AI is Making Practical Improvements to Life

It has been about a year since ChatGPT hit the mainstream news cycle. Since then it feels like it hasn’t left. It seems like every developer/manufacturer is finding a way to bake “AI” into their solution or product. If you look at news headlines from the Consumer Electronics Show, last week, you will find articles like “At CES, everything was AI, even when it wasn’t” or  “CES 2024: AI pillows and toothbrushes – is it all getting a bit silly?”. We are seeing the same thing in the K-12 market. Every vendor filling our inbox or knocking at our door is pushing AI. Give us a couple more months and we will present you with, “K12TechPro, NOW with AI!” 

This inundation of AI noise makes it difficult to identify tools that actually create a practical benefit to your daily life. What follows are a few recent examples of where AI has just that: a practical benefit to my daily work life. 

Records Requests

Many of us have some role in our district’s records request process. Unfortunately, over the past few years we have seen a drastic increase in subpoenas and FOIA requests. The process of searching emails in Google Vault and exporting or printing them to share with our legal team was unsustainable. In response to this we adopted an ediscovery tool to help support my role in the process. In addition to doing an excellent job of parsing metadata and organizing emails, it provides tools for redactions and mass exports in PDF format.

Last year they added an “AI” function, and I was skeptical. To my surprise, it has had a practical impact on my work and saves me a lot of time. When I start reviewing emails and marking them as responsive, their AI analyzes the characteristics and gives a percentage of how likely another email is relevant to my search. This improves the accuracy of my work and allows me to more quickly assess whether to include or exclude an email. Considering the last records request I worked on consisted of more than 7,000 documents, every saved second counts. 

Google Duet AI for Workspace

I am incredibly self-conscious about writing. It’s a borderline phobia. If I have the choice of writing a 1,000-word essay or giving a one-hour presentation to a room full of people, I’ll take the presentation every time! This is where Google Duet AI for Workspace comes to the rescue. It is AI baked into Google Workspace. When I create an email, Doc, Slide or Sheet, I can leverage AI prompts to get started or get over an obstacle. More importantly, it provides AI-generated proofreading, which helps relieve some self-consciousness. Overall, it is probably the best example of how AI is really going to shift our work in the future. In my opinion, Google Duet AI for Workspace licensing is currently cost-prohibitive to districts. That being said, it would be beneficial to any K-12 tech leader to purchase a few licenses because at some point it will just be the way we do work. 

CodeAcademy

You should never stop learning. I push my team to continue to expand their knowledge and expertise while doing my best to support their pursuits. This year, as part of my own learning, I decided I’m going to finally learn Python. I have some programming experience, but at best I’ve always been bad at programming or scripting. So I signed-up with CodeAcademy to begin my Python journey … again. I quickly work through the basic exercises, once again proclaiming, “Hello, World.” As the exercises advance, I begin my first project. A project in CodeAcademy gives you tasks to complete but doesn’t compare your results against prescriptive code to check if you are right or wrong. Another difference between a project and exercise is a new AI prompt. 

The AI-generated hint is powered by OpenAI. If your code is getting a syntax error or if you are just lost, you can leverage up to three AI-generated hints. The really impressive thing is that it takes into account the actual error you are making and provides you with relevant directions on how to correct it. It is like having a teacher standing over your shoulder and guiding from the side. This is a game-changer for my own learning and the future of learning for students. With the ability to get contextually relevant guidance while learning a programming language, I might actually become more than a bad programmer. 

These examples are practical ways AI has benefited me day-to-day, both in my work and in my learning. For all of the “good or bad” conversations we have about AI in K-12, we can at times overlook the practical benefits and fail to see the shift that is inevitably coming to our classrooms and workplaces. As AI matures, the indicators of good AI and bad AI will begin to surface and become more evident. I would encourage you to check out this article titled, “Leveraging the K-12 Gen AI Readiness Checklist: A Guide for District Leadership‘,’ on COSN’s website.

It’s an exciting time to be in K-12 IT. (This article was proofread by Google Duet AI.)

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