Suffolk Foundation Forum discusses AI in the classroom

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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Artificial intelligence (AI) was once confined to movies, but today, AI has infiltrated everything we do, whether we know it or not. At the forefront of that discussion is AI’s use in education, and on Wednesday, Nov. 8, The Suffolk Foundation held a forum to discuss AI’s emergence. The nonprofit organization saw many of Suffolk’s city officials and community leaders attend their 13th annual Community Forum and Luncheon on keynote speaker Timothy Lee, Founder of Amplified IT, held a presentation called “How AI is Changing the Future of Education.” Lee explained to attendees the importance of understanding and properly utilizing AI and how understanding is key to positively impacting education and society’s future. He emphasized that despite recent media attention, AI is nothing new.

“When we think about AI, most people see the headlines, [and] people think it’s a new thing. It’s not. [In the] 1950s, the definition was formed … but we’ve seen these advancements in our own lives. Whether that’s our own addiction to Amazon and how that personalizes our choices, and all these boxes keep appearing at my house and I don’t know why,” Lee humorously said. “I think that when we look at all this AI from all these services that has actually been building from sometime, but if we look at the last couple of years, it’s now that we’re putting a lot of different things on the cloud and that accessibility, it’s crazy the pace that has been going.”

Reflecting on the Virginia Department of Education providing guidance on AI, Lee talked about the need for schools to modernize educating students while properly balancing the utilization of the technology for both students and teachers.

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“We really need to go beyond just our typical education technology, and this isn’t about putting devices in students’ hands. This isn’t about them just having instructional tools. It’s the fact that it creates new interactions between students and teachers. Address [the] huge amount of issues or challenges in student learning, but also that it can enhance feedback loops,” he said. “It’s a balancing act … Because what we don’t want to do is just say ‘Teachers, now you got to look at what all your kids are doing on AI.’ That’s not going to work … The same for students. How are we going to represent students in making sure they’re represented in the AI that they are engaged with, but also protect their privacy. That’s a big one as we move forward.” 

Following the presentation, Suffolk Foundation Executive Director Lorelei Morrow spoke positively on the turnout of the luncheon.

I was so pleased with the luncheon. Everything ran smoothly. I think the topic was absolutely fascinating,” Morrow said. “I was so happy to welcome 200 members of our community to convene together to talk about how we can make Suffolk and Western Tidewater an even better place to live.”

Likewise, Lee says he hopes attendees will understand from his presentation that they all have a part to play with AI in education.

“It’s not something that will naturally happen, it’s something that communities need to lean into their school districts support,” Lee said. “The people that are here all work for different organizations and all of them have a part to play in that, but also that they are not necessarily afraid of AI, but they actually understand that it’s something that is going to be woven into every student and every kid’s job in the future.”