Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla Public Schools embrace ChatGPT

Chat GPT, a leading generative AI tool, was first released on Nov. 22, 2022, and students were quick to realize its potential. In response, schools from New York City to Walla Walla imposed a district-wide ban on generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. 

Recently, some schools have loosened their grip, with Walla Walla Public Schools lifting the February ban in an effort to incorporate the world-altering tool into the classroom. 

Keith Ross is the Director of Technology and Information services for the Walla Walla Public Schools. He hopes the reversal will better prepare students for the AI-driven world they’ll inherit. 

“[I was] a little bit red-faced, a little bit embarrassed that we had blocked [ChatGPT] in the spring,” Ross said. “ [It] really shed light that we need to not wait on this and get moving and find out how to supply the tool to the students.” 

Carrie LaRoy, the Tech Integration specialist at Walla Walla Public Schools was one of the many who attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) Conference this past spring to learn more about AI. LaRoy explains that the ban on AI, while temporary, was undoubtedly necessary in a world where what is expected of students is rapidly changing. 

“I have hope that in a very good way it will change the way that we work and assess kids, and require kids to produce, perform and show their knowledge,” LaRoy said. “Education in general has to adapt to the world around us, and just because someone like me who went to school writing essays and then went to college and was taught how to teach kids how to write essays, does that make sense in 2023? Does that make sense for our kids who are going to graduate next year, in 2030, in 2040?”

LaRoy also stipulates that while initial panic may have taken hold, things like the calculator and Google didn’t make the school system fall apart. They instead initiated a change in how schools and work operated. She suspects AI will do just the same. 

Karli Hart, an English teacher at Walla Walla High School remarked that even during the ban, she caught students using the tool. She said that she was prepared for the reversal.

“[A] better idea is to teach [students] how to use it and use it fairly,” Hart said.

Hart described how relieved she was when discovering the depth of knowledge required by students to be able to use AI tools like ChatGPT effectively. 

“A lot of times you have to feed it very, very specific questions to get what you want and so, I guess in a sense that’s kind of relieving because I’m like, okay, well my students are going to have to know what they’re looking for to even get ChatGPT to get there, and that’s kind of relieving,” Hart said.

Sometimes ChatGPT even helps teachers, often aiding them in unexpected ways as they learn how to responsibly use the tool along with students. 

Hart revealed her new uses for AI in the classroom. 

“I’ve used it for planning, I’ve used it for kind of idea generation of lessons or like scenarios or examples of certain things, or in the past one of my coworkers and I were trying to incorporate some indigenous poets in a unit and we asked ChatGPT for some names of people and we had to fact check it and lots of it was wrong, but it gave us a start,” Hart said.

“For now, I haven’t used it in the classroom [because] the policy in the English department is that AI is not allowed unless your teacher has explicitly said it is, so as we come up with some trainings for staff members hopefully we’ll find ways to teach students how to use it so they can use it and still learn.” 

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