AI is not just for cheating – POLITICO – POLITICO

Your afternoon must-read briefing on politics and government in the Golden State
Your afternoon must-read briefing on politics and government in the Golden State
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Sal Khan of Khan Academy | Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair
EARLY ADAPTERS: Robots aren’t likely to replace teachers anytime soon. But artificial intelligence is getting a cautious rollout in some California classrooms despite initial hostility.
School leaders are increasingly embracing AI tools in an early sign that the rapidly evolving technology could transform education in significant ways.
A district in the Inland Empire is testing what the superintendent calls an “Alexa for the classroom.” Los Angeles Unified has rolled out its own AI-powered virtual assistant. Silicon Valley-based Khan Academy is aggressively testing an AI tutor nationwide — after its founder had early reservations about mixing the tech with classroom learning.
“Months ago, I was very skeptical,” founder Sal Khan said of generative AI. “But when we saw that you can actually get it to quite effectively take on personas of a tutor or a teaching assistant, or even simulate Socratic dialogue, we were like, ‘OK, this is different.’”
The education technology nonprofit’s device, Khanmigo, is being piloted by more than 8,000 teachers and students this fall as school districts, administrators and teachers embrace technology that ignited a plagiarism panic last school year. Khanmigo and similar virtual tutors have allowed students to ask questions of devices and receive responses instantaneously while teachers work with other students, advocates of the tech say.
Some media reports questioned whether virtual assistants might too often feed answers to students and essentially do their work for them. But Khan argues the devices are now “ready for primetime with a couple caveats,” including the need to warn students that chatbots, like professors, make mistakes.
“Generative AI, the internet, Google, social media, YouTube can be incredibly useful as long as you have proper distribution of the proper content. And I would argue most kids don’t,” Khan told POLITICO, arguing that problems with misinformation, political polarization and even wrong answers to math equations that have been produced by some chatbots are at least as prevalent on search engines that students use.
A similar product from education technology startup Merlyn Mind — which draws from a tailored set of information rather than the internet-wide OpenAI that ChatGPT uses — is also being used in classrooms nationally. One test site is Val Verde Unified School District in the Inland Empire, where Superintendent Michael McCormick is enthusiastic about the results.
“You have to think of it like Alexa for the classroom,” said McCormick, comparing the product to the AI-powered Amazon device. “We’ve seen in the pilot process some real positive use cases of second language learners and special education students being able to speak into the Merlyn Mind device and have it supply answers to the questions that kids are asking.”
Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district, began the year piloting a chatbot it’s calling “Ed” in 100 schools, with plans to expand use to every school in the district before the school year’s end. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at a school year kickoff event touted the product as a round-the-clock assistant that can remind students to complete homework and allow parents to check on their child’s attendance records.
“That voice that speaks to you early in the morning, late in the evening, wakes you up, nudges you, reminds you of your attendance, your homework,” Carvalho said.
HAPPY MONDAY AFTERNOON! Welcome to California Playbook PM, a POLITICO newsletter that serves as an afternoon temperature check of California politics and a look at what our policy reporters are watching. Got tips or suggestions? Shoot an email to [email protected] or send a shout on Twitter. DMs are open!
NEWSOM IN NEW YORK: Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Hillary Clinton in New York today at a conference of the Clinton Global Initiative. The governor used the appearance, alongside Clinton and the head of the Ford Foundation, to tout his work to fund early childhood education, allow unionization of the child care sector and expand parental leave from eight weeks to six months.
Newsom threw a shout-out to unions, while suggesting he wasn’t doing so just for political reasons. “This is not me just, you know, asserting a labor paradigm for the purpose of a politician doing so,” he said. “Nothing prepared me for the power of organized labor’s entry into this space to change the conversation.” At one point, Clinton began making the case for why subsidies for child, elder and other kinds of care should not raise political hackles, noting the government has subsidized oil and gas extraction, along with Tesla. “We subsidize so much when it comes to the business side – say nothing about agriculture,” she said. — Ry Rivard
ONLINE SAFETY ON HOLD: A federal district judge said the California kids online safety law likely violates the First Amendment and halted the law from going into effect.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled today that the California Age Appropriate Design Code is likely unconstitutional and sided with the tech trade group NetChoice, which said in a 2022 lawsuit that the law infringes on users’ free speech rights.
The law, which was set to go into effect July 1, 2024, would require tech platforms like Facebook and YouTube to conduct assessments detailing their efforts to mitigate and limit risks their products pose to children’s safety, subject to review by the state’s attorney general. It follows a similar outcome in the state of Arkansas, where a federal judge found that Arkansas’ parental consent online safety law likely violated the First Amendment, and stopped the law from going into effect. That ruling also came in response to a suit by NetChoice. — Rebecca Kern
WAVING A WHITE FLAG: The California Chamber of Commerce says it won’t bother trying to convince Newsom to veto a measure that would require large corporations to disclose their emissions.
The governor announced at a climate event in New York City over the weekend that he intends to sign Senate Bill 253, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal to create the first-in-the-nation reporting requirement.
Rather than trying to sway Newsom — likely a futile effort — spokesperson Denise Davis said today that the chamber will instead focus on “clean-up legislation” next year to address concerns about impacts to small businesses. — Dustin Gardiner

ON THE SPOT: Anti-semitism has spiked on X since Elon Musk bought the platform previously known as Twitter so the subject was bound to come up when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a Tesla factory today in Fremont. It did, as Netanyahu pressed Musk to condemn anti-semitism, prompting the billionaire to respond with a vague and mild declaration. “I’m sort of against anything that promotes hate and conflict,” Musk said. “So obviously I’m against antisemitism.” (The Washington Post)
GREEN SHOOTS: San Francisco’s downtrodden downtown commercial real estate market is picking up – thanks to the expanding artificial intelligence industry. This year is shaping up to be the most active for sales since 2019, with investors buying or agreeing to buy five major office towers so far. (The Wall Street Journal)
WE’RE NO. 1. AND NO. 6. AND NO. 10: The annual U.S. News & World Report ranking of colleges has fallen in stature but the University of California is still touting the results. UC trumpets that UC Berkeley and UCLA were ranked No. 1 among public universities and No. 15 overall. UC Davis and UC San Diego came in at No. 6 on the public list. Farther down were UC Irvine (10); UC Santa Barbara (12); UC Merced (28); UC Riverside (36) and UC Santa Cruz (40). (U.S. News & World Report)
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