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Schools Want Guidance on AI Use in Classrooms. States Are Not Providing It, Report Says

More than half of state educational technology officials are seeing a spike in demand for guidance about proper use of AI tools in education, according to a recent report released by the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

But only 2 percent of state education technology officials said their state had initiatives or efforts underway to provide that kind of information, according to the survey of 104 officials from 45 states, Guam, and the Department of Defense, which operates schools for some military children. The survey was conducted in May and June by Whiteboard Advisors, on behalf of SETDA.

The lack of state initiatives on AI is a significant gap, given that 55 percent of respondents reported that they were seeing increased interest in guidance or policy around the use of AI in the classroom.

The number of states working on AI policy for schools is bound to increase in the coming years, the report said. It noted that the federal government has already gotten the ball rolling, with the U.S. Department of Education releasing a report on AI in schools in the spring that recommended educators understand the technology’s limitations and be empowered to decide when to disregard its conclusions.

At the time the federal report was released, Roberto Rodriguez, the department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, expressed concern that schools and districts would be unable to produce the kind of guidance educators need to keep up with rapid advances in AI technologies.

“I am worried that we are not moving quickly enough [in setting school level policies and district level policies] that both capture the powerful potential that AI provides, but also minimize the risks of these tools in classrooms and in learning for students,” Rodriguez said.

SETDA expects that states will soon move to provide guidance on how to safely, securely, and productively use AI in the classroom, the report said.

And at least one state official signaled she’s urging schools to embrace the technology.

“ChatGPT took the world by surprise when it hit the market in 2022 and some found it a little intimidating,” Kirsten Baeslar, North Dakota’s superintendent of public instruction, wrote in her introduction to the SETDA report. “Generative AI wasn’t part of the curriculum when I was a student, but it should be for the students we serve today. If we are to serve them well, we need to learn about and become intimately familiar with generative AI, cybersecurity and other nascent topics. … I’ve challenged everyone in the agency to learn about and use ChatGPT.”

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