Lawrence school district, school board to form committee on AI guidelines

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The Lawrence school district will be forming an ad hoc committee that’ll create recommendations for guidelines around incorporating artificial intelligence technology into classrooms. 

During her commentary at Monday’s board meeting, board President Kelly Jones called for the creation of the committee. The board manual permits presidents to do so, as needed, but Jones said that’s “quite unusual” to occur. She said she recalled one other time a president has created an ad hoc committee during her tenure.

According to Jones, the committee’s charge will be to “recommend generative AI education guidelines, practices, and or policies to the Lawrence Board of Education for adoption. Recommendations will account for educational equity and the potential of generative AI and other evolving technologies to enhance and detract from teaching and learning.”

Three Lawrence Virtual School students on April 10 gave the board a presentation on the rise of AI and effects they see on their learning. Through a study they conducted, they determined that AI should be made useful for students and teachers, but that starts with technology literacy.

Jones said their presentation prompted discussions with Superintendent Anthony Lewis and Vice President Bob Byers around forming the committee. She also said she has looked into ways other districts are operating. 

Currently, use of ChatGPT — a chatbot and virtual assistant — is not allowed for students, Chief Academic Officer Patrick Kelly said Monday. The district is currently looking at policies around AI technology usage that it could soon implement.

“We want to make sure that small window that we have for districtwide professional development at the beginning of the year — we want to make sure we provide some training for teachers and to also give them some activities that they can do with students to help students understand the positive and negative impacts of AI on their learning,” Kelly said.

The committee will include two board member representatives. Jones so far has asked GR Gordon-Ross, because of his background in technology and his position on the facilities committee, and Anne Costello, because of her role on the board’s policy committee, to serve.

Other members will include a certified staff member, a classified staff member, a representative from each of the two district unions, two community members, an administrator, and individual students or student group representation.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis will appoint the administrator to lead the committee, which would’ve been Kelly, but he’s set to retire on June 30.

According to Jones, the committee’s launch date will likely be the beginning of the fall 2024 semester. It’s set to last one year, unless the board later determines it should be extended “as we are seeing other technology considerations come before us — for example, the issues that we experienced with Gaggle.”

The goal is to get recommendations for guidelines to the board no later than March 2025.

During Monday’s meeting, Byers concurred with Jones’ call for a committee on AI technology in addition to her request for the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee to consider making recommendations to revise high school boundaries. Read more about that at this link.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Gray coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, is a long blooming native perennial whose name refers to the gray cone under the brown disk florets, here being visited by a bumblebee interested in their sweet nectar.

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