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AI in Schools Must Bridge Policy and Innovative Practices Before Measuring Impact, Conference Panel Says

Artificial intelligence is here to stay and will, no doubt, have a resounding and lasting impact on the way we interact with information and knowledge. What should school leaders do about this?

“Not nothing!” is the emphatic response of Thomas Taylor, superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools in Virginia.

Taylor, along with co-panelists Richard Culatta, executive director of ISTE; Andrew Ko, founder of Kovexa; Erin Mote, co-founder and executive director of InnovateEdu; Austin Reid Sr., legislative director at National Conference of State Legislatures; and moderator Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for AASA, delivered a strong message in the AASA conference session on Friday titled “AI in Schools: Bridging Policy, Innovation Practices, and Measuring Impact.”

The discussion delved into the critical role of school leaders in navigating the transformative impact of AI in educational settings. Building upon the discussions from an earlier conference session, the second session aimed to bridge the gap between policy and practice, equipping attendees with insights and strategies to shape their district's approach to AI integration.

So how do school leaders get started? The imperative first step for any educational leader is to initiate the conversation. Begin by developing a common language and understanding of AI, assisting educators in becoming informed.

Once established, productive conversations can continue regarding policy, professional development, curriculum, and other educational topics. At the center should be questions such as “How can the use and understanding of AI benefit education?” and “How are we preparing our young people to thrive in the AI world?”

While some schools, such as Stafford County Public Schools, have proactively created policies specific to AI, Culotta warns against it. In the vast majority of cases, he claims, current acceptable use policies and similar policies include AI and other emerging technologies.

“Make policies around principles, not around technology,” Culotta said. Doing so will allow leaders the flexibility to address all disruptive technologies as they emerge.

To move forward, panelists suggest school leaders create safe spaces for educators to explore. AI is already being used and embedded in many areas. Providing clear communications about expectations, guidelines, and resources can help educators feel at ease and build knowledge rather than fear. Experimentation is the best way to progress, the panelists said.

School leaders are reassured that federal, state and local agencies are keeping an eye on AI. Seven states thus far have released broad guidance for how schools can work with AI. There is hope that structured regulations will continue to be developed while allowing for a level of self-governance so that innovation can flourish.

(Tara Parr is supervisor for communications and technology systems in Perkiomen Valley School District in Collegeville, Pa.)

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