Coming to a school near you: Chat GPT

by Sheldon Ocker

Oct. 10 board of education work session

Revere schools Superintendent Michael Tefs gave the board of education a heads-up about an artificial intelligence application that has dominated technology news this year.

Realizing that ChatGPT and other forms of AI are destined to become educational tools for teachers and students, Tefs told the board it is time to address the issue, starting with the creation of a board policy to determine goals, procedures and limits of these applications.

“We’ve gone to a couple of professional development sessions as leadership, and think ultimately we’d like to play a role in how we grow capacity around ChatGPT, not only with our staff … but also with our students,’’ he said.

ChatGPT is an application that emulates human speech and human thinking. It can problem solve, write text, compose music. For example, it can author an essay for a student. A user can “prompt’’ it with a question in what is considered a conversation and receive an answer the same way.

There are limitations. At times, ChatGPT will produce nonsensical sentences or give an inappropriate response. And users can affect how effective the application will be.

“We’ve talked a little bit about how to roll this out from a student perspective … also faculty and staff,’’ Tefs said.

Tefs said mastering and introducing ChatGPT will not be immediate.

“I just wanted the board to know the district is not burying its head in the sand,’’ the superintendent said. “It’s going to be transformative. … I don’t know that I have a formal plan today. We’ll talk through a policy, probably in November and December, maybe into January.’’

Revere Director of Technology John Schinker will be the point man as various forms of AI are introduced to the district. Schinker has been researching many elements of AI.

“I stopped keeping track [of the number of AI applications],’’ he said. “I think we want to talk about artificial intelligence in general and not any specific applications. There are lots of applications that do different things, not just writing text or editing text. Some generate images or create video or music, all kinds of things.’’

Schinker thinks that AI will make a significant impact on everyone’s lives.

“I’m generally skeptical about new technologies,’’ he said. “But I think this has the potential to be in that category of things that can change the way we live and work and play and learn, like the mobile phone did, like the web did. I think this might be that big.’’

Board member Courtney Stein said that ChatGPT will make a teacher’s responsibilities more difficult.

“It’s going to make their job harder in so many ways, because how do you know what was generated by ChatGPT,’’ she said, adding that it will complicate giving out grades and knowing that students understand the topic. ∞