Policy Guidance for Generative AI just Released

Cover of Guidance Document

From the time I started with my interviews to the time I got through the review, the number of states that had released some sort of AI guidance grew from just a couple to a little over a handful, with two states releasing guidance as I was writing! I reviewed some regional and national guidance documents, as well.

My goal was not to write the definitive “how to” guide on developing AI guidance or policies. I’m not sure anyone can do that at this point, because AI is evolving so quickly. Instead, I tried to learn from those states who first tackled this important issue in order to offer guiding questions leadership teams might consider as they develop their own guidance and policies. For this reason, I call them considerations. The considerations are written in a way that would be suitable for leadership teams at the school, district, or state level.

Not every school, district, or state is going to need to address every consideration. Based on the documents I reviewed, not all states did. But taken as a whole, we can learn from across all of these states—and those that have and will release guidance since this was published—to strengthen new policy documents as they are developed. It was interesting to note the influence of early documents on subsequent documents released afterwards. That’s the spirit of this document: learn from others and move our understanding forward.

I hope the considerations are helpful. They will eventually need review and revision as the capacity and characteristics of AI change over time. Some states astutely labeled their guidance as “1.0.” That’s a good lesson for anyone delving into this realm.

Building My HI about AI: Part 3 with John Daniels

Helping Teachers Explore AI at the Classroom Level

This series opened with a conversation with my friend and colleague, Eric Nentrup, who is an educational consultant with his hand on the pulse of AI (artificial intelligence) in education at the national level since he has and is continuing to help publish reports on AI for the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education. I then focused my attention on school districts by chatting with another friend and colleague, Maria Stavropoulus, who has leveraged her statewide connections and is championing AI at the district level. She’s even teaching a college class on using AI in education. I thought it would be nice to round out this series with a discussion with someone working directly with teachers and students in a school, and I knew exactly who that should be. My goal with these conversations is to increase my HI (human intelligence) about AI—and create a path for others in education to follow.

This past school year I’ve had the good fortune to work with the instructional technology facilitators (ITFs) in the Carteret County Public School System in North Carolina. The ITFs and I have been working on our coaching conversation skills and practicing coaching rounds with teachers in their respective schools. In talking with several of the ITFs, it became apparent that many of them are interested in AI and some are taking steps to help their teachers use AI in their practice. One of those, John Daniels, is the ITF for Newport Elementary School and the perfect person to talk with about AI in the classroom. When we talked about it last fall, his interest and excitement was palpable. Little did I know I would have the opportunity to learn more about AI from him with this blog series.

Getting Started with AI

John told me he has been using AI personally for several years, and has had some success helping teachers in his building explore using it in their classrooms. He first heard about AI through the state’s technology conference, North Carolina Technology in Society (NC TIES), during a presentation on ChatGPT. He had tried ChatGPT a little before then, but the presenter made it sound “really cool and useful,” so his use of that and other AI tools started in earnest then. He notes that he now uses some type of generative AI (GenAI) pretty much every day and is finding more and more ways to help teachers use it. He finds it “very, very useful.”

I had to ask what he does with AI every day. I just couldn’t imagine using it every day. John had several examples. He notes that he does some writing most days and he uses AI to “organize his thoughts and get things the way I want it down on paper.” One of the things he writes most days is a script for his elementary news broadcast team. John said AI saves him a lot of time generating those scripts. He described an instance where he needed a blurb about a character trait for the students to share on the broadcast. It was an opportunity to support academic and social outcomes for students in the school. Using AI, he was able to synthesize some examples and add them to the script quickly.

Coaching image generated by AI 3/14/24

Image generated by AI 3/14/24

He’s thrilled about the opportunity to help teachers use AI to individualize instruction for the various needs of different students. This echoes both of my other conversations, which shared the potential of AI to truly personalize learning. John noted that when he or other teachers work with a student, they find out what their interests are “and then you can very easily take a lesson that you’re working on and tailor it to that student, in really just a few seconds.” He said you can do that for individual students or groups of students in a short amount of time to “make the learning special and appropriate to them.”

He’s also had success helping teachers re-level reading passages so that different students can access the same content but at a developmentally appropriate reading level. I told him my struggles with trying to get reading passages I wrote to a kindergarten and first-grade level using an older version of AI. He understood the issue, saying that he finds it worth paying for the newest versions of his favorite AI resources. He notes that there are some free AI sites online, but many of them offer additional functionality and resources at the premium level.

