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Ethical Considerations of Using AI Technology in the Classroom


By Lauren Atkinson

Staff Attorney


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a field of study that combines the applications of machine learning, algorithm production, and natural language processing. Recently, AI-powered chats that can emulate human-like conversation and thought processes have moved to the forefront of the conversation surrounding AI. Within the realm of education, AI technology has the potential to support educators in managing administrative tasks such as lesson planning and data tracking. Additionally, it can cater to the diverse needs of students by offering recommendations for materials and strategies that align with their specific classroom requirements. 


With the growing popularity of AI platforms, guidance regarding AI utilization is continually evolving. However, as with all technology used in the classroom, there are ethical considerations and best practices that educators should keep in mind when incorporating AI into their work with students. This article seeks to address that balance. 

Local Policies 


Educators should always consult their district’s technology policies and make sure they are following the proper procedure for their use of AI and any student use of AI in the classroom. If educators intend to use AI for administrative tasks such as creating lesson plans, they should consult their district’s policies and seek prior approval from administration when needed. Prior to educators introducing AI for student use, it is advisable for them to consult the existing policies in their district. Educators may also find it necessary to establish a policy to guide students. Such a policy would clearly state when the use of AI is allowed and when it is prohibited. It should also provide a definition of plagiarism. It is best to seek administrative approval prior to creating and implementing an AI policy for student use. 


In cases where a district policy may not explicitly address AI, educators should be mindful of state and federal laws that govern the use of technology in the classroom. 


Georgia Code of Ethics 


The Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) outlines 10 ethical standards for educators. Standard 4 (Honesty) states that “unethical conduct includes but is not limited to, falsifying, misrepresenting, or omitting… information submitted to federal, state, local school districts and other governmental agencies; (and) information regarding the evaluation of students and/ or personnel…” [see footnote 1]


Educators should keep in mind that AI-generated chats, like ChatGPT and other software programs, pull information from various data sources on the internet that include previously submitted information from other users. Before submitting any information obtained through these AI platforms, an educator should review the information generated to ensure it is accurate and honest. Submitting inaccurate information could lead to an honesty violation under the code of ethics. 


Furthermore, educators should avoid duplicating content they didn’t generate, opting instead to utilize AI tools for brainstorming, editing, and enhancing content as necessary. 

Standard 7 (Confidentiality) states “An educator shall comply with state and federal laws and state school board policies relating to the confidentiality of student and personnel records, standardized test material and other information. Unethical conduct includes but is not limited to: (1) Sharing of confidential information concerning student academic and disciplinary records, health and medical information, family status and/or income, and assessment/testing results unless disclosure is required or permitted by law; (2) Sharing of confidential information restricted by state or federal law...” [see footnote 2}


Sharing confidential information of students with AI platforms could lead to a confidentiality concern under the code of ethics. AI-powered systems can collect a large amount of data about students, including their academic performance and personal information. An educator must refrain from submitting confidential information like student names, grades, identifiable data, etc., into AI-powered platforms as this information can be stored and shared with others. For example, if an educator intends to input student test results into an AI platform for data analysis, they should avoid including any personally identifiable information, such as names or student ID numbers, during the process. 


Federal Laws 


Standard 7 is derived, in part, from The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. Because of this, any violation of Standard 7 could lead to a violation of FERPA. [see footnote 3]


Educators should be aware of the potential copyright issues related to using AI in the classroom and exercise care when using AI-generated content. Copyright is a form of protection granted by law for original works like books, songs, plays, art, and much more to those who author them. [see footnote 4] AI tools like ChatGPT are creating unique questions under copyright law that have yet to be answered. ChatGPT and others like it analyze a prompt and immediately generate text which gives the answer to a question or creates a work. These tools often extract data from diverse sources, potentially incorporating copyrighted content from third parties. The question of whether AI-generated content sourced from third-party copyrighted material constitutes an infringement on the original creators’ copyrights is still unanswered as there are ongoing court cases with no clear answer at this time. Overwhelmingly, the ongoing copyright infringement cases are not against the individual users of AI but rather against those who created AI platforms. 


One exception of importance to copyright infringement is the fair use doctrine that allows for the limited use of copyrighted materials without the copyright owner’s permission. [see footnote 5} This exception is crucial for educators, as copyrighted materials may need to be used for specific purposes, such as teaching. While fair use can be a valuable defense, it’s not a guarantee as the application of it is still being tested. 


Consult a PAGE Attorney as Needed 


By adhering to best practices and ethical considerations, educators can harness the power of AI in the classroom while avoiding any potential violations of law. If you have questions or need additional information on this or any legal topic related to your work as a Georgia educator, PAGE attorneys are here to help. Contact the PAGE legal department at 770-216-8555 (and select option 1) or email us at legal@pageinc.org.  


 

[1] O.C.G.A. §20-2-984.2; PSC rule 505-6-.01 (3)(d)

[2] O.C.G.A. §20-2-984.2; PSC rule 505-6-.01 (3)(g)

[3] 20 U.S. Code § 1232g

[4] 17 U.S.C. § 102(a), (b)

[5] 17 U.S.C. § 107


 

Lauren Atkinson is a PAGE staff attorney. A former middle school educator with Atlanta Public Schools and graduate of Mercer University School of Law, Atkinson has served PAGE members since 2018.

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