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Local educators say A.I. should not be feared

Educators say A.I. should not be feared
Educators say A.I. should not be feared 03:54

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Schools are about to start up, and one hot topic this fall is how schools will use and guard against artificial intelligence.

As KDKA-TV's Jon Delano reports, A.I. both advances knowledge and makes it easier for some to cheat.

Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it's creating some worries about control, privacy, and cheating, especially in our schools. But local educators say A.I. should not be feared. 

"We have to embrace it," Penn State University professor Justin Aglio said.. "If you think about A.I. over the years, it's kind of had a steady platform. But right now, we're seeing this giant curve up where we have to do something with it because if we don't, we going to be behind."

A former public school teacher, Aglio directs the Readiness Institute at Penn State. He says mandating A.I. training for all is necessary for the digital safety of students, equity among students in all school districts, workforce development in the 21st century, and the national security of the United States.

He says our area can play a key role.

"Artificial intelligence, Pittsburgh has always been at the forefront of it," Aglio said.

Some local districts have already embraced A.I. says Dr. Brian Stamford with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which advises 42 school districts in the county. 

"Not only do the students know how to use these tools and in many cases are asking if they can use them in the classroom, teachers are also beginning to explore using these tools in their personal lives for productivity and beginning to wonder how they can move them into the classroom for planning and instruction," Stamford said.

That's great for teachers, but can students cheat by getting A.I. like Chat GPT to write their essays or term papers?

"That is a common concern of not just teachers but also administrators, parents, and even school boards," Stamford said.

Stamford says teachers first must be aware of the capabilities of Chat GPT and other A.I. tools, and then, second, tailor assignments to require a student to write creatively about their own personal background or classroom discussions unknown to A.I.

"One of the easiest ways teachers are preventing students from cheating using artificial intelligence is simply to ask kids to explain their work, either in a presentation or simply choosing a few sentences at random and saying, 'I find this interesting. Can you tell me why you chose this approach?'" Stamford said.

And one big problem with A.I., as anyone who uses the internet knows, is that it is not always accurate, says Point Park University professor and former South Hills superintendent Dr. Linda Hippert.

"A.I. can save time with some things that are very cumbersome, but you still need to check for accuracy, and you need to make sure that your sources are valid and reliable sources," Hippert said.

Artificial intelligence can get you started on an essay, but its information could easily be wrong and it won't respond to the nuances of a smart teacher's special instructions. But as an educational tool, A.I. is here to stay. 

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