The deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education said last week that her team will be releasing the first Federal report on AI in education in the coming weeks.
“We have a report coming out in just a few weeks from our office, and [it’s] the first thing about AI and education from the Federal level,” Kristina Ishmael said during ATARC’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics Breakfast Summit on April 6.
“That is going to be our first foray into this, and it’s not like ChatGPT hasn’t already entered classrooms, we know that, but it is important for us to start to have that conversation and let folks know we are thinking about these things,” Ishmael said.
ChatGPT made a name for itself shortly after its launch at the end of 2022, with the new Congress and IT experts expressing both their excitement and concern about the popular chatbot – which reached over 100 million monthly active users in January.
ChatGPT’s ability to create highly realistic narratives has sparked a debate in classrooms across the nation on whether or not the tool, and others like it, should be leveraged to students and teachers advantage or banned – for uses like plagiarism.
Some positive ways that the Department of Education is thinking about AI, Ishmael said, include how educators can leverage the different tools to help make their everyday tasks easier, which in turn allows them to focus more on the students’ classroom experience.
“I’m thinking about the burden on teachers right now,” Ishmael said. “One way that we are thinking about [AI] in particular is reducing” the burden of routine tasks for teachers, she said.
“Instead of me coming in and taking attendance every morning and doing lunch count, that we would be able to use these technologies and do it for us,” she explained. “That frees us up to provide those more experiential learning experiences for students and more tailored, customized learning experiences for students.”
Ishmael emphasized that the Department of Education is focusing on the data impact that a lot of these tools have as well.
“We are also thinking about how AI is going to impact education,” Ishmael said.
As a former preschool educator herself, Ishmael said she takes the responsibility of helping inform and develop EdTech policy “very seriously.”
“The most recent data shows that a school district is using on average 1,417 [EdTech] tools,” she continued, adding, “That’s a lot of tools, and every single one of them is capturing data on a student.”
Ishmael sat alongside two other Federal government leaders during ATARC’s Women in AI and Data Analytics panel, who emphasized the importance of diversity when creating and using emerging tools like AI.
“It’s really important to have someone that looks somewhat like myself to be in the room and talk and just have a diverse sort of spectrum, because everyone has a different perspective to give,” said Alexis Banks, a data management specialist at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.
“If you don’t have someone who looks or is diverse within the conversation, then who’s representing that data? And so innately, it becomes biased data,” she said.
Lindsey Saul, the chief data and analytics officer at the Defense Logistics Agency, agreed, saying, “We need more voices, especially when it comes to AI and advanced analytics, when you’re building algorithms that inherently have human bias.”
“If we don’t have more women at the table actually doing the software development, creating the algorithms, but also being at the table where decisions are being made, I think we are at risk for having heavy bias one way or the other,” Saul explained. “And not just gender – race, age, all sorts of classes. We need to really just make sure that we have as wide-reaching representation as possible.”