Helping Teachers Use AI

Much of John’s work is with teachers, because at an elementary school many children are too young to access some of these resources—at least at the current stage of AI development. That means he has a lot of great examples about getting teachers to explore AI. Most teachers have to create or find a lot of lesson plans throughout the year. When I was a teacher, every Sunday afternoon was lesson plan time and I would spend hours getting ready for the week. Now, John said, teachers can use an AI resource like Magic School and not only cut down on the time it takes to find or create lessons but also customize their lessons and make them more meaningful to their specific students.

I had previously talked with the ITFs in Carteret County about the importance of providing learning opportunities for students that get to the point of learning transfer, what some might call deeper learning or strategic and extended thinking. John took this to heart. He notes that teachers can feed lesson ideas into a resource like Magic School and it will offer suggestions and make connections that push the cognitive complexity of a lesson. He explained that “you’re not going to use the material verbatim from what it generates,” but it helps teachers get further along in their lesson planning faster than starting from scratch.

Lesson planning help sounds like a great time saver to me. I think about all those Sunday afternoons I spent on it, but John said there’s more. The AI resource Diffit also helps teachers find or generate lessons but then formats them so they can easily create content that it then imports into Google Classroom, which is the learning management system (LMS) his teachers use. It can also generate an interactive Google Slides deck on a topic of study that teachers can then customize and use in their instruction. This harkens back to the “automate the mundane” quote that Eric Nentrup shared. It’s a great example of saving teachers time on something they know how to do and need to have done, but don’t need to do themselves. John said that for every teacher he’s shown this to, they call it “a game changer.”

Having lesson activities individualized and imported into an LMS has then increased the district’s return on investment for the hardware purchases they’ve made. The district provides Chromebooks to students, and John said that when it’s so easy to generate lesson resources and make them available to the students, teachers and students end up using the Chromebooks more often. He notes that once he has teachers and students comfortable using the Chromebooks, he introduces ways to leverage them even more and to add additional resources, whether AI or not. Talk about great coaching. John has helped some of his teachers address a fundamental need that then provides an opportunity to continually grow their skills. So, AI is not only impacting teaching and learning, but John’s coaching and professional learning opportunities in his school.

The skill of prompt engineering came up in my conversation with John and is one of those “even more” skills that he helps teachers work on after they feel comfortable with some of the foundational tools like Diffit. All three of my experts agreed that prompt engineering is an important skill for making the most of AI. After Diffit, John suggests teachers explore Magic School AI because it provides support for better prompts. “It puts the specialized prompts together for you, and that’s why it gets good results.”

Once a teacher feels comfortable at that level, many move on to generating their own more effective prompts and can use other tools that expand the use of AI in other areas, whether that’s customizing language for written feedback, crafting emails more quickly, contributing to a student’s Individualized Education Program, or even generating new images they can use in presentations or handouts. Many teachers can use their new prompt-engineering skills with other tools like ChatGPT or the new chatbot Perplexity.ai, which don’t provide templates or support for prompts.

Lessons from Teachers

It’s obvious that John is enthusiastic about AI and its potential, and his enthusiasm is helping others find the confidence to try some of those tools in their classroom. I asked if any of the teachers had any “aha moments” when trying out an AI resource. Coincidentally, I was actually in the classroom with a teacher during our coaching rounds who John said had indeed had an aha moment about AI. Before the visit, John was showing some resources to some of his teachers when one realized, “Oh, I can use this for Cloze questions.” Teachers use Cloze Reading Passages to help students determine or confirm the meaning of words using context clues. The teacher was already using this practice with students, displaying Cloze passages to the class using a projector—and a light bulb just went off and he realized he could use AI to generate new ones or quickly customize them to what they were reading.

John acknowledged that on the surface level, using AI in that way may have seemed like just a simple thing, but for that teacher, that was the point where he said, “Okay, I’m going to learn more about this.” That was that teacher’s first step toward using AI—and I got to see it! But for me, I didn’t notice anything except a strong teaching strategy. The AI part was transparent. But that first step has also opened the door to more coaching conversations between the teacher and John. Wins all around.

From his own experiences, John said educators really want to understand the benefit of a new resource before they invest too much time or effort in it. Is it something that’s just going to be replaced in a couple of years? John said that the benefit teachers note almost immediately with AI is the time-saving aspect of using these tools to support their instruction. But he said that’s a stepping stone. Yes, teachers save time replicating things they are familiar with, but John kept mentioning the number of teachers who then see how they can better personalize their instruction. It gives teachers “more of a chance for all of their kids to be successful.”

