ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — A presentation about how artificial intelligence (AI) can be a useful tool in the classroom was made at the Washington County School Board meeting on Thursday.

Superintendent Keith Perrigan said at the beginning of the school year, they started seeing assignments coming in that were impacted by AI.

“We would rather be on the front end of it trying to determine what is beneficial and helpful rather than on the back end trying to clean up a mess because artificial intelligence has negatively infected our school environment,” Perrigan said.

Perrigan said they are trying to identify the ways AI can be helpful to the school system, instead of harmful.

“What we don’t want to do is take away from our students’ educational experience and make work too easy because they’re having the artificial intelligence do their work for them,” Perrigan said. “However, if artificial intelligence can be an assistance to help make the work that they’re doing better or more understandable to them as a student, that’s what we’re looking for.”

During the presentation, Dr. Tammy Williams, Supervisor of Innovation, Professional Development and Assessment, showed useful instructional AI tools.

Slide showing AI tools shown during the presentation

The school system is running pilots in several high school classrooms to see how AI is being used.

Perrigan said one AI tool that is already in use is a translator app for students who don’t speak English as their first language.

“We’re using a lot of artificial intelligence translation so that those students can still be a part of the instruction that’s going on in the classroom without having an interpreter,” Perrigan said.

Williams spoke about how AI can be a useful tool for teachers as well.

“You can input the content that you are teaching into an AI tool and ask it to generate some driving questions,” Williams said. “You can ask it to create some assessments for you. You can do all of those things, but what you’ll find is that unless you put really great content, you don’t get really great content back out. And so hopefully that’s something that we’re teaching our students as well.”

Perrigan said on the last professional development day, an AI seminar was the most attended and the most highly rated by teachers.

“So there’s a lot of interest,” Perrigan said. “I won’t say all that interest is positive because a lot of our teachers, especially our English teachers, are very concerned and we are too. But what we want to do is try to identify those things that can be helpful, those things that can be harmful, and then be proactive instead of reactive.”