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California Assembling State Task Force on AI in Education

The California School Boards Association will convene a 28-member group of teachers and administrators to study the facets of artificial intelligence and organize professional-development sessions around each one.

Illustrations in blue and white feature human sillhouettes holding hands with white human sillhouettes that say "Ai"
(TNS) — Kimberly McGrath, superintendent of the Reed Union School District, has been appointed as one of 28 members on a new statewide task force on artificial intelligence in education.

The task force, run by the California School Boards Association, will have its first meeting on Dec. 1 in San Francisco. The appointment is for a one-year term.

"This is the type of shift in technology that will impact all industries," McGrath said. "We need to start thinking about what could this do to help with efficiency of all school administrators."

She also sees creative possibilities for classrooms.

For example, a teacher might use AI to create a lesson plan on a complicated topic, and ask the AI chatbot to base it on a soccer game. If students are soccer fans or players, the new framework might make the topic easier to understand.

"The impact could be mind-boggling," said McGrath, who is the only Marin official on the statewide panel.

McGrath is also one of a half-dozen Marin educators working on a team with the Marin County Office of Education to create a series of forums on AI for school staff countywide. They expect to roll out the series in the spring.

"We are still in the early development stages," said team member Tara Taupier, superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District.

Taupier, McGrath and several teachers and administrators at the San Rafael high school district are the initial team members, said Laura Trahan, assistant superintendent of the Marin County Office of Education.

"We're working to identify the different facets of AI, and then creating each session in the series around each facet," Trahan said.

Topics could range from the ways artificial intelligence can improve education, to ethical concerns, to how educators can benefit from AI, Trahan said.

"We want to make this series practical and real," Trahan said.

The Marin education office is also scouting for experts who might be able to be guest speakers. "The experts are the youth," Trahan said. "They're the natives in this landscape."

According to John Carroll, Marin superintendent of schools, artificial intelligence options in schools should be embraced, not shunned.

"We don't want to be afraid of it," Carroll said. "We want to be able to work with it as a general tool."

That was different than the initial approach taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts nationwide. In November 2022, when San Francisco-based OpenAI launched ChatGPT, a platform for AI text creation, L.A. Unified and the others shut down access to OpenAI and ChatGPT on their networks and devices until they could assess risks.

Since then, AI and ChatGPT have exploded online in emails, texts and web content, among other uses.

"AI is unavoidable," Carroll said. "It's here.

"We don't think blocking it is a proper thing to do," Carroll said. "We want to be involved in how we can use it to help schools."

Taupier agreed.

"Late last school year, our ed services team surveyed our staff and made the decision to keep access to AI open for now," Taupier said.

While the creative possibilities may seem enormous, McGrath cautioned that teachers will need to have a way to trace details supplied by ChatGPT back to their sources.

"What pool of information is it pulling from?" she said. "Parents should also inform themselves about what AI is capable of."

Challenges in incorporating AI in schools might range from protecting data privacy to ensuring academic honesty, according to the California School Boards Association.

Despite the concerns, state education leaders said students everywhere must be schooled in AI if they are to be ready to face the world after high school.

Carroll said he was impressed when he tried out ChatGPT's writing skills when the platform first launched.

"I asked ChatGPT to write a short essay on a practical application of Immanuel Kant's 'The Critique of Pure Reason,'" Carroll said. "It was pretty convincing."

©2023 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.