How To

|

AI News

Summer preparedness: AI for the 2024-25 school year

Sohan Choudhury headshot
Sohan Choudhury headshot
Sami Belhareth headshot
Sami Belhareth headshot

Sohan Choudhury | LinkedIn

&

Sami Belhareth | LinkedIn

Jul 2, 2024

A relaxed school administrator lounging on a beach chair, wearing a casual shirt labeled 'AI Committee'. The setting is a sunny beach with clear blue skies, soft white sand, and calm sea waves in the background. The administrator is depicted as a middle-aged Caucasian woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing sunglasses, a sun hat, shorts, and flip-flops, holding a refreshing tropical drink in one hand and a book in the other. The beach scene includes a few seagulls flying overhead and a palm tree providing shade.
A relaxed school administrator lounging on a beach chair, wearing a casual shirt labeled 'AI Committee'. The setting is a sunny beach with clear blue skies, soft white sand, and calm sea waves in the background. The administrator is depicted as a middle-aged Caucasian woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing sunglasses, a sun hat, shorts, and flip-flops, holding a refreshing tropical drink in one hand and a book in the other. The beach scene includes a few seagulls flying overhead and a palm tree providing shade.
A relaxed school administrator lounging on a beach chair, wearing a casual shirt labeled 'AI Committee'. The setting is a sunny beach with clear blue skies, soft white sand, and calm sea waves in the background. The administrator is depicted as a middle-aged Caucasian woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing sunglasses, a sun hat, shorts, and flip-flops, holding a refreshing tropical drink in one hand and a book in the other. The beach scene includes a few seagulls flying overhead and a palm tree providing shade.

Illustrated by AI, written by humans.

The AI landscape in independent schools has been thriving over the last year, with hundreds of schools across the nation wholeheartedly embracing AI tools for their students and teachers — a notion which seemed unthinkable just two years ago, before the launch of ChatGPT.

At Flint, we like to think of ourselves as among the world experts on the integration of AI in independent schools. Throughout the 2023-24 school year, we’ve partnered with dozens of independent and international schools to build AI tools that best meet the unique needs of every school.

As we look ahead to the upcoming 2024-25 school year, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things will be a year from now. However, through reflection, strategic planning, and co-learning with the independent school community, we’ve put together a guide for how school administrators can form an approach for the Fall and beyond.

This post was originally written for the MISBO Consortium Hot Topics blog.

Getting up to speed on the AI landscape

An illustrated point-of-view image looking over someone's shoulder at a laptop screen. The person is typing 'what the heck is AI' into a search engine. The setting is a cozy indoor environment with a colorful desk, some interesting books, a coffee mug, and a potted plant nearby. The person's hands are visible on the keyboard, and the laptop screen clearly shows the search bar with the query being typed. The scene has a playful and warm illustration style, similar to a detailed drawing with soft colors and a friendly atmosphere.

To craft an effective approach to AI for your school, it’s first imperative to have a robust understanding of what AI is. This is a daunting task because AI is constantly evolving, so staying up to date requires keeping abreast of new developments periodically.

Some recent developments that we recommend reviewing and/or sharing with your AI committee include the launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4o (source), the launch of Anthropic’s Claude 3.5 Sonnet (source), Apple’s announcement to put ChatGPT in every iPhone for free (source), and this overview that our team wrote back in December which covers how AI in education evolved over the course of 2023 (source).

Most importantly, there are limitations with AI that you may be familiar with that no longer apply. Unlike the first wave of AI applications, which were essentially a chat interface with a large language model (LLM), many AI applications today use a mixture of LLMs as well as fact-checking tools, translation tools, and calculators under the hood.

This mixture can help to ensure much higher accuracy than what you might get with just an LLM, and means that the frequency of issues like hallucinations and inaccurate answers can be reduced by orders of magnitude by AI application developers who invest time in developing and improving these “under the hood” tools.

Graphic showing how Flint has GPT-4o, a calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha, Google Translate, OpenAI Whisper, and content upload under the hood.

The AI in place within Flint, for example, uses a mixture of GPT-4o (the most robust AI model currently available), Google Translate for text-to-speech, OpenAI’s Whisper for speech-to-text, a retrieval-augmented generation system to pull from primary sources, and a proprietary calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha — all to create a much more accurate and safe AI experience for students and teachers.

