Jan 8, 2024 - Education

How San Francisco schools are bringing AI into classrooms

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

California is just one of two states to issue policy guidance for K-12 schools on artificial intelligence platforms such as ChatGPT, one report shows.

Why it matters: Teachers and administrators are eager for guidelines to use AI — and how to quash misuse. But the field is moving so rapidly that governments have been loath to issue pronouncements.

Driving the news: The Center on Reinventing Public Education, a nonpartisan research center at Arizona State University, asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia to share their approach to AI guidance.

  • Only California and Oregon offered official recommendations for the current school year.
  • The California Department of Education suggests AI can enhance learning, while acknowledging potential ethics, bias, inaccuracy or data privacy risks.
  • It outlines why and how California schools can use AI, including developing planning and workflow tools for teachers and personalized learning materials for students with varying abilities or language barriers.

Zoom in: Clayton Whetung, a middle school computer science teacher for the San Francisco Unified School District, told Axios San Francisco he has already integrated AI into his curriculum.

  • Whetung's AI unit focuses on exposing students to generative art tools, and teaching them how AI works, including how to train AI.
  • "So they get a good introductory level understanding of what this technology is actually doing and what it's capable of and not capable of," he said.
  • Whetung also explores the ethical implications of AI with his students and discusses current events in San Francisco, like when Cruise lost its permits to operate self-driving cars in the city.

What they're saying: Whetung said students should get an early grasp on AI "because I find it hard to believe that it won't be a part of their lives to some degree going forward."

  • While students don't have access to Chat GPT at school, Whetung said he discusses its implications, demystifies how it works and poses the question of whether it's something students would want to rely on.

Districtwide, SFUSD offers resources to students, staff and parents around how students should navigate digital spaces, including how to be safe online, SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick told Axios via email.

  • "The district will continue to monitor the impact of AI, as we do with any changes that may affect the education space," she said. "We are currently not blocking this technology use nor have we created or changed policy as a result."

The bottom line: AI is developing faster than school districts can establish training programs and rules — and while state guidelines may prove helpful, they're not likely to be the final word.


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