A(I) Smarter Future?

How can we use ChatGPT and related AI in the independent school business office?

Apr 25, 2023  |  By Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

Discussions of artificial intelligence (AI), ChatGPT and other large-language models are everywhere these days — articles and presentations on their predicted impact on every profession, industry and service abound. Independent schools are no different. 

While much of the early discussion revolved around the use of this technology in academic settings, business applications are already being tested, and NBOA staff are exploring the tools ourselves. NBOA Executive Vice President James Palmieri, Ed.D., for example, completed a no-cost, three-hour online seminar from the University of South Florida’s Innovative Education division. The course, “ Exploring AI and ChatGPT: Impact and Possibilities,” is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about the transformative impact of ChatGPT and other AI tools on education, everyday life and the modern workforce. The asynchronous course “helped demystify AI as it relates to my current and developing work styles, and empowered me to begin integrating ChatGPT into my professional and personal projects and tasks,” he reported.

Personally, I recently read an intriguing NAIS article that highlighted the work of two educators that used ChatGPT to develop a professional development course for their school’s faculty on the topic. And shortly thereafter, a group of business officers at NBOA member schools encouraged me to experiment with ChatGPT to see how it could impact my work as NBOA president and CEO.

Considering all these inputs, I asked ChatGPT to generate a CEO Notebook blog post about AI and its potential impact on PK-12 independent schools. The suggested title was “A Smart Future: The Rise of AI and Independent Schools,” and what follows in italics below is what the tool generated, modestly edited to increase its readability. Note that the italicized text is AI-generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and certainly does not tell the full story of AI in our schools.

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology have created a new wave of possibilities for PK-12 independent schools. AI is increasingly being used to enhance student learning, improve teaching and administrative processes, and even support student safety. As the AI industry continues to evolve, PK-12 schools will be able to use it to their advantage in a variety of ways.

Student Learning: AI-enabled student learning can be used to deliver personalized learning experiences to students, giving them access to tailored materials and customized instruction. This can help students stay engaged and motivated, as well as help teachers tailor their instruction in a more effective manner. AI can also be used to provide real-time feedback to students, allowing them to gain a better understanding of their progress and work towards achieving their educational goals. AI-enabled teaching can help simplify complex teaching processes and provide teachers with valuable insights into their students’ learning progress.

Administration: AI can also be used to automate administrative processes and help streamline the way a school operates. This can help make the administrative process more efficient and reduce the need for manual labor. It can be used to track attendance and monitor student behavior, as well as to provide personalized messages to parents and other stakeholders.

Student safety: Finally, AI can also be used to enhance student safety. AI-enabled systems can be used to monitor student behavior and alert school staff of any potential safety issues. AI-enabled cameras can monitor the school grounds, helping to ensure that the premises remain safe and secure.

Overall, AI is continuing to open up new possibilities for educators and administrators. As the AI industry continues to evolve and develop, private PK-12 schools will be able to take advantage of these advancements to provide students with the best possible education.

The relatively advanced style of this writing is certainly eye-opening, and it’s clear that our jobs and those of the students in our schools could significantly change in the years ahead. However, I don’t find the substance of the generated text particularly informative, enlightening or provocative — a goal I seek to achieve in my twice-monthly blogs (with varying success!). This AI text probably didn’t offer you anything you didn’t already know, but then again it did outline some major issues in a matter of seconds.

The conversation around ChatGPT reminds me of the many conversations school leaders were having regarding online learning about 10 years ago. This learning modality has been widely adopted in the last decade, in part thanks to accelerations during the pandemic. ChatGPT is moving at a significantly faster pace. However you feel about the technology, all school leaders will need to gain a personal understanding of its impact on their school to be part of the new conversations among you and your colleagues as you navigate the twists and turns ahead.

Are you already using AI in your school’s business office or in your school’s operations? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Jeff Shields signature


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO

National Business Officers Association (NBOA)

Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) since March 2010. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives, has been recognized as an ASAE Fellow (FASAE) and earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) professional designation. His current board service includes serving as a director for AMHIC, a healthcare consortium for educational associations in Washington, DC, as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association. Previous board service includes serving as a director for the American Society of Association Executives, as a director for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and as a trustee for Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Shields holds a BA from Shippensburg University and an MA from The Ohio State University.

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