An illustrated point-of-view image looking over someone's shoulder at a laptop screen. The person is typing 'what the heck is AI' into a search engine. The setting is a cozy indoor environment with a colorful desk, some interesting books, a coffee mug, and a potted plant nearby. The person's hands are visible on the keyboard, and the laptop screen clearly shows the search bar with the query being typed. The scene has a playful and warm illustration style, similar to a detailed drawing with soft colors and a friendly atmosphere.

To craft an effective approach to AI for your school, it’s first imperative to have a robust understanding of what AI is. This is a daunting task because AI is constantly evolving, so staying up to date requires keeping abreast of new developments periodically.

Some recent developments that we recommend reviewing and/or sharing with your AI committee include the launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4o (source), the launch of Anthropic’s Claude 3.5 Sonnet (source), Apple’s announcement to put ChatGPT in every iPhone for free (source), and this overview that our team wrote back in December which covers how AI in education evolved over the course of 2023 (source).

Most importantly, there are limitations with AI that you may be familiar with that no longer apply. Unlike the first wave of AI applications, which were essentially a chat interface with a large language model (LLM), many AI applications today use a mixture of LLMs as well as fact-checking tools, translation tools, and calculators under the hood.

This mixture can help to ensure much higher accuracy than what you might get with just an LLM, and means that the frequency of issues like hallucinations and inaccurate answers can be reduced by orders of magnitude by AI application developers who invest time in developing and improving these “under the hood” tools.

Graphic showing how Flint has GPT-4o, a calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha, Google Translate, OpenAI Whisper, and content upload under the hood.

The AI in place within Flint, for example, uses a mixture of GPT-4o (the most robust AI model currently available), Google Translate for text-to-speech, OpenAI’s Whisper for speech-to-text, a retrieval-augmented generation system to pull from primary sources, and a proprietary calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha — all to create a much more accurate and safe AI experience for students and teachers.

An illustrated point-of-view image looking over someone's shoulder at a laptop screen. The person is typing 'what the heck is AI' into a search engine. The setting is a cozy indoor environment with a colorful desk, some interesting books, a coffee mug, and a potted plant nearby. The person's hands are visible on the keyboard, and the laptop screen clearly shows the search bar with the query being typed. The scene has a playful and warm illustration style, similar to a detailed drawing with soft colors and a friendly atmosphere.

To craft an effective approach to AI for your school, it’s first imperative to have a robust understanding of what AI is. This is a daunting task because AI is constantly evolving, so staying up to date requires keeping abreast of new developments periodically.

Some recent developments that we recommend reviewing and/or sharing with your AI committee include the launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4o (source), the launch of Anthropic’s Claude 3.5 Sonnet (source), Apple’s announcement to put ChatGPT in every iPhone for free (source), and this overview that our team wrote back in December which covers how AI in education evolved over the course of 2023 (source).

Most importantly, there are limitations with AI that you may be familiar with that no longer apply. Unlike the first wave of AI applications, which were essentially a chat interface with a large language model (LLM), many AI applications today use a mixture of LLMs as well as fact-checking tools, translation tools, and calculators under the hood.

This mixture can help to ensure much higher accuracy than what you might get with just an LLM, and means that the frequency of issues like hallucinations and inaccurate answers can be reduced by orders of magnitude by AI application developers who invest time in developing and improving these “under the hood” tools.

Graphic showing how Flint has GPT-4o, a calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha, Google Translate, OpenAI Whisper, and content upload under the hood.

The AI in place within Flint, for example, uses a mixture of GPT-4o (the most robust AI model currently available), Google Translate for text-to-speech, OpenAI’s Whisper for speech-to-text, a retrieval-augmented generation system to pull from primary sources, and a proprietary calculator similar to Wolfram Alpha — all to create a much more accurate and safe AI experience for students and teachers.

Addressing concerns of academic dishonesty

When many teachers think of their students using AI, cheating is the first thing that comes to mind. This concern is entirely valid, and all the more pressing given the research showing that AI detectors do not work and have biased false positive results, which make them unsuitable for use in enforcing academic integrity (source).

