Oklahoma's Own In Focus: Epic Charter Schools Using AI To Educate Students

Technology is at the core of Epic's work—and they almost have to because, by design, it is a virtual charter school. The district invited News On 6 behind the scenes, where they’re creating their own curriculum and embracing AI to push student success.

Monday, May 13th 2024, 6:45 pm

By: News On 6, Tatum Guinn


-

Leaders of Epic Charter Schools say they're focused on the future.

As one of Oklahoma’s largest school districts, they say they've worked hard in recent years to “move on” from what they call a “checkered past.”

What Happened At Epic Charter Schools?

Two of Epic’s founders were in court last month for preliminary hearings in a case where those founders and the school’s former Chief Financial Officer are accused of misusing millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Related: Epic Charter School Founders Appear In Court For Embezzlement, Racketeering

It’s been three years since they were arrested.

In that time, the districts' new administration says it's worked to regain the trust of the state and families.

“It’s been this rebirth of coming into compliance with our authorizers, our regulators,” Superintendent Bart Banfield said. “We had a clean audit this year with no findings. We just had our charter renewed by the state charter school board for an additional three years, on top of that. This past summer, the State Department of Education gave us full accreditation with no deficiencies, which is the highest level of accreditation.”

How Is Epic Charter Schools Using AI To Educate Their Students?

The district says it's also taking a new approach with some curriculum. The district says it's embracing technology, even Artificial Intelligence.

Technology is at the core of Epic's work—and they almost have to because, by design, this is a virtual charter school.

The district invited News On 6 behind the scenes, where they’re creating their own curriculum and embracing AI to push student success.

“It’s just working smarter, not harder, really,” said Melissa Hart, a teacher at Epic.

Textbooks and physical copies of lesson plans have been traded for laptops and special software. At Epic, students like junior Renae Collins are in charge of setting the pace of their learning. Each student has a personalized learning plan.

“I can control my own schedule and work at my own pace,” she said. “I think having the flexibility of when I do my work helps me out a lot.”

Collins is a junior at Tulsa’s hybrid campus. She’s in Melissa Hart’s class to get a little help one-on-one with a challenging lesson.

On Mrs. Hart’s side of the screen, she can see everything Collins has done. From how much time she spends on one topic and pinpoint where she needs the help. A portion of her software is powered by artificial intelligence.

“It will finite tell you, this is the standard, here’s where they’re struggling, here’s a lesson plan to help support that, and even here’s some sample questions to help them,” she said.

Mrs. Hart has spent two decades in a classroom. These days, she spends more time in front of a screen rather than she does in a class full of students.

“Teaching is evolving, and it is changing with AI coming into the picture,” Hart said. “We’re looking more and more at data, data analytics.”

The software Hart is using keeps a close watch on each student and their learning plan.

“To be able to just sit and, like, have a computer say, ‘No, that’s not right, let’s go here,’ is just crazy,” she said.

The technology goes deeper than that—there is a team of “instructional designers” who are tasked with building out virtual lesson plans.

“We’re designing and trying to create those environments that spark that imagination, that curiosity in our students,” Katelyn Weaver said. “We really want to draw them in so that they want to come back to our curriculum.”

Students can take a “field trip” to Washington D.C.’s National Mall while learning about the Civil Rights Movement or to California to learn about the Gold Rush. There’s even a lesson that’ll take students to one of the Wonders of the World: Machu Pichu.

“We want our kids to start thinking at that higher level, some of those abstract concepts that you don’t get with a textbook. They’re going to receive that with virtual reality environments.”

The idea behind embracing so much technology is that we’re living in a technology-driven world, and students need to be prepared.

“We want them to create digital literacy skills because that is the world that they’re stepping into,” said Weaver.

And at Epic, this new-age technology is in a controlled environment where students are being taught the right way to use it.

“As the world is evolving, it’s important for kids at our age to have a knowledge of how to use this technology,” Collins said.

The team of curriculum designers are following state framework and creating their own original content for the curriculum.

By June, they’ll have a PreK - 12 curriculum that’s 100% aligned with OK learning standards.

How is Epic Charter School’s Enrollment?

Epic's issues have not affected its enrollment.

The district says it has more than 30,000 students this school year.

That's up compared to about 28,000 students who were signed up for classes in the 2019-2020 school year.

logo

Get The Daily Update!

Be among the first to get breaking news, weather, and general news updates from News on 6 delivered right to your inbox!

More Like This

May 13th, 2024

June 16th, 2024

June 16th, 2024

June 16th, 2024

Top Headlines

June 16th, 2024

June 16th, 2024

June 16th, 2024

June 16th, 2024