San Ramon school district urges teachers to embrace AI

An East Bay school district is urging teachers and students to embrace artificial intelligence tools like Chat GPT to enhance classroom learning. Leaders in the San Ramon Unified School District argue that banning AI for classwork and homework is counterproductive.

Artificial intelligence and its impact on education took center stage during an hour-long presentation at the San Ramon Unified School District board meeting.

Kelly Hilton, the director of technology at SRVUSD, emphasized the importance of integrating AI into education.

"We're in a space where there's a lot of fear on how to do this the right way," Hilton said.

The district has been studying AI's potential in education since Chat GPT debuted in November 2022.

"We're addressing how to use it for prompting and enhancing critical thinking, but also when it's not appropriate," Hilton added.

This morning, over 30 teachers and administrators from the district's middle and high schools met to discuss and define the question of when using AI is appropriate in class curriculum, assignments and homework.  

"We're going to address the topic of plagiarism, which has come up. Teachers are going to help us define what that would look like," Hilton said.

Some students have already noticed teachers making changes to how assignments, specifically written work and essays are submitted, to prevent plagiarism.

"My class is doing a lot more on paper," said Justin Chen, a senior at San Ramon Valley High School. "If we have to write an essay, we have to do it in class by hand."

Maddie Neiman echoed similar sentiments.

"When we're at school, they have apps open so they can see the tabs. If you're cheating, they can see it anyway. Might as well do it right," she said.

At the board meeting, teachers shared how they could use AI to make lessons more fun and engaging for students.

Kyle Costamanga, a middle school math and technology teacher, asked: "What are middle-schoolers interested in? Taylor Swift. So what if I could take the entire chapter of a math book and in an instant, transform all the word problems to be about Taylor Swift?"

Some educators argued against banning AI platforms like Chat GPT altogether.

"We want to prepare students to be successful in the future," said Samantha Goodman, a social studies teacher, at Monte Vista High School. "If they enter the workforce without knowledge of this tool, we've done them a disservice."

The San Ramon Unified School District will host a meeting for parents and students to learn about AI integration into the curriculum on Wednesday at 6 p.m.