NEW PALESTINE — The time has come for school administrators, teachers, parents and students to face the facts — artificial intelligence (AI) is here and it’s going to stay. That was part of the message shared about AI by Southern Hancock School District Technology Coordinator Chris Young.

Young spoke with the school board and administrators recently during a work session and said AI is not only here to stay, but is more powerful than ever.

“For the first time in history, a paragraph isn’t necessarily evidence of human thought,” Young said.

That was part of the message Young had also shared with district officials a little over year ago when he first started introducing the idea of AI having a place in schools. Back then, he told administrators AI can be considered powerful and a little scary.

“I would say things are a little bit more positive now and little bit less scary,” Young said. “There are some really great programs out there for teachers.”

Officials note that there are numerous ways AI is already being used in education, such as providing personalized feedback to students, automating administrative tasks, and even identifying areas where students may need extra help.

A Generative Pre-trained Transformer, (GPT) is a deep learning technology that uses artificial neural networks to write like a human. Young shared information on a program called ChatGPT-4. The newer GPT-4, he said, is a language model created by OpenAI which can generate text similar to human speech.

“When we first started talking about AI, teachers were like, ‘school is done, our kids can just cheat their way though,’ like with AI passing the bar exam, and people were concerned about that,” Young said.

Educators however, Young noted, will be able to know if their students are letting AI do their major work, so students should be aware, he said.

Artificial Intelligence has some great ways to help make presentations better, Young said, because now AI can also create and interact images and videos with commands as well as read images and create a story form a single picture, and that is something educators should take advantage of.

“Artificial Intelligence is crazy good,” Young said. “I use it for my work.”

Given the right prompts, AI is like having a little assistant, Young said. He then demonstrated asking an AI program to make an image of a dragon and, within seconds, the program did.

Young noted these types of AI programs have several applications in the classroom and can save teachers a ton of time.

“We spend so much time looking at data, but if there was a program that could pull out the important trends, find the keys in the data, where does that now allow us to invest our time?” Young said. “Teachers could use the extra time now to get the kids to the next level.”

Young has been training New Palestine teachers, making them aware of the multiple AI applications available, things they can use in the classroom now. He noted that AI sites are currently blocked for students, but just like they did with YouTube years ago, he thinks AI will slowly be allowed into New Palestine classrooms.

“Yes, it is blocked now because we want to make sure we understand AI, but eventually there is going to be a time where AI is not blocked,” Young said.

New Palestine High School English teacher Kent Gish has utilized ChatGPT in the classroom to help his students improve their writing, editing and creative ideas. Young and Gish set up a test pilot program with AI to see how it might work in the classroom.

“AI is changing the way a lot of our world operates, and it will continue to do so,” Gish said. “How and how much, we’re still figuring that out, but it definitely will have an impact on education.”

Gish noted some students told him recently they were using ChatGPT to get an assessment of their work, and when they didn’t get the score they wanted, they simply asked the AI program to give them a better score, which it did.

“So, its assessment use is still being figured out,” Gish said. “I am interested in helping students figure out how to use it (AI) appropriately.”

Gish has had students — after they have independently written something — input a paragraph and ask ChatGPT to revise for spelling, mechanics, punctuation and style. Once they got the paragraph back, Gish noted students compared it with their own writing, found an area it improved, and then explained the improvement.

“This gets them thinking about what makes good writing and what kind of changes they could be making in their own writing,” Gish said.

Unfortunately, Gish noted, he has caught some students trying to us AI and pass it off as their own work. However, he said, AI has a “sound” and “feel” that is recognizable to some degree, alerting educators.

“I’ve had conversations with students, and they have admitted using it, and I’ve talked to several other teachers who have had the same experiences,” Gish said.

Still, Gish noted, AI’s sophistication can at times make it harder to prove a student has cheated, as it takes more time for an educator to figure it out.

“Plagiarism and cheating detectors are getting better though,” Gish said. “Still, we must rely on the honesty of people and their personal beliefs and commitment to truth … The foundations of society are built on personal integrity, not plagiarism detectors.”

District officials said there is a program called Magic School AI which is designed to help educators save time by creating assignments that can put in barriers to make sure students can’t cheat with AI.

District Community Relations Director Craig Smith noted that AI shouldn’t be utilized to do the work for students, but rather should be used to enhance a student’s work and creativity. Smith and Young say they have both used AI in their work, and AI has really saved them time.

“It’s been a pretty dynamic tool,” Smith said. “It’s not limiting, but is just speeding up the process … It’s just an evolution of thought.”

For educators like Gish, he’s mostly curious how the implementation of AI into the classroom will pan out, and he says it is anyone’s guess.

“It has some easy-to-use, powerful features that can produce not only writing, but also animation, graphics and who knows what else but, unfortunately, much of it has a cost right now,” Gish said. “This means those with advantages have more advantages — an age-old problem with education in general.”

Young said within the next couple of years he anticipates AI having fuller applications in New Palestine classrooms, and his goal will be to teach educators and students how to utilize AI correctly.