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In 1st General Session Keynote, Artificial Intelligence Proponent Asks School Leaders to Embrace an ‘Augmented Tomorrow’

Keynote Abran Maldonado demonstrated how AI could be used “for good” during the General Session at the 2024 AASA Conference on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Photo by Sandy Huffaker.

Augmented eyeglasses in the classroom. Computer-generated art.

The future is coming fast because of new advancements in artificial intelligence, and school districts have to be ready for these new technologies.

That was the message AI visionary Abran Maldonado delivered at Thursday’s AASA keynote at the 1st general session titled “Gen AI: How to Prepare Today’s Students for an Augmented Tomorrow and the Ways Schools Must Adapt.”

Maldonado, a self-described kid from the Lower East Side in New York City, started out as an educator who began exploring the use of AI and co-founded Create Labs. Now, he’s become an ambassador for it and urged conference attendees to not be afraid of AI.

“I wouldn’t even call it technology,” he said. “This a culture shift.”

High-paying AI jobs are already in great demand and schools will have to help students develop new skills for these new careers. Skills like complex communication for students to be able to interact with AI tools and contingency planning for solving problems when plans don’t go right.

“Communication is more important than coding in this environment,” he said.

Dressed all in black and walking back and forth across the stage, Maldonado tried to encourage educators in the room by showing off what different AI programs can do.

He showed off C.L.Ai.R.A., the first Afro-Latina, bilingual AI, which was made by his Create Labs.

He showed off a program that he used to create a Valentine’s Day card and one that translated his voice into Italian in a video for an upcoming conference where he’s presenting. And, he said, new technologies are created every few weeks.

Schools will have to be prepared for how to use AI in the classrooms.

“You can’t prevent where this is headed,” he said.

Educators can’t be afraid or hesitant to use the new tools that technology affords because, he added: “Our children will become future world builders.”

(Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance journalist in San Diego and a reporter for Conference Daily Online.)

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