A Generation of AI Guinea Pigs

Article by Caroline Mimbs Nyce: “This spring, the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest public school district in the United States—introduced students and parents to a new “educational friend” named Ed. A learning platform that includes a chatbot represented by a small illustration of a smiling sun, Ed is being tested in 100 schools within the district and is accessible at all hours through a website. It can answer questions about a child’s courses, grades, and attendance, and point users to optional activities.

As Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho put it to me, “AI is here to stay. If you don’t master it, it will master you.” Carvalho says he wants to empower teachers and students to learn to use AI safely. Rather than “keep these assets permanently locked away,” the district has opted to “sensitize our students and the adults around them to the benefits, but also the challenges, the risks.” Ed is just one manifestation of that philosophy; the school district also has a mandatory Digital Citizenship in the Age of AI course for students ages 13 and up.

Ed is, according to three first graders I spoke with this week at Alta Loma Elementary School, very good. They especially like it when Ed awards them gold stars for completing exercises. But even as they use the program, they don’t quite understand it. When I asked them if they know what AI is, they demurred. One asked me if it was a supersmart robot…(More)”.