Nanaimo-area school trustees contemplate need for policy on use of AI

Nanaimo-area school trustees contemplate need for policy on use of AI
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
The ChatGPT app is displayed on an iPhone in New York, Thursday, May 18, 2023.

It’s already in use by school administrators as well as in classrooms, yet Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustees emphasized a need to get on top of the use of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence technologies in the education system.

Superintendent Scott Saywell and assistant superintendent Don Balcombe delivered a visual and written presentation – in part generated using AI – on the pros and cons of utilizing the technology in education at the education committee’s Nov. 1 meeting.

Saywell, who said he uses ChatGPT regularly, said the technology is “very beneficial for teachers” for tasks such as generating quizzes and differentiating instruction for students in the classroom at different learning levels than their peers.

“It’s magic; I hope every teacher is using it,” Saywell said.


Though the district is unaware of how many teachers in the district are currently utilizing ChatGPT in their classrooms, Saywell is aware that some teachers are. School administrators recently attended a professional development session with John Spencer, who has written extensively on the topic of AI in education.

While district staff touted the benefits of AI from a teaching perspective, they also noted the challenges, including assessing a student’s comprehension of concepts, such as grammar if utilizing AI to correct written work; privacy and security of data; accuracy of information received; as well as sussing out plagiarism.

“We’re in a new sort of era in education,” Saywell said. “I think it’s kind of the show-your-work era – teachers are going to be asking students to show their own work.”

The school district currently has no policy related to the use of AI in the education system. Trustees agreed it was time to start developing one.

“The way that we’ll become successful in using it in education is to embrace it and get ahead of it,” trustee and board chair, Greg Keller, said, asking staff it they saw part of its future use including the district purchasing the paid version of ChatGPT, which has expanded functionality. The free version of ChatGPT was trained on text and code from before the end of 2021.

“We’ve always in education tried to resource our teachers with the best resources they can have,” Balcombe said, noting the evolution from class sets of print encyclopedias to CD-ROMs, to internet access and to wireless connectivity. “There’s always the need to train and support teachers with the latest and where do we find the time and resources to do that.

“We’re at a moment in time where the people who are engaging in it are doing it on their own.… We’re trying to play catchup as a system to say how can we support our system to have everyone engage in this.”

NLPS told the Sounder “no official direction has been made to create a policy on AI” and it would be up to the board to direct that action.

Trustee Naomi Bailey expressed having “a lot of fear about artificial intelligence.

“I don’t want it to take away from student learning about how to do proper research and find proper sources and know what kind of sources to use because, as we’re seeing in the world today, a lot of people are getting misinformation and don’t know how to vet a source.”

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Local Journalism InitiativeLocal Journalism Initiative

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!