On a more pragmatic note, John shared that it’s important for teachers to understand that they must never share any personally identifiable information (PII)—their own or their students’—when using GenAI resources. There’s no assumption of privacy when using any of these services or models. He cautions that teachers need to be sure they aren’t sharing any student information when they are using AI to generate feedback. He notes that there are some companies that are creating their own models that may be able to help keep PII secure. He mused that even the state might be able to generate its own model that’s locked down for privacy and provide a safe environment for all teachers and students in the state to benefit from AI.

Support from the District and State

As I mentioned, many of John’s colleagues in Carteret County are interested in leveraging AI with their teachers. The ITFs get together as a professional learning community at least once a month for an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas. At their most recent meeting, Mike McKay, the district’s chief technology officer, spent time with the team exploring AI from the district’s perspective. As a district, they are definitely aware of AI and developing their own knowledge and skills around its potential. I enjoyed hearing how IT is not the only department having “the AI conversation”—to quote my colleague Maria—but is involving those directly responsible for teaching and learning.

John said that he’s found a lot of support for AI at the state level. Not only has it been featured at the NC TIES conference, the state has taken a proactive stance and developed North Carolina Generative AI Implementation Recommendations and Considerations for PK-13 Public Schools, putting it ahead of most other states in the country when it comes to AI policy. He has found the work of Vera Cubero and her fellow digital teaching and learning consultants at the state’s Department of Public Instruction to be especially helpful. Vera is helping others learn about using AI by modeling AI in her own work, such as this comprehensive and helpful presentation.

John gives credit to Vera for the CRAFT prompting protocol that is gaining widespread adoption within and beyond the state to help staff become better at the important skill of prompt engineering. CRAFT stands for Context, Role, Audience, Format, Task & Tone. There’s more about CRAFT and other AI issues in her presentation, like why AI detectors are problematic and how to create AI-resistant assignments.

Coming full circle, John is paying it back to that AI presenter he saw at the NC TIES conference last year by leading his own conference session on AI at this year’s conference. It’s called Use of Artificial Intelligence to Personalize Student Instruction. Based on the examples he shared with me, it should be a terrific session that may start other educators on their own AI journeys.

What Do You Hope for the Future of AI?

As an enthusiastic user, I asked John what he sees for the future of AI, whether for him personally or for the teachers in his school and district. He thought about it for a while before responding. At the forefront of his thinking is that everything AI-related is moving so quickly. He noted that depending on how you approach it, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Job loss is a concern. AI is already making a lot of jobs redundant, but then again it’s generating new jobs and career opportunities.

He said that AI detection tools were popular for a while but that many universities have stopped using them or are turning them off. Echoing Eric Nentrup, John noted the initial knee-jerk reaction of focusing AI on plagiarism wasn’t a productive strategy and even led to some lawsuits where original work was misclassified as AI-generated. He compared the introduction of AI to the early use of calculators in schools. He remembers that when calculators were becoming used more often in schools, people had concerns about students using them to cheat and wanted to ban them from the classroom. But now there are calculators everywhere—on your phone and on many digital devices. “There are times when you use them and there are times when you just don’t use them, just like there are times when you don’t use AI. You [educators] have to set the standards and help students know when they can and should not use AI,” he said. As with his personal use, he said it may be appropriate for students to use AI on some assignments to organize their ideas or even generate new ideas, but not on others. “We’ve just got to teach kids how to do it effectively.”

Teaching kids how to use AI effectively can include lessons in which kids share how they have used AI in their response. John says teachers can ask, “What did the student use AI for? How did the student take what the AI resource gave and modify it to fit their perspective? How did the student go back and edit their prompts?” He sees students going beyond just getting a response from a prompt. He wants students to be able to think about and share how they used AI effectively to make their work better than what they could have done on their own. Remember his earlier comment about cognitive complexity? When a student can reflect on their own work, critique the resources they have used, and generate strategies for improving their work in the future, they’ve moved beyond simple recall and skill demonstration to strategic and extended thinking that is the hallmark of learning transfer. Well done, John Daniels.

