George Lucas Educational Foundation
ChatGPT & Generative AI

4 Simple Steps for Crafting a District AI Policy

School districts can create effective artificial intelligence policies that support academic honesty while embracing emerging technology.

May 2, 2024
drical / iStock

New beginnings are usually fraught with challenges, but overcoming challenges is what learning is all about. In today’s educational space, artificial intelligence (AI) presents the latest revolution. AI use is fraught with all the challenges of any paradigm shift, but if it’s handled thoughtfully, the benefits of using AI far outweigh the challenges. Here are four basic steps for crafting a thoughtful district-wide policy on AI usage.

1. Gather Information

Begin by asking questions of students, parents, and staff:

  • What do you know about AI?
  • What would you like to know about AI?
  • What about AI makes you reluctant or even fearful?
  • How could you use AI for learning?
  • What policies would you like to see around AI?

Next, dispel rumors. About 19 percent of students say they have used generative AI on assignments, while 60 percent of teachers believe they have. That means that most educators think of AI as a cheating app, like Google when it first appeared, and calculators before that. AI is not designed for cheating; it’s a useful tool and it’s here to stay. Having transparent conversations around AI that highlight its usefulness, while also addressing the very real challenges AI presents, is foundational to navigating this brave new world. 

2. Craft a Policy Statement

AI is no longer a “what if” but a “when and how,” so it’s important that we prepare our students sooner rather than later. Armed with information, begin by crafting a code of conduct and policy statement, preferably with a committee of all stakeholders, including students. Once that document is developed—with the caveat that AI is an emerging technology and that the policy will be updated as needed—share the document with staff, parents, and students in the same way you would share a dress code or academic honesty policies. 

3. Have Conversations About Academic Integrity

Because a knee-jerk reaction about student cheating is often the strongest sentiment surrounding AI, that narrative has to be dealt with openly. The fact is, digital homework “help” has been in use by students for a while. Conversations with students about online “help” are overdue and should be a regular part of parent nights, student orientations, and back-to-school routine building. Here are some helpful sentence stems:

  • Students will begin using AI because it’s a useful tool for… (brainstorming, research, proofreading, augmentation suggestions, etc.).
  • Students can use AI to help become better writers by _____. They may not use generative AI for _____. 
  • If you give/have permission to use AI for an assignment, all use of AI must be disclosed in the citation or acknowledgment section. Failure to cite AI will result in _____.
  • Teachers can use AI within edtech apps and independently to support planning and building standards-aligned learning experiences. AI use does/does not need to be disclosed.
  • Staff will have ongoing training and development for AI throughout the year.
  • The consequences of being caught using AI in any ways except those approved in the handbook are _____.

Finally, from crib notes to Cliffs Notes, students always find ways to get around doing assignments. Tutors, parents, and writing coaches have been used for cheating too, but they’ve yet to be banned. Think of AI as the same kind of support. Tools like Gemini, Copilot, ChatGPT, and others are the newest helpers, now accessible for students of all socioeconomic levels. 

Invest time in creating ethical, responsible users of AI rather than gatekeeping. AI checkers are ineffectual and create an adversarial relationship between student and teacher. The most effective AI checker is the teacher who knows their student’s writing style through work samples from a student’s own Google Drive. Most important, the best way to prevent cheating at all is to have students undertake authentic, engaging, relevant learning experiences. 

4. Creating A Feedback Loop

Because AI is a rapidly emerging technology, policies and protocols need to evolve as well. Again, gather information to serve as your guide:

  • This year, I/my teacher used AI in class (a lot, a little, not at all).
  • This year, my teacher used AI with us for _____.
  • AI made academic honesty problematic because _____. 
  • AI worked especially well when _____.
  • I struggled with AI use because _____.
  • AI helped me to be better at _____.
  • We should consider changing _____ in the future.
  • I know AI is here to stay, but I need more support with _____ to use it effectively.

Midyear and end-of-year surveys of stakeholders will show where updates are needed. Pro tip: Let students take the lead on this project. They have their fingers on the pulse of student usage and all our biggest AI fears.

Moving from banning AI to benefiting from it is like getting a new puppy. Some hate the idea, and some think it’s great—until the training challenges come. But the thing about a new puppy is that soon you can’t remember life without him. In 10 years, we won’t be able to remember how we got along without AI, but today, challenges seem daunting, as new beginnings are. However, by gathering feedback and crafting thoughtful AI policies that inform use, we may one day find that AI is the tool we can’t remember life without.

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