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Daily Kos: Beware the Jabberwocky: NEPC Report Calls for Halt in Use of AI in Schools

Lewis Carroll in one of his Alice in Wonderland books warned us to beware the Jabberwocky. If he were writing today, he would probably warn us to be leery of Artificial Intelligence, with “jaws that bite” and “the claws that catch.” The big difference is that AI has escaped the realm of fantasy.

The National Education Policy Center warns against the use of AI, artificial intelligence, in schools.  Its new report, “Time for a Pause: Without Effective Public Oversight, AI in Schools Will Do More Harm Than Good,” examines the dangers of increased use of AI in K-12 public schools.

The report looks at the hypocrisy of major technology companies like Google, Microsoft, and Meta that call slowing the development of AI while regulations are developed, while at the same time trying to curtail government regulation and integrating AI into their programs. NEPC believes that with public education being “essential to democratic civic life,” the “wholesale adoption of unregulated AI applications in schools poses a grave danger to democratic civil society and to individual freedom and liberty.”

While advocates for AI “claim that it will transform teaching and learning for the better,” NEPC believes it is more likely that integrating AI into curriculum and pedagogy will have a negative effect on learning as it “degrades the relationship between teachers and students” and students and teachers are “forced to become involuntary test subjects in a giant experiment in automated instruction and administration that is sure to be rife with unintended consequences.” Authors of the report warn that “integrating AI into schools’ ad-ministrative processes locks schools and districts into an expensive ‘stack’ of corporate tech systems” with the result that funds will not be available supporting student learning. They suspect that AI will exacerbates violations of student privacy, increases surveillance, and further reduces the transparency and accountability of educational decision-making.” They believe “in the absence of responsible development, proper evaluation, or regulatory oversight — untested, opaque AI models and applications will become enmeshed in routine school processes.”

The report included a series of recommendations.

School leaders should pause in the adoption of AI applications pending legislation to ensure effective public oversight and control of its application in schools. In addition, federal and state policymakers should prohibit schools from adopting AI-based educational applications until appropriate regulatory structures are established. To achieve this, government authorities need to stop pressuring schools and school districts to produce reams of data, much of it unnecessary.

The NEPC wants state and district educational officials to establish independent review committees to ensure the quality of digital educational products used in schools and allocate sufficient funds to “allow teachers to spend more time with their students.” Smaller class size will be much more effective than AI in improving student earning outcomes.  

There is widespread debate on the impact artificial intelligence programs will have on education. Aas the use of online programs like ChatGPT expands schools and teachers will have to figure out strategies to address student use. According to one report in January 2023, almost 90% of students surveyed admitted that they were already using ChatGPT to complete homework assignments and 48% confessed that they had used it to complete an at-home test or quiz. Instructions on how to use ChatGPT and other AI programs to write assignments and not get caught are all over the Internet. I admit if I were a high school student today, I would be using ChatGPT or other AI apps, especially for busy work assignments.

For me as a teacher, the biggest problem with apps like ChatGPT is that they eliminate thinking. T teachers want students to gather evidence and evaluate it. ChatGPT does the thinking for you. All students have to do is slightly modify the text it provides and hand it in as their own work, a form of plagiarism that is hard to detect.

The NEPC report was written by Ben Williamson of the University of Edinburgh and Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger of the University of Colorado Boulder. The National Education Policy Center is housed in the School of Education of the University of Colorado Boulder.


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The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Alan Singer

Alan Singer is a professor of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership and the program director of graduate programs in Social Studies Education. Dr. Singer is a former ...