Using AI in K-12 Education Panel Discussion

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With the 2023 school year wrapping up, we felt it was important to host a discussion regarding AI and its impact on education. Parker Gentry, CEO of Skill Struck, led this conversation and was joined by a panel of educators from across the country involved in computer science and helping their districts through this AI transition.  

The panel included: 

It was an enlightening hour where we heard the different perspectives, feelings, and approaches these educators and their districts are taking in regard to AI’s use in the classroom. It was also a good reminder that we are not alone in figuring this out and that we can lean on and learn from one another. Watch the entire discussion below.

Click here to view the discussion in full

Or, if you are interested in hearing short insights shared by our panel and CEO Parker Gentry, check out the panel highlights below.

Panel Highlights

Parker’s Question: What is the general emotion around AI in your schools and districts? How about with your students? 

Donna talked about the in-depth conversations happening district-wide. They understand it is an inevitable transition but they do want to make sure they incorporate ethical standards. Some students have been very concerned as they are applying for higher education and taking AP exams and worry about the level-ness of the playing field with these tools in play. 

Stacie talked about how it’s unknown. The adults in her schools are apprehensive but the students are excited and think it’s the coolest thing ever. It has been misused to cut corners which has furthered the apprehension in the adults. 

Justine’s district is asking a lot of important questions. What does this look like? How is it being utilized? What can we expect? What policies? The results of these conversations are drafts within policy, reviewing policy, and a big reminder of the importance of taking a look at technology policies often since tech is constantly evolving. She said, “We cannot just check the box and move on, we have to come back to those concepts and reassess.” 

Across the country, the feelings around AI are a balance of fear and excitement

Parker’s Question: Does your district or school have any policies on AI or Chat GPT currently?

Stacie explained that Chat GPT is an unknown and her district is wondering how to even write policy about something constantly changing. Policy has to go through the board which takes about a month to become official. With that timeline, the policy would be outdated by the time it was approved. 

Justine’s district has not made any formal policies around AI but is developing and opening up the conversation. Step one of their policy process is to gain experience and knowledge. Her district has partnered with MIT for an NGSS grant and they are working with a small group of teachers to look at AI curriculum and resources specifically at the middle school level. The purpose of this partnership is to educate this group of educators so that when it is time to create policy the conversation is educated, productive, and well-rounded. 

Donna’s school is in a similar position. Her IT team and academic officers are forward-thinking and want the student's voices to be heard as policies are created. Industry partner advisors have shared how AI has impacted their job roles so they know it needs to be involved in their curriculum to prepare students for their future careers. In writing and revising the curriculum they contemplated where to put AI, and they chose to add it alongside ethics. And they are paying close attention to the global discussion and decisions being made by the leading AI companies.

Stacie talked about how she has witnessed other transition moments in her years of teaching and seen how we’ve gotten through them. She saw the same exact questions being asked when the internet and computers became accessible. “I think we are going to ask these same questions and then we are going to figure it out. AI will change learning. Students have to still know what questions to ask, they have to be able to look at what is output to analyze it and figure out what is good, correct, incorrect, or outdated. There is still a lot of thinking that has to be involved. It’s a different type of thinking.”

Justine wonders about the what if. What if we say no to AI? What does that do for us and our students? AI is different from a calculator because it is an input and you get an output. AI is a data-collecting resource, it is collecting data as we use it. What will happen if some areas have access to it while others are cut off? What does that mean for those people,  students, or communities? Where will that voice shine through or limitations come through? AI is only as good as the data it has, it functions off of what we feed it. 

4 recommendations for conversations about AI in education

To support discussions around creating policies and determining the role of AI in schools or classrooms, Parker presented four recommendations to guide and support those involved. These four recommendations include: 

1. Meet with teachers, principals, and district officials to be on the same page with chat GPT in the learning process. We don’t view this as an “all or nothing” decision. 

2. Set very clear expectations with students on when it should be used, and when it should not.

a. Example: When you are working on a large or group project, and are trying to understand a difficult concept, use GPT to learn! However, it is not allowed during an assessment. 

b. This idea is similar to how we manage the use of other tools (i.e. calculator, tablets, computers).

3. Trust your teacher instincts. If something feels off, it might be smart to dig deeper. Utilize cheating-detection tools.

4. Cut yourself some slack. If students want to skip steps in the learning process, they can usually find a way. This is a new way to do it.

Ways AI can help the student learning process

Because we interact with the computer science (CS) side of education we have learned that one of the biggest headaches for teachers of CS is the debugging process. 

Parker shared: “We have launched, using an AI plug-in, a customized hint process. With this new tool, Skill Struck students can receive three customized hints during every lesson. This is only possible because of AI. If a student has a typo, doesn’t have the right coding algorithm, or they have quality code that still is not meeting the auto-grader requirements then they can receive a customized hint to help them debug and solve their problem. This is an example of how AI can become a custom and personal tutor that can assess gaps and provide feedback. This accelerates the feedback loop dramatically so students don’t have to raise their hands and wait for the teacher to come over. Teachers can spend more time one on one with other students as well as be strategic about custom ways to help students.” 

Using AI we have also been able to create a free teacher resource to support educators with their content creation. Our Lesson Activity Generator can be found on our website and is there for any and all teachers to utilize. 

With this tool, educators can create lessons and learning activities in a matter of minutes. By automating this process, teachers can focus on more important tasks, such as interacting with students and providing personalized instruction. It’s important to remember that AI is not perfect. Using an AI tool like our Lesson Activity Generator is great for going from 0% to 50-80% in an instant. This sparks ideas, gets the ball rolling and then the teacher can tweak it to work for their students, classroom set up, and add their own personal teacher magic. 

Parker’s Question: What use cases for AI are you most excited about (at or away from school)?

Donna is excited about using our Lesson Activity Generator to draft new content for lessons, and using it for expanding and reviving courses. Excited about how it can help create rubrics, and is excited to see how it could be helpful to process and clean up collaborative work projects.

Stacie looks at this moment as fluid and unknown. She views it all as a rollercoaster ride, there will be fun times and scary times. But no matter what, it is going to be a thrill! That is the important part to keep in mind. Hold on during the scary time but also go hoorah for those great times. The world of technology is exciting but it is still unknown.

Justine is most excited about being in the role that she is in and where she is in her career to be able to work with students to bring them along in the journey, to open up the conversation in a space that is safe and meaningful. She is excited thinking about the industries AI will benefit, specifically thinking about job shortages and if AiI could fill those jobs. She’s also excited about what AI will offer in the future in the right hands. She loves data and is excited to see how AI can support her with the data she collects as an educator. With a brainstorming partner like Chat GPT, she can uncover themes and things she needs to know about her student's progress.

Parker answered this question by sharing how he has been inspired to learn how AI models can look at DNA genomes to identify cancer 10-20 years earlier. “The really powerful thing to me is that this is happening now. Think about what our students will be able to do with this 20 years from now! We are teaching them critical thinking skills now, and the prompt engineering preparation. Imagine what they will be capable of in changing the world.”

We want to recognize and thank our panelists for joining and sharing with us their perspectives. We have the great privilege of partnering with phenomenal people who embody our mission to Grow Problem solvers, Inspire Creators, and Strengthen Communities. 

Gentry finished the webinar perfectly by saying, “We can’t share any of this without recognizing all the things AI can not replace. It can not replace the human connection a teacher develops with a student over a school year, can’t replace empathy, the motivation a teacher relationship can have on a student, or replace an educator's creativity. I’m just so excited to see how individuals can be celebrated better and do more through this technology.”

Learn more about Skill Struck at 

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