However, despite the concerns of students using AI to cheat, student use of AI is rapidly growing. The latest studies show that the majority of K-12 students are using AI to help with their work. More worryingly, a cursory search of the App Store for homework help apps reveals an infinite number of apps specifically marketed toward helping students cheat with the help of AI.

With the student use of AI all but inevitable and impossible for schools to ban, it’s essential for schools to form a robust academic integrity policy that sets clear standards on acceptable uses of AI augmentation for student work.

We recommend not placing bans on specific tools (namely because there are a seemingly endless number of similar tools), but rather on empowering teachers with clear guidelines that they can apply to their assignments on a case-by-case basis. By standardizing these “buckets” of acceptable AI use, students also benefit from having a clear mental model that they can then apply to their decision-making when considering using AI tools to augment their work.

graphic showing the stoplight model of acceptable AI use by students that can be applied to specific activities— RED LIGHT: AI USAGE IS NOT PERMITTED IN THIS ACTIVITY, YELLOW LIGHT: PERMISSION FROM TEACHER REQUIRED BEFORE USING AI, GREEN LIGHT: STUDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO USE AI SOFTWARE.

An approach that we’ve seen being implemented successfully is a “stoplight model”, whereby schools have given students guidelines for AI use on assignments — via a green, yellow, or red light — to provide clarity. A piece by Dr. Samuel Mormando, the Director of Technology, Innovation, and Online Learning for the Garnet Valley School District, covers this concept more in-depth (source).

Identifying what matters for your school

As important as it is to be aware of the major AI developments, it’s equally important to ensure that your school’s approach to AI isn’t determined by the technology itself. Instead, we recommend that schools focus on the use cases of AI that they feel will be most promising for their school — whether it be student use for academic support, teacher use for time savings, administrator use for workflow automation, or any combination of the above.

This approach, however, is seemingly contradictory. How do you take a use case driven approach to AI implementation if the use cases themselves are constantly shifting and expanding as AI development rapidly progresses?

A group of people sitting around a chalkboard with the writing 'Where is this all headed'. The people are looking at a friendly, cartoonish robot that is shrugging with a puzzled expression. The setting is a cozy, informal room with soft lighting, wooden furniture, and various books and plants around. The group includes diverse individuals, such as men and women of different ages, all dressed casually. The scene is illustrated in a playful and warm style, with vibrant colors and detailed drawings.

An approach that we recommend is to first understand the goals of companies like OpenAI (creators of ChatGPT) and Anthropic (creators of Claude). These companies are pushing the forefront of AI model development, and are responsible for the lion’s share of technological progress that has led to the AI revolution in the first place. The plans of these companies are worth paying attention to, and they are fascinating.

Both OpenAI and Anthropic (and dozens of other top AI labs) have the explicit goal of developing artificial general intelligence, or AGI. AGI is defined as “artificial intelligence that matches or surpasses human capabilities across a wide range of cognitive tasks”. In short, if these companies successfully keep iterating on their AI technology (which they have had an incredible track record of doing over the last few years), they are headed towards creating AI in the image of ourselves. AI systems in the very near future could be just as capable, generalizable, and self-learning as humans.

So, as a thought experiment, let’s say we jump ahead a number of years — five, ten, however long it’ll be until AGI is widely available.

In that future, where your school could give every teacher a teaching assistant as good as a human expert, what would your school’s philosophy on effective use of those teaching assistants be? What would you have them do? Material creation? Grading papers? Extra academic support for students?

While we’re not there yet, working backward from an AGI future can help contextualize AI developments today, and help your school take a more use case-driven approach to implementing AI tools.

Our take: academic support is the “killer application” of AI in schools

An illustrated scene of an academic support center in a school led by a combination of human teachers and AI tutors. The room is vibrant and welcoming, filled with students of various ages receiving help. Human teachers and AI tutors are actively engaging with each student, talking, and assisting with different subjects like math, science, and literature. There are several additional AI tutors interacting with students throughout the room. The text 'ACADEMIC SUPPORT CENTER' is prominently displayed at the top of the scene. The setting includes colorful posters on the walls, bookshelves, and plants, creating a lively and engaging learning environment. The scene is illustrated in a playful and warm style, with vibrant colors and detailed drawings.

