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B.C. school district attempts to find ‘middle ground’ with AI use

Mission’s current procedure allows students and staff to use AI if they acknowledge it
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. Mission Public School District (MPSD) superintendent Angus Wilson says there are concerns with how AI is impacting learning, but the district is trying to see it as a complementary tool. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

A B.C. school district is searching for a middle ground with artificial intelligence (AI).

“It ain’t as great as you think it is and it ain’t as terrifying as you think it is — at least in its current rendition,” Mission Public School District (MPSD) superintendent Angus Wilson said.

At MPSD’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Oct. 3, board members discussed the use of AI in schools.

The district is taking a patient approach and will wait to see how the technology progresses before developing a policy.

In the meantime, Wilson says the current “non-policy” is that students and staff can use AI but need to acknowledge it.

“The effort is to try and see it as a sort of complementary tool for both staff and students alike — like a calculator or spell check,” he said.

He says the current procedure will probably change in the future with how quickly the technology is moving. However, the use of AI also presents challenges for teachers.

“Where the technology is right now, really in terms of cheating or not learning, is it allows you to do a kind of variant on plagiarism,” Wilson said.

He says AI can write “a nice C+ kind of paper” but the concern comes when the information isn’t factual. The rise of AI is also impacting how teachers do their jobs.

“In just the same way if you had a quiz today where you were allowed to use your phone, and I asked … the date of the start of World War One, you can just look it up. So that’s not a really good question to ask anymore, you need to change what the question is that you’re asking. So it’s things like that are changing the nature of how we teach and [give] assignments but it can be used as a great sort of supplementary tool, as long as we know who’s using it and what for,” Wilson said.

Despite AI’s impact on learning, Wilson says the district can’t turn it off either.

“We have to find some sort of middle ground,” he said.

He expects the district to have a policy in the next few years but for now, staff and students will have to acknowledge when they use AI.

“It’s too soon. It’s kind of like it’s 1990 and we’re talking about the Internet. We’re not quite there. We don’t really quite know what we’re talking about yet,” Wilson said.

At the same meeting, MPSD board members discussed a policy to allow students to bring their own devices to use at school.

“There are certainly individual schools and school districts that have banned phones, for example. And other places have sort of [embraced] the technology, whatever you want to call it. We’re trying to find what’s the correct path on this because there are pluses and minuses to whatever you do with it,” Wilson said.

The board didn’t come to a conclusion on the issue but directed staff to consider a policy.

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Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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