Exploring “The Era of AI” in Education – A Web-Series Recap

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a topic in every profession but in education, it potentially means fundamentally changing some of the tried and true methods of instructional delivery. Recently, I hosted a 2-part live web-series titled “The Era of AI”  that delved into this subject. In part one, I spoke with Laura Ogando and Lisa Nielsen from New York City DOE about the effect of AI on public education. Then, in a follow-up part two, I spoke with Dr. Curt Carver from the University of Alabama Birmingham about what this change looks like in higher education. 

What follows is a recap of those conversations but I also invite you to watch the full interviews below:

Laura & Lisa Interview (34:06)

Dr. Curt Carver Interview (33:50)

Balancing human and artificial intelligence 

One thing that kept coming up over and over in the series was the human element to all of this. Leaders in both K-12 and higher education realize the potential of AI but also understand the importance of maintaining a balance between AI and humans. While some pioneer educators are exploring all the latest and greatest AI tools, it’s important to remember what form and function these tools play when it comes to student learning. AI can provide valuable tools and resources for educators, but it should complement the teaching process rather than replace it.

Using AI to “eliminate the drudgery”

The current status of education finds many educators over-worked and seemingly with less and less time to focus on the actual teaching and learning part of the profession. State mandates, administrative tasks, and email communication with parents all take valuable time out of a teacher’s day. Utilizing AI to help eliminate the drudgery of some repetitive tasks could be considered an early win to onboarding AI-enhanced learning in a school. 

Teacher adoption and professional learning

Looking for entry points with teaching staff around AI is multifaceted. Sharing examples of how it can be used to take care of low-hanging fruit or to help brainstorm a lesson prompt is beneficial. Laura mentioned that teachers need to “try it out”. She recommends that teachers use it to help with something personally like generating a meal plan or a recipe. “Use it to make your personal life better,” is a great way to introduce AI with staff. Once they use generative AI tools, they’ll discover it’s not as scary (or as good) as people give it credit, but it does have the potential to be a powerful virtual teaching assistant. 

Responsible AI use

Using AI responsibly starts both in the classroom but also at a system-wide level. Dr. Carver mentions how UAB built an AI engine that reflected the core values of the university when it comes to security, privacy, and identifying bias. These “core personas” are built from an academic task force that collaborates with all stakeholders around AI. Academic integrity is a big part of that responsible use and rather than mandate AI use or non-use, his team gathered examples of what the learning experience would look like with and without AI. Lisa Nielsen mentions that when it comes to policy that “it’s not a best practice to have a AI policy that it should be more of a digital responsibility policy.” Creating a more holistic approach where AI is just a part of a broader responsible use guideline or policy means it will better stand the test of time. 

Collaboration with industry

True personalized learning

As someone that has been in education for more than 25 years, the term “personalized learning” is thrown out fairly regularly in our vernacular. Giving every student access to a device in school was thought to be the panacea for that change from factory model teaching to personalized learning, but it didn’t really stick. External pressures, scripted curricula, and grade level bands generally don’t allow for true personalized learning. Using AI to not only customize delivery of the curriculum but also act as a tutor, means that we could get even closer to a personalized learning approach. This personalization goes beyond the learning in the classroom. UAB’s approach to AI is centered around providing personalized services to students. They aim to graduate more students, achieve greater student success, and secure more research grants by tailoring AI solutions to individual needs.

Preparing students for the future

All the guests mentioned that AI is here to stay. It’s going to be a part of our present and future going forward. Dr. Carver emphasized the importance of preparing students for the evolving job market. This involves adapting curricula, incorporating AI-related courses, and fostering critical thinking skills. Having these proactive approaches in both K12 and Higher Ed ensures that students are well-equipped for emerging fields of the future. 

For me, “The Era of AI” web-series provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of AI in education. While challenges exist, the series showcased the potential benefits of AI in enhancing learning experiences and optimizing educational processes. Balancing the power of AI with the expertise of educators is key to its successful implementation in the education sector. 

This web series and over 50 other interviews I’ve conducted in the past 6 months were part of the motivation for my latest book Learning Evolution – The New Era of AI in the Classroom. The future is constantly in flux. Having these critical conversations with thought leaders in the field and the support of companies like Microsoft, means that our students will have an excellent chance to excel in an AI-enhanced future. 

Learning Evolution now available on Amazon!

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