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Back 2 School: Artificial intelligence in the classroom

Ready or not, the AI revolution is here, and it is crucial that teachers and parents know about it. Is it a threat or is it a tool?

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When students to back to school, an innovative companion will be by their side: artificial intelligence. Ready or not- the AI revolution is here, and it is crucial that teachers and parents know about it. 

Chat GPT is a popular AI platform. How it works is you give it a prompt and the app scrubs through all the data and literature that it's been given, weighing the most appropriate answer and mimicking the way a human would write it.

Some worry that students will use it to answer homework questions or even write whole essays for them.

Mike Cornell, who is the superintendent of Hamburg Schools and also serves as the president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association says it's early on, and educators are still trying to learn the best practices.

"We're in maybe the top of the 1st of a nine inning game," said Cornell. "We're very early on in learning what AI is. What application does it have in our lives, and what application might it have to life the school? As our educators try to figure out how to make sense of AI, what implications it has for learning in the classroom, we're just going to have to work through it together."  

Instead of shunning it, he said they need to embrace it. He says it's reminiscent of the creation of the internet and Google in the 90s.

"We figured out how to use the internet as a tool. It's not the threat we thought it would be. And I don't think AI is going to be the threat we think it to be. If we think about it as a tool and we figure out how to use it to enhance the learning experience, just like we did with the internet," Cornell said.

All public schools in New York City have banned ChatGPT from school devices and wi-fi networks. Two On Your Side reached out to several districts in Western New York to see if they're planning to do the same. 

A spokesman from the Buffalo public schools said, "The Buffalo Public Schools is reviewing the use of AI in education, and going forward we will have a thoughtful discussion with the Board of Education and other stakeholders."

A spokesman from Williamsville sent a statement saying: 

"The use of ChatGPT is continuously being evaluated as an educational tool in the District. Teachers have access to this Artificial Intelligence service however, there is limited access for students while they are present in school - there are guardrails in place to preserve academic integrity within the learning environment.  With the emergence of AI, we are providing professional learning opportunities for our teachers and staff so they are able to learn more about artificial intelligence and its applications.  Whether it's from the State Education Department, regionally, or locally, we continue to talk with our educational partners about best practices and how to appropriately integrate and utilize this as we continue to move forward."

Sweet Home assistant superintendent JoAnn Balazs said the district added into the code of conduct that using platforms like ChatGPT for schoolwork would be a form of plagiarism, but she added that policing it will be difficult. 

Cornell said he doesn't plan to ban AI in Hamburg. 

"AI is a tool like any other and we just have to figure out how to help our students incorporate that into their lives. We can't ban it in school. It's here. They have access to it. It's impossible to ban. So we have to view it as a tool and figure out how to use it as way to enhance the learning experience for kids," said Cornell.

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