plenty of educators who don’t plan to start.
1 min read
Illustration of a large, sinking iceberg forming the letters "AI" as a business professional stands on the tip of the iceberg that remains above water with his hands on his hips and looking out into the large sea.
iStock/Getty
Classroom Technology What Worries District Tech Leaders Most About AI? (It’s Not About Teaching)
A new report from the Consortium for School Networking explores district tech leaders' top priorities and challenges.
3 min read
Motherboard image with large "AI" letters with an animated magnifying glass pans in from the left.
Canva
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center How Educators Are Using AI to Do Their Jobs
Educators are slowly experimenting with AI tools in a variety of ways, according to EdWeek Research Center survey data.
2 min read
Tight crop of a white computer keyboard with a cyan blue button labeled "AI"
iStock/Getty
Classroom Technology Opinion Let's Not Oversimplify Students' Cellphone Use
Vilifying the technology, including social media, is easier than digging into the societal issues that contribute to mental health issues.
5 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty