Sioux City Community School District embracing the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom

Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - According to Encyclopedia Britannica, artificial intelligence or AI is described as the ability of a digital computer to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. AI has quickly moved into many industries, including education.

“I would say at this time last year, it wasn’t even a discussion. It’s come that quick,” said Angela Bemus, Associate Superintendent for the Sioux City Community School District. “We didn’t really discuss it with any concern up until probably spring.”

The Sioux City Community School District has embraced the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom. Both students and educators are finding ways to utilize AI programs to provide a better learning experience.

“It can be a helpful tool for research, it can be a helpful tool for compare and contrast,” said Amy Denney, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at the Sioux City Community School District. “There’s just so many different valuable ways to utilize it, as well as staff utilizing it in a positive way can save a lot of time.”

One challenge educators face is trying to learn this new technology alongside their students. “All of these students are digital natives and the staff teaching them are not,” said Denney. “And so we have to make sure that we’re comfortable with it. And I don’t know that we’re ever comfortable with all of the technology. But we have to know more about it so that we can use it effectively.”

The goal is to show students how to utilize AI as a tool to enhance their learning. “It’s really important to us that when they are using it, we’re still capturing their ideas and their knowledge and their thoughts. It can’t replace that,” said Denney. “But we do want them to be able to use it as a tool.”

For some, there’s a worry that using artificial intelligence will take away from students’ education.

“When computers came out and laptops came out, there was such a fear that kids would be cheating, or that they wouldn’t have to learn anything, because they could just look it up. Well, it really is in that same realm,” said Bemus. “So now we know how to use computers, we know how to use calculators to enhance the learning. And so that’s our plan with AI.”

Another important lesson of using artificial intelligence in the classroom is teaching and showing kids the importance of internet safety.

“Student safety is always first and foremost, our priority,” said Denney. “And then it’s, how can we utilize AI, because it is available to students, and we want them to be prepared to go out in the world and use it. It’s not going to go away. So we need to prepare them.”

The district says, that even embracing technology like AI, teachers remain essential.

“Education requires that human component, especially with students in PK through 12,” said Denney. “We have to have a human component to education because we care about their safety and their growth and development.”

“It’s not to replace and that’s the fear I think people have with AI,” echoed Bemus. “But if we look at all the other technology, it didn’t replace, it just enhanced.”

The district says they are meeting with educational representatives to further discuss the use of artificial intelligence in education. They are also approaching the school board to create an academic integrity policy addressing the use of AI.