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News > School News > Dame Allan's appoints Artificial Intelligence Lead in North East first

Dame Allan's appoints Artificial Intelligence Lead in North East first

Dame Allan's has taken a pioneering step by appointing Dr. Drew Smith as their first-ever Artificial Intelligence Lead - a position believed to be the first of its kind in a North East school.
11 Jan 2024
School News
Above: Dr Drew Smith AI Lead and Physics Teacher at Dame Allan's Schools, Newcastle
Above: Dr Drew Smith AI Lead and Physics Teacher at Dame Allan's Schools, Newcastle

Drew, who also teaches physics, will take on the challenge of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into the educational landscape, ensuring both staff and pupils are well-versed in the evolving technology.

"AI is everywhere now, across every walk of life," he explained. "It's becoming 'the norm' to embed into new technology, and it is important that as educators, we are proactive and up-to-date with this tech.

It’s even more important when we consider that the North East has one of the highest rates of AI usage amongst pupils in the UK. Over a third (39 per cent) of pupils in the region are using it ‘all the time’ to help with schoolwork, which is 10 per cent higher than the UK average.” {source}

Drew acknowledged the new opportunities AI presents for both staff and pupils , and emphasised the necessity of ongoing learning and development around these technological advances: "As an AI Lead at Dame Allan's Schools, there is a lot of scope to shape my role and the training I can provide to help staff and pupils  make the most of AI.

I will be holding regular staff training sessions and supporting them with their professional development with regards to AI. It’s been really encouraging to see staff willing to give AI a go!”

When asked about the biggest opportunity offered by AI in education, Drew highlighted increased efficiency and timesaving for staff: “AI can streamline administrative tasks, such as lesson planning and report writing, allowing teachers more time for the human, pastoral aspects of their roles.” 

Drew has already overseen the implementation of Quillbot, a paraphrasing tool, to aid with writing and grammar suggestions, which is being trialled to help with writing pupil reports. 

He is mindful of the biggest threat posed by AI in an educational setting — the misuse of AI tools by pupils, particularly for tasks like writing essays: "We want to communicate that it's very much a support tool, rather than a replacement for the personal, creative aspect of education," he explained. “Teachers can tell when a piece of work doesn’t ‘sound’ like a pupil’s voice. However, it is definitely something to keep an eye on, especially as AI continues to develop.”

However, Drew also expressed enthusiasm about involving pupils in AI education. He plans to offer training sessions and spread awareness about the latest AI developments through pupil announcements, a  new website, and assemblies.

Drew’s interest in the AI Lead role stemmed from his personal interest in digital tech and programming, which was part of his Ph.D. He added:

“Outside of my teaching role, I also run a Dungeons and Dragons Club at Dame Allan’s, and ChatGPT has also been useful in helping me to plan campaigns for this, as well as develop characters, which in turn makes the club more engaging for the pupils that attend.”


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