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Montana Digital Academy releases guidance on AI in the classroom

A screen capture shows the ChatGPT landing page.
A screen capture shows the ChatGPT landing page.

A first-of-its kind guide to help Montana schools develop artificial intelligence policies released Tuesday.

Park High School English Teacher Caitlin Chiller said she realized what AI programs like ChatGPT could produce at an education conference last year — photorealistic images, complete essays and more. That prompted her to launch into discussions with her students about the technology.

“It’s a little daunting, I will be honest,” Chiller said. “You truly feel like a pioneer.”

Chiller believes AI can ultimately improve education for students and teachers. She sees its potential to help with grading and thinks it could help students with dyslexia and dysgraphia become better writers. Above all, Chiller thinks it’s not realistic to just ban the technology outright.

“It’s a losing battle, and all you’re going to end up with is really frustrated kids who don’t understand why they can’t use ChatGPT,” Chiller said.

That sentiment is part of what inspired the release of a new guide for AI in education developed by the Montana Digital Academy. The state-funded online learning platform released the more than 50 page document to encourage Montana educators to think about AI in the classroom.

Jason Neiffer heads Montana Digital Academy. He said the technology is moving fast.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to get a lot of time to wait around for best practices,” Neiffer said. “So, the best practices are really the ones that teachers, in conversation with their colleagues, and their students and their community have with one another.”

Neiffer said the guide should help districts craft policies suited for their needs.

It offers some clues at how AI may shake the education landscape. The guide mentions the technology could automate routine tasks like auditing, course scheduling and budget tracking.

The technology has also driven concerns over student cheating, factual errors and even displacing school staff.

Neiffer said those are all reasons for schools to start planning for the AI future now. And, Montana’s major education organizations agree, four of the largest gave the guide their stamp of approval.

Copyright 2024 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Austin Amestoy