This blog series has been a great push for my own AI journey. I know that there are organizations and experts that I trust who are providing guidance for AI policy and practice to states, districts, and teachers. I also learned about—and even played with—some new AI resources to get a better feel for the range of tools available to support educators. It’s also affirming to hear the varied experiences of three people I know and respect, and see the overlap in how they can help me and others better understand and leverage GenAI. I’m certainly still not an expert, but hearing how these three have increased their expertise shows me that all of us have opportunities to continue to learn and benefit from AI. I’m sure I will continue to learn from others, as well.

Want to know more about John Daniels? John’s days are full working with teachers and students on a variety of topics, not just AI. He also specializes in STEM, supports the student news team, and is his school’s go-to person for anything with technology. You might have missed his AI presentation at NC TIES this year, but be on the lookout for more shares from this dedicated coach and teacher.

Build Your Own HI about AI by Exploring these Resources John Daniels Mentions

Please note: not all resources are free

North Carolina Generative AI Implementation Recommendations and Considerations for PK-13 Public Schools and the accompanying presentation Deep Dive: NC Generative AI Guidelines

Magic School AI provides templates for creating lesson artifacts

Diffit generate lessons in interactive formats

chatbot Perplexity.ai

Building My HI about AI: Part 2 with Maria Stavropoulus

Working at the District Level

In the first part of this series on building my HI (human intelligence) about AI (artificial intelligence), I interviewed a friend who is having an impact at the national level. Eric Nentrup is an independent education consultant and writer/producer who is part of the team that crafted Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations for the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. I next turned to someone I know who has been working in a school district that has found support from national organizations.

I’ve been collaborating with my friend and colleague Maria Stavropoulus for a few years on a project for the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), located in the state’s governor’s office. We’ve helped the NCBCE establish a network of student technology teams across the state and have provided guidance, coaching, and some curriculum development. I’m fine with the curriculum stuff—even for topics new to me like Information Technology Fundamentals—but when it starts getting highly technical I’m lucky to have Maria on my side. She has a whole lot of HI in a lot of areas and is a great thinker. She’s always able to come up with a different way to see an issue or a task.

Maria is an educational technology (EdTech) leader in Township High School District 214 in the Chicago area. She brings a range of knowledge and expertise from both the EdTech and IT sides of the house, and for much of the time I’ve worked with her she’s been sharing her growing interest and activity in AI—even giving me nudges now and then. Maria is a former board member of Illinois Educational Technology Leaders (IETL). IETL is the state chapter of Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and a professional association for K–12 EdTech leaders. She recommends the toolkit and guide that CoSN co-authored as a valuable reference for having conversations with educators in her district about AI.

It was fun to catch up with Maria and share my first steps with AI in a way many first-timers do—by giving ChatGPT a whirl. I told her that my experiences weren’t as fruitful as I had hoped because I was specifically working on learning activities for kindergarten and first-grade students. ChatGPT knew there were content standards, but it had a hard time describing activities that aligned with them or were at an appropriate developmental level. It also struggled to reduce the reading level of some passages I wrote to be appropriate for 5- and 6-year-olds—something I heard AI could do.

“Were you using the free version?” Maria asked. As a newbie, of course, my answer was, “Yes.” “The free version is based on older data and algorithms,” Maria shared. “You’ll get different results with different tools.” Lesson learned. It also echoes advice from my colleague Eric Nentrup: Use different tools because you’ll get different results. I’ll remember that going forward.

Districts Write Procedures Based on State policies, but Not Too Many States Have Created Policies to Support/Monitor AI

I know about Maria’s work with CoSN in her state. I know she has an understanding of issues related to AI in this broader context as well as at a more micro level since she works with teachers and others in her district. She’s also teaching a course for Quincy University called Exploring AI and Understanding Your Human Potential. I began by asking her what some of the best advice is she has for state leaders about AI.

“Policies are critical, because districts look to the state for policies so they can draft procedures for implementing new resources like AI,” she said. Her concern, however, is that not many states have crafted policies to govern AI or to guide educators in its use. Based on an upcoming presentation she was working on about AI for local educators, as of September 2023 only two states provide guidance on AI—and only 11 were developing guidance. AI is moving quickly in every business sector, few states have taken steps to consider guidance for education.

State AI Guidance

In just a couple of weeks since talking with Maria and as of this publication, we’ve now found AI guidance from seven states, so state guidance is growing.

