From now until the end of July, Eden Prairie Schools (EP Schools) is seeking community input about how artificial intelligence (AI) should be incorporated into student learning.
Earlier this month, Robb Virgin, EP Schools’ executive director of personalized learning, emailed families, staff, and students in grades 6-12 to let them know that the district is working on plans to address AI in the upcoming school year.
“You have likely seen advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Bing AI over the past few months,” he wrote.
“Because these tools were built to be interactive and generative (designed to generate content in the form of text, images, or other media), they will have implications in all areas of the school setting – some that are exciting, some that are confusing, and some that might be intimidating.”
Virgin said the district has identified these questions on which to focus its ongoing work:
- What understandings and skills related to AI should students develop?
- How might we provide robust, ongoing support for educators to harness the potential of AI, while also addressing potential issues such as unethical use?
- What policies and procedures should the district have in place related to AI?
- What processes should the district establish to adapt to future technological changes?
Since AI is a swiftly changing field, Virgin said he hopes the community will embrace the opportunity to help guide the district as it navigates new technology and how it will affect student learning.
Eagle Voice survey is open until July 31
The first step the district is taking is to ask for community feedback via its Eagle Voice platform. EP Schools students, staff, and community members can submit responses to the question, “What is one way that artificial intelligence should be incorporated into the student experience?”
The survey is timely, since over the past few months, there has been increasing use of AI software by students and teachers across all levels of education, including in Eden Prairie’s schools. This has raised questions over whether work created using AI can be considered original or if it constitutes plagiarism, and what place, if any, AI has in student work and educational instruction.
“We want the community to know that we’re not waiting till our minds are made up before we have a conversation with you about it,” Virgin said in an interview. “We’re admitting that this is important, that we need help, and that we want to talk about it. … Let’s figure this out together.”
According to Virgin, community members who respond to the Eagle Voice survey are welcome to suggest AI-related knowledge or skills students should know, AI-related opportunities that should be explored, or ways in which AI could enhance learning in Eden Prairie Schools.
Some of the current survey feedback already submitted opposes studying and using AI, while other feedback suggests constructive and creative ways to approach its use. Anyone can view the survey responses, but creating an account is needed to submit ideas.
The feedback will be assessed in August by an “Artificial Intelligence Strategy Team” the district is currently putting together of approximately 20 students, staff, and AI experts.
The group will review community input and plan how the district will approach student and teacher use of AI, provide teacher support, incorporate it into school policy, and how AI use in schoolwork will be guided and monitored.
Virgin said he expects that school handbook language will change to reflect AI policies and expectations once those have been decided. Training will also be provided to students and teachers on how to meet those expectations.
“Students need to be taught what is acceptable, and how you do that. That is a skill,” he said. “From so many lenses, it’s an increasingly complicated thing.”
Anyone who would like to participate in the AI strategy team can complete the interest form. Virgin said the district has already received strong interest in the committee.
New AI capstone course in fall 2023
This fall, the district is also introducing a new high school capstone course dedicated to the use of AI.
Called “The Intelligent Classroom — Applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Learning and Teaching,” the elective course will be taught mostly asynchronously via EP Online (EPO) by Nick Kremer, EPO’s principal.
Virgin said the class will also have a synchronous component featuring guest instructors that can be accessed later.
“We have teachers and staff taking this class too, and we’re also opening it to students outside of Eden Prairie,” he said.
The goal of the two-quarter course is to help students understand the full implications of AI and the importance of responsible use. Topics covered in the course include ethics and responsible use of AI, as well as learning about privacy, bias, misinformation, and job displacement caused by AI.
The idea for the course was generated by a conversation group the district had formed in February to discuss new AI technology and how it might be addressed in EP Schools.
This will be EPO’s first capstone class, and will be available for free as part of the Human and Public Services pathway, since it falls in the public policy realm, Virgin said. Unlike most capstones, there are no prerequisites, and the course will be open to all EPO and Eden Prairie High School students in grades 9-12.
Students can register here.
Virgin said the class content will be flexible enough that all grades and levels of expertise will be able to do the coursework.
“The prompts will be accessible at different levels of complexity,” he said. “The tasks and questions will be open enough that you could do it at a super high level and go out and publish or present on your work, or you could just submit it as an assignment to your teacher.”
Since it is a capstone class, “students will be applying their learning via authentic tasks and interacting with professionals in the field,” Virgin said.
Virgin said it’s extremely unusual for the school to add a course this late in the school year since registration happens in the winter. However, he believes it will be of high value. Students will have the option of adding it to their current schedules, which is especially ideal for those who have open half periods or open hours.
Another interesting aspect of the course is that it may be designated as a generic capstone whose topic can change from year to year. This fall it will be AI, but in future years the subject matter could change depending on what is happening in the world, for example, climate change, Virgin said.
Ultimately, Virgin said students who take this year’s capstone will be discovering ways to communicate what they think schools should do with AI.
“It’s a good exercise for them to think, ‘what is the change I want to make, and how do I go about that?’ That’s what they’ll be working towards,” he said.
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