LA schools to get AI chatbot called ‘Ed’ as student advisor

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 3 Min Read
origin 1In a sign of how AI could transform everyday practices for children and parents, schools in LA are set to get an AI chatbot as a student advisor. Annette Riedl/dpa

Los Angeles (tca/dpa) — An AI chatbot named “Ed” will be the newest student advisor in Los Angeles schools, programmed to tell parents about their child’s grades, tests results and attendance.

The announcement was made in August by Superintendent Alberto Carvahol of the Los Angeles Unified school district in a back-to-school speech that rivaled a Hollywood extravaganza.

Carvalho took the stage as high-volume music pounded and fast-paced video flashed across a giant screen. The audience of district employees — mostly administrators — applauded as if on cue as lighting, singers, videos, dancers enmeshed in an annual address unprecedented for its production values in the nation’s second-largest school district, a reflection of the superintendent’s attentiveness to generating positive publicity.

Previewing his initiatives, Carvalho said Ed the chatbot will be part of an interface for an Individual Acceleration Plan. Carvalho had introduced the idea as early as December, and it’s modelled on the Individualized Educational Program, or IEP, that aims to provide a unique, appropriate education and support plan for every student who has a disability.

“Imagine the power of artificial intelligence and comprehensive data working together to personalize an action plan for the benefit of our teachers, our students, our parents,” Carvalho said.

Disability advocates have criticized L.A. Unified for not properly managing its existing system of IEPs, a reality that Carvalho appeared to acknowledge in emphasizing that there’s been improvement in this area.

The chatbot technology, which will eventually reach every student in the district, will first be available at the 100 schools the district has designated as its most “fragile” — the most in need of improvement or special services.

Imagine, he said, parents having “real-time updates on grades, test results and attendance — empowering them to monitor and support progress and immediately address the concerns.”

His oration extended more than an hour — accompanied by a giant screen slide deck interspersed with videos and reaching an aesthetic crescendo when the singer Malachiii appeared on stage and crooned a joyous paean to childhood. Many in the audience of typically staid administrators lifted arms to wave their cellphone flashlights as if they were at a rock concert.

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