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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Educators and students discusses role of AI in pedagogy

Dr. Lippard builds network to navigate ‘frontier of not knowing’

Sixty educators from charter, independent, and public schools around Massachusetts discussed the opportunities and drawbacks of artificial intelligence (AI) in education in the Renaissance Hall classrooms on Saturday, April 29. The school’s first Artificial Intelligence Conference, organized by the Teaching and Learning Office, in partnership with the Technology Team, the Advancement Office, and a handful of Upper School (US) student volunteers, lasted from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re all in this new frontier of not knowing and so to be in a space with other people who are similarly feeling their way through uncertain times, you get to feel like you’re not alone and feel like you have some sense of direction and connection,” Dr. Lippard said.

After a breakfast, the day began with a 90 minute panel. The panelists included Co-Founder of Android Rich Miner P ’24 and ’25, English Department Chair and Curriculum Designer for the Cambridge School of Weston Jeannette M. Lee Parikh, Dean of Teaching and Learning Michael Chapman, President of KAYAK Giorgos Zacharia P ’25, and Arti—a ChatGPT bot. Harvard Graduate School of Education Associate Director of Instructional Support and Development Allison Pingree moderated.

After the panel, participants divided into seven randomly assigned breakout groups to have smaller, facilitated discussions focused on the panel’s content. These conversations included a sharing of anecdotes about times each educator had witnessed AI enhancing learning and harming learning. Topics for the second round of discussions included student leadership in AI and AI in creative writing. The day ended with a lunch during which representatives from each of the second round of discussions shared their takeaways.

“It’s very rare that educators from independent schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools are in the same room grappling with the same issue, and everyone has equal footing. That was powerful,” Dr. Lippard said.

He said he received many positive letters and thank you notes from educators who attended the conference.

“I by no means profess to be an expert in AI, nor do I have a very clear point of view yet on how it’s going to impact our work,” Dr. Lippard said. “But what I do have now is a larger net of people that I can connect with and talk to about the challenges and uncertainties that we all face. If that’s what we emerge from the conference with, then it was a win.”

The conference panel incorporated a Chatbot, Arti. Dr. Lippard posed the panel questions to Arti before the conference and used a voice-translator to read its answers during the panel. Arti’s answers stressed the importance of utilizing software equipped to recognize and mitigate bias in AI. This can be done by including systems created by people of diverse racial and ethnic groups.

“AI receives information from a certain group of sources that can all hold a similar bias that then influences the student,” Arti said. “The students will then hold that same bias.”

Ms. Lee Parikh said AI offers her both fear and excitement.

“AI has not changed what we’re teaching kids with writing,” she said. “It had just raised the stakes. We are storytellers, and our storytelling goes back before computers, to cavemen writing on walls and the first paper. AI has just made it easier for cheating to thrive.” Mr. Miner said AI researchers and developers are “critically aware” of bias.

“AI searches from many systems around the world, and if AI is learning and training on those biases, it will influence everything it does,” he said. “Most developers make AI flag the biases it detects for the reader and are trained to filter out bias. These AI systems are slowly getting ranked by third parties on their levels of bias and how well they do at filtering it out. The rankings will hopefully act as a check and balance on the AI programs.”

Mr. Miner said AI creates fear because it is perceived as an unknown.

“We fear what we don’t understand. So, if you have that fear of AI, go explore and learn to get your arms around AI a little bit more. You’ll understand both how it might be abused and how it can be used to enhance learning.”

Dean of Teaching and Learning Michael Chapman agreed that many teachers in the United States have reservations about incorporating AI into their pedagogies, citing a statistic that over 50% of K-12 educators believe ChatGPT will have a negative effect on learning. However, he added that AI can help teachers with menial tasks so they can spend more of their time on teaching.

“Teachers have a lot on their plate. We must check attendance daily, respond to many, many emails, and review students’ work while looking for trends in complete assignments. AI can help with these,” Mr. Chapman said. “I can say, ‘AI, draft me an email reply to my colleague’ or ‘look through my students’ writing for trends.’ And while AI does my busy work, I can focus on the pedagogical components of my job that allow me to connect with students best.”

Mr. Chapman believes, though, that this new addition to the education sector will take time to be fully embraced.

“Unfortunately in the educational world, we’re not always the best with change. It will probably take a while for us to get used to this and adapt.”

Student volunteer Alisa Ishii ’23 said her favorite part of the conference was sitting in on the “School Leadership in the Time of AI” discussion.

“My biggest takeaway from the room is the reality that there is no closure to these kinds of conversations and that while there are many stakeholders within a school, it’s so vital that the goal for students and faculty stay especially aligned in these periods of change.”

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Ford Legg
Ford Legg, Editor-in-Chief
Fun fact: I wrote to and received two letters from Obama.

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