California: Learning With AI, Learning About AI
North Carolina: North Carolina Generative AI Implementation Recommendations and Considerations for PK-13 Public Schools
Ohio: AI Toolkit
Oregon: Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in K-12 Classrooms
Virginia: Guidelines for Generative AI Integration Throughout Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Washington: Human-Centered AI. Guidance for K-12 Public Schools
West Virginia: Guidance, Considerations & Intentions for the Use of Artificial Intelligence in West Virginia Schools

There are educators across the country who rely on state departments of education for guidance on issues like this, just as they have for past technologies, such as the internet and cell phones. In the meantime, school and district leaders are turning to a hodgepodge of resources, including vendors and even the press, to try to figure out how to implement AI in their classrooms. Maria’s recommendation, if you’re in this boat, is don’t wait for the national release of any overarching policy. Instead, first go to your acceptable/responsible use policy and see how it might or might not support AI and work from there.

A key consideration is data privacy, which more states do have laws about. AI is in your schools, whether you have procedures or not. How do you know data and information from your staff and students are being kept secure as they’re using AI? How do you know your staff and students are managing to keep data secure? Do they even know? How do you know a vendor that incorporates AI bots or widgets into other products is keeping that data secure?

She notes that all too often IT departments get requests from teachers and are pressured to purchase resources without adequate scrutiny. Sometimes these things are purchased at the building or classroom level without IT being involved. That throws out a lot more questions for Maria like, “Can it be supported in your technology environment? Will it run on the devices and network resources? Who’s going to provide technical support for it? With equity as a concern, will the resource work for every student? Will students who have an Individualized Education Program or other accommodations be able to use it?” Yeah, a lot of questions.

Of primary concern is what does it do with the data that students, teachers, and other staff are feeding into it? School districts that have already investigated technology and curriculum purchases through the lens of data privacy and security may have a leg up on others, but now AI has to be woven into those purchasing decisions.

Another recommendation is to go to your vendors right now and ask them what they’re currently doing about AI. Have they started to infuse it? Are they thinking about it? Maria talks to vendors for her district and she’s had responses from “It’s in the pipeline” to one that has “21 separate AI resources running in the background.” Twenty-one! Others are slowly releasing it—by tomorrow or by the end of the school year. It’s likely your students will soon have an AI chatbot as a tutor that “lives” within a learning management system (LMS) you’ve already adopted and it’s just going to be added as a feature without your district having the opportunity to go back and scrutinize the whole service. Or teachers will have AI lesson plan support within or outside of the tools they currently use. “The train,” she notes, “has already left the station.”

From an operational standpoint, it’s critical you have these conversations with your vendors. How do the vendors talk to each other? How do the tools talk to each other? What data are they sharing? What assurances do you have that vendors are keeping data secure? If they are relying on a third party to provide some of these tools and resources, how are they keeping on top of them to ensure secure data? She notes that you can build on experiences from past curriculum adoptions. Ask similar types of questions. It just looks different, because it’s AI.

I asked if Maria had a good checklist or rubric to support decision-making when reviewing AI resources. She couldn’t think of one right off the top of her head, so she generated one to help you get started. Thanks, Maria!


District Leaders Should Partner with ALL of Their Departments, Not Just IT

Once again I learned that vendors play a crucial role in the development and deployment of AI resources. Education leaders can talk to vendors, but they can’t always control the actions vendors take or the decisions vendors make. So I asked Maria for advice on what district leaders can do in their district with the people they can influence.

Maria didn’t hesitate a second and noted that district leaders need to partner with their departments—all departments—to consider how AI might impact their work. It could be teaching and learning, transportation and maintenance, or the business department. AI is not just the purview of your technology department. She said that all of the district’s departments need to be having “the AI conversation.” That’s because it’s already impacting your systems—whether you have considered it or not.

Like me, you may be more familiar with the AI in our daily lives—Google Maps plots your route home, spell-checkers clean up your emails, word-prediction suggestions speed up your text messages, or maybe your rely on Siri or Alexa to tell you the weather or start your favorite playlist. The data we have been feeding into those systems has been training and customizing them and the way they interact with us for years. Maria said, “We all have that responsibility to start understanding what it means for us personally, as individuals first, and then consider how that translates into our work.” She suggested expanding those considerations to your department, your team, and even globally for people like you. It’s all moving so quickly that she encouraged due diligence to stay informed and keep up with it.

While all departments should be having “the AI conversation,” it is vital to keep technology departments looped in. They should be at the table, for example, when doing curriculum adoptions through teaching and learning, because they’re likely to include technology-based resources that contain AI moving forward. Take the popular Khan Academy that just released its AI tutor Khanmigo. And if the technology department can’t always be at the table, they might be able to check in at critical junctures and provide guidