Let’s Teach Our Children About AI Well

Fear is not one of our core values.

After ChatGPT prompted panic across the educational community, FlexSchool’s leadership team chose to do what we do with any new policy discussion: we took it to the students when we returned to school in early January. Our students are neurodiverse, gifted, and twice-exceptional (both gifted and special needs at the same time), allowing their unique perspectives to be anything from outrageous to profound. As a frame for our discussion about ChatGPT, we asked students to figure out how ChatGPT’s capabilities, limitations, and risks fit into the larger picture of our school community, our Core Values, and our society. While many educators are still debating the possible fallout of ChatGPT and other generative AI, our students have shifted their focus to other topics for now, so we would like to share their thoughts and our resulting AI policy.


We launched a schoolwide discussion series during the month of January. Through thought-provoking prompts and activities during morning advisory and weekly town hall meetings, we invited our students (grades 5-12) to explore ChatGPT and give us their first impressions. We then suggested that they refine their requests, evaluate the quality of the writing and content, and brainstorm ways to use ChatGPT. Here are a few of their comments:


  • “No way, sick! I didn’t think it would be able to do that.” (Grade 7)
  • “We asked about cold fusion, and it correctly described it, but didn’t have the latest breakthrough for its use to create energy.” (Grade 9)
  • “I think that AI is very cool. Although it could be used for cheating in school, it is also important to further AI to understand what it is capable of and its consequences.”  (Grade 7)
  • “If this response was posted online as news, there would be a bunch of nerds saying ‘Um, actually…’”  (Grade 6)
  • “Sometimes if you look at it, you’re going to be like, that’s not right – something’s a little off. That looks like the uncanny valley for writing.”  (Grade 9)
  • “Not any more dangerous than Cliff Notes.” (Grade 8)
  • “Even though the app generates original writing, it is based purely on what has been previously written.  ChatGPT is basically like a Frankenstein of plagiarism.” (Grade 12)


Our students were immediately intrigued and quickly saw both the upside for students with learning challenges and the downside for academic integrity. They also started to notice the limitations inherent in generative AI. After our initial discussion, we showed students parts of the documentary Coded Bias, which explores the issue of bias in algorithms. The documentary led to a broader discussion about AI and its potential impact on society as a whole. Many of our students are very concerned about social justice, and their comments reflect that interest.


  • “AI can never be put into a position to choose in matters of justice because you can’t program empathy.” (Grade 9)
  • “The human brain is essentially just a super powerful computer, so if the brain can do it, an AI could eventually do it.” (Grade 11)
  • “Justice is not really about what someone deserves, but rather what needs to happen so that the population feels that justice was served. When the judge, jury and executioner don’t have feelings, the population may feel that its decision doesn’t represent their idea of justice.” (Grade 12)


Our job as educators is to prepare students for what they will face in the real world, which is changing exponentially. If we react with fear, then we aren’t modeling the critical thinking skills our students need when we are not there to guide them. Furthermore, tech lockdowns and increased control at schools create a conflict between adults – vigilant and assuming the students will try to cheat – and students – anti-authority and assuming the adults don’t respect them enough to ask their opinions. In our experience, students take policy and issue discussions very seriously and are capable of seeing nuance. Not only do students follow policies they created, but they do so with grace because they understand all perspectives. That is also how we want students to discuss topics as adults in the workplace and communities.


If administrators and teachers do not model how to approach new technology with curiosity and critical thinking, our students will not be taught well. We will have failed in our duty to prepare them for a world we cannot yet imagine. We are responsible for giving them the creative, analytic, and collaborative tools to make it in that unimaginable world. Reacting to change with fear will prevent us, and our students, from thinking clearly and adapting.


I wrote this opinion without ChatGPT to prove that I still could.


Based on student and faculty input, our current new policy is below. Generative AI is exciting and has potential unforeseen consequences, so our approach will evolve.


Policy decision based on student and faculty input:

Generative AI tools are and will proliferate online, including the text generator ChatGPT and image generator/editor Lensa, which have taken the Internet by storm since December of 2022, although these are just a few of many. These tools can both help and hinder student learning.

Situations when students can use a text bot as support:

  1. Struggling writers can use a text bot to model writing and editing but will reveal that they used a text bot. If they can’t remember how much they used it, the teacher will ask the student to answer the question verbally without being able to look at what they/ChatGPT have written.
  2. Students can use a text bot after finishing an essay to confirm that they have included all relevant information in their own writing.
  3. Students and teachers can use ChatGPT/Lensa to experiment with different writing and art styles and perspectives. In addition, teachers can ask students to create an outline from an essay written by a text bot or deconstruct generated art and design.


Guidelines and consequences when generative AI tools are not used ethically:

  1. Students are not allowed to present work they have not produced, regardless of the source and including a bot. If work other than their own is included in an assignment they submit as their own work, it must always be attributed to the source.
  2. When a teacher has a concern about the authenticity of an assignment, the student will be given the opportunity to prove they are the author or artist (through time-stamped edits, hand-written outlines, etc.), or they will verbally describe the evolution of their thoughts such that the teacher knows they are familiar enough with all of the material to have written or otherwise produced it themselves.
  3. The consequence of not following these guidelines is that the teacher will ask the student to redo the assignment during a proctored study hall. A second incident will be considered an academic lapse under our Restorative Practice guidelines.


Jacqueline Byrne

Jacqueline Byrne is the visionary behind FlexSchool – a network of learning communities specifically designed to engage and support the creative, quirky, asynchronous minds of gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) students.

An acknowledged expert in education, Jacqui is a sought-after speaker, presenting to school district guidance counselors, state gifted boards, education associations and professional conferences. Jacqui is honored to be a member of the Bridges Graduate School Advisory Council and is also on the Advisory Board for the documentary film The G Word.

Prior to founding FlexSchool, Jacqui co-founded the widely respected Ivy Ed college preparation and counseling firm. She has a B.A. from Yale University, and is a parent of twice-exceptional kids.

We welcome for consideration all submissions that adhere to three rules: nothing defamatory, no snark, and no talking points. It’s perfectly acceptable if your view leans Left or Right, just not predictably so. Come write for us.

Share With Your Connections
Share With Your Connections
More Exclusive Content
The Latest News from Smerconish.com in Your Inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We will NEVER SELL YOUR DATA. By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Smerconish.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Aweber

The Latest News from Smerconish.com in Your Inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We will NEVER SELL YOUR DATA. By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Smerconish.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Aweber

Write for Smerconish.com

Thank you for your interest in contributing to Smerconish.com Please note that we are currently not accepting submissions for Exclusive Content; we appreciate your understanding.