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AI Symposium at Loomis Generates Much Discussion  

Educators from New England and beyond gathered Tuesday, April 25, for a Generative Artificial Intelligence Symposium at Loomis Chaffee. 

Sponsored by Loomis Chaffee’s Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching, the symposium featured a robust program with presenters from various independent schools. Each of the symposium’s three sessions offered a choice of four presentations, each 50 minutes. 

About 75 people from 33 schools attended along with a number of faculty from Loomis. 

“We have 12 amazing presenters and some great sessions,” Sara Deveaux, director of the Kravis Center and a member of the modern & classical languages faculty said as people gathered at the start of the day.  

The symposium would be about learning how faculty and students are using ChatGPT in a positive manner, Deveaux said, “but also not burying our heads in the sand in that there might be some adverse ways kids are using it and we want to be aware of those.” 

On the schedule of presenters from Loomis were Kate Seyboth, director of digital computation; and John Morrell, director of writing initiatives. 

Kate’s presentation, “Neural Networks for Everyone,” involved a discussion of the basics of computer science neural networks that are modeled on the human brain and provide the core learning power of today’s AI models. John’s presentation, “Still Processing: Preliminary Thoughts on Writing Instruction in the Age of AI,” offered reflections on a recent collaborative writing assignment that used ChatGPT as a writing tool. The session also covered some broader aspects of teaching writing and using writing as a teaching tool in the age of AI. 

From the content of many of the sessions, one thing is clear: As with any new technology, using AI in the most effective way will be a learning process. At this point, there are many questions and cautions.  

“The best analogy I read that I repeat over and over again is that [a tool such as ChatGPT] is like your unreliable friend,” Sophie Luxmoore of the Dublin School said in a session on integrating technology ethics in the classroom. “You go to a dinner party. Maybe there is a member of your family that can take any topic and tell you all about it.” 

She stretched out the words all about it and caught herself. 

“The way I said it is negative … but in my family it is my dad. He… knows a lot about a lot of things. He can fix the window and plant a garden, and he was an engineer and can do a lot of math I could never do. He was a tremendous resource growing up, but I cannot cite him. He has to be fact-checked. I think that has been a really helpful analogy for our students.” 

Her point was that ChatGPT is useful as a brainstorming tool, but not as an answer. 

Ms. Luxmoore also spoke about having students critique what comes back to them: “Here is the prompt, here is what generative AI says. What would you do to improve this?” 

In another session Maureen Gassert Lamb of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Conn., offered ways to make generative AI work for teachers, such as lesson plans to question generation, image creation and study resources and flashcards. She also offered a dozen other useful AI generators for teachers, ranging from Quillbot (online paraphrasing tool) to Promt Storm (creating powerful prompts for GPT) and Superchat App (talking with experts and historical and fictional characters). 

A comment from another presenter summed up the symposium’s overarching message.  

“The key word in humanity is human. It is not chat,” said Mandy McCubbin of the Fairfield Country Day School in a session on Generative AI in the middle grades. 

Yes, we all need teachers. The care, concern, compassion, and commitment.


 

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