With every new technological paradigm, there is typically a “killer app” — an application of the technology that is so impactful that it paves the way forward for the use of the technology itself. Microsoft Word and Excel were the killer apps for early Windows PCs, for example. For the iPhone, it was the ability to easily browse the web over 3G. For some technologies, like VR, the lack of a killer app has led to disappointingly slow adoption.

At Flint, we strongly believe that the killer application of AI in schools is academic support for students. While there is significant popularity at the moment for teacher-facing material generation tools, there are a few key reasons why we feel that AI for student support is the ideal path forward.

First, academic support is most closely aligned with the main goal of schools (educating students) and the results are in — AI tutoring works (source). For schools that lack academic support centers, AI can stand in to provide every student with 24/7 extra help in any subject. Every time that teachers feel burdened by the workload created by serving the unique needs of dozens of students, there’s an opportunity for AI to work alongside the teacher to both unburden them and to meaningfully personalize the learning experience for students — a goal that often falls to the wayside because it’s so challenging to do without AI.

Flint partner schools including Westminster, Cary Academy, Gilman, Kinkaid, Crystal Springs Uplands, UNIS, Pine Crest, Blair Academy, Durham Academy, Stevenson, and Woodberry Forest School.

Second, we’ve seen firsthand just how impactful AI for personalized learning can be for schools. We’ve worked with some of the world’s top independent and international schools (Westminster*, Cary*, Gilman*, Kinkaid, Crystal Springs, and UNIS, just to name a few) and have seen Flint being used for personalized learning by students across every subject at nearly every grade level (source). These schools have witnessed a transformation not only in the attitudes of their students and faculty towards AI, but also a significant shift towards more personalization at every step of the learning journey of their students (source).

At Flint, we’re building towards a future where AI for academic support — both in and out of the classroom, both student- and teacher-driven — comes to define what AI looks like in schools.

*denotes MISBO school

Learn together, not alone

An illustrated image of a group of diverse school administrators proudly standing together. Each administrator is wearing a shirt that has half of the shirt displaying a different school logo and the other half saying 'AI Committee'. Each shirt is a different color to represent different schools. The group includes men and women of various ethnicities and ages, all standing in a confident and unified pose. The background is simple and light, putting focus on the administrators. The scene is illustrated in a playful and warm style, with vibrant colors and detailed drawings, emphasizing the collaborative spirit in embracing AI. Each shirt has a distinct school logo on one half and the text 'AI Committee' on the other half.

Finally, we feel that it’s critical that schools (even independent schools!) navigate AI integration together, not alone. We recommend reaching out to peer schools to learn how they’re approaching AI integration, and to understand what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

The path forward for every school will be unique, and we believe that’s a good thing. AI shouldn’t lead to more standardization of the practice of teaching and learning. Instead, it should augment your school’s current approach, values, and philosophy. To give an example, we’ve seen Christian schools embrace AI in a way that strengthens theological foundations (source). While this specific example may not apply to your school, it goes to show just how unique every school’s path can be.

In addition to learning together with peer schools, our team highly recommends the work of the following two educators who have been working firsthand with schools across the country on AI:

Eric Hudson, former Chief Program Officer of Global Online Academy and current ATLIS Board Member, has been documenting his work and insights in his blog, Learning on Purpose (source).

Amanda Bickerstaff, the founder and CEO of AI for Education, has been doing wide-ranging PD work with schools nationwide, and has put together a library of free educator-centric resources on AI (source).

We have no affiliation with Eric or Amanda, but we’re a fan of their work! And, of course, if you’re interested in exploring Flint for your school or just in having a chat, feel free to reach out to either of us (the authors of this piece) at sohan@flintk12.com (Sohan, Co-Founder and CEO) or sami@flintk12.com (Sami, Head of School Partnerships and Business Development)!

Spark AI-powered learning at your school.

Start a trial to get free access to Flint for any number of teachers and administrators at your school.

Watch the video

Spark AI-powered learning at your school.

Start a trial to get free access to Flint for any number of teachers and administrators at your school.

Watch the video

Spark AI-powered learning at your school.

Start a trial to get free access to Flint for any number of teachers and administrators at your school.

Watch the video