LLANO, Texas (KXAN) — Llano Independent School District will roll out a customized artificial intelligence tool that is designed to help teachers save time on administration overhead and focus more on education.
The tool, known as Agnes, can answer questions ranging from when teachers get paid to policies and procedures at different campuses. The tool was designed by Jim and Maurie Beasley, a husband and wife team that make up the technology department at the school district.
Jim Beasley says he “speaks tech” and his wife “speaks teacher.” The two have decades of experience in the tech industry and Maurie spent more than a decade in the classroom as a teacher, counselor, and assistant principal.
What is the need?
The Beasleys noticed it can be overwhelming for teachers, especially for new hires who are onboarding. Jim Beasley originally thought of creating Agnes as a way to help onboard teachers who will have a million questions when learning the new job.
“How do I get these new teachers where they can find all the information without having to go ask somebody else?” Beasley explained about the original idea for the customized chatbot.
The two also spoke to teachers to see what they would need. What they discovered was teachers were increasingly dealing with more paperwork and administrative overhead, which was taking them away from actually teaching kids.
“Unfortunately it’s gotten to the point where the teacher is inundated with just paperwork,” Maurie explained.
The goal of the AI chatbot is to make that administrative overhead less difficult.
How does Agnes work?
Jim Beasley customized the chatbot to know as much as it could about the school district and state laws. He created folders with employee handbooks, school schedules, and even state code that he then had Agnes learn.
Agnes was able to process a 180-page, 40,000 word document in seconds. So if a teacher or administrator has a question concerning state code, they can ask Agnes and get an answer within seconds, rather than flipping through hundreds of pages.
“I could like go look up on my phone, you know, what can I do about this? What is the protocol? And it gives me that immediate answer. I’m not scrolling through 141 pages,” Maurie explained.
Only staff with a Llano ISD email can access Agnes. When a teacher logs on to Agnes, they must first select which school they work at, and then simply ask a question.
“If they have a question they just ask it,” Jim explained.
Improving for the future
Agnes is newly launched and the Beasleys are still working on any kinks that may arise. They are also waiting for feedback from teachers to see what they think and what they would like to see fixed.
Jim Beasley said he wants the tool to be multimodal in the future. For example, if a teacher wants to know where the copier is, Agnes will provide an answer along with a map to the copier room for the teacher. He also wants Agnes to explain where it got its answer so teachers and administrators can find exactly where the chatbot is getting the information and make sure it is accurate.
The Beasleys hope teachers will start looking at AI as a helpful tool in education. For example, Maurie said a chatbot can be used to help teachers write a permission slip for field trips or help them write letters of recommendations.