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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Are the state governments unintentionally widening the digital divide?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

A few weeks ago, I held a webinar for teachers called "Navigating AI in Education" there were more than 400 hundred that attended. This rapidly evolving technology is no longer knocking at the classroom door; it has taken a seat at a desk and is actively participating.

The various state governments have instituted policies aimed at achieving this balance, but I have real concerns these may continue to inadvertently widen the digital divide and delay students' digital literacy development. The screenshot above is what is happening right now on American education forums.

Recently, the NSW Dept Premier and Education Minister stated, "The success of AI will depend on teachers being equipped with the skills to explain how the technology works and challenge anything it generates, including any biases. In NSW, we have placed a temporary restriction on the use of AI tools like ChatGPT until the rules of AI in schools are drawn up in time for implementation next year."

This move is a cautious one, aiming to equip educators with the necessary skills to guide AI usage effectively and ethically. However, this pause in AI use in state schools could place students at least six months behind their counterparts in other schools where AI integration is progressing at pace. And by the way, remember the kids are already using it - so are their teachers. Yesterday I had a Teacher from an independent school tell me about a project a student was doing in social studies about the social impacts of Ai chatbots. The student was doing the project on their phone, using Snapchat's "My AI".

Even though most are suffering from "change fatigue" adapting and integrating new tools is critical, especially in education. We need to prepare students for their future, not our past; The challenge lies in educating about managing these tools responsibly and ensuring their benefits are maximised while mitigating potential drawbacks. We need to do this now.

My calendar is filling up with bookings to help schools reign in use and teach ethics and appropriate use by implementing guidelines and education that I am writing for them in critical AI Literacy, building the foundations of safe use and teaching teachers how to teach AI Ethics and associated Cyber Safety risk. I have developed a downloadable program for schools to use in classrooms that does not breach restrictions but will keep them up to date.

In question time during the webinar and in all of the presentations I have given in schools over the past month, it is abundantly clear that any restrictions by Australian State Governments are being ignored by students who are using Snapchats "MY Ai" for homework, and Teachers using ChatGPT, Dall-e and Midjourney. Some Teachers do not understand potentially massive privacy breaches that could affect their job. I am taking multiple bookings each week for "Ethics, Cyber Safety and Ai" face-to-face talks and bookings for Zoom sessions and pre-records are the most popular talks on my schedule for conferences and in the classroom.

ChatGPT snuck up while we weren't looking. We should have been prepared. It has taken 16yrs to get a state-wide policy in place around the fact that smartphones may not be a good idea in schools. In a rapidly evolving tech sector, delays in integrating these tools and guidelines for their use can have significant implications. A six-month delay might not seem long, but in the tech world, this could have big consequences for some students and teachers. This delay could potentially impact their future educational and career opportunities as AI literacy becomes increasingly important in our global economy.

While the intent behind these policies is commendable, striking the right balance is key, and waiting six months is too long. It's vital to ensure these temporary setbacks do not lead to a long-term disadvantage for students and teachers. It is vital to get youth at the table and those of us who hear what is happening at the coal face daily, not making assumptions from a government office somewhere or through a survey of only a thousand students. I would be happy to be involved.

My face-to-face bookings are full now until February 2024 and I am taking bookings for then and further out. If you are planning ahead get in touch.

I have time available in my calendar for bookings via Zoom for Teacher training and pre-records for students. Our lesson packs can be found through the links below and are licensed for whole school use....more of these lesson packs are coming soon.

To book "Navigating Ethics and Cyber Safety in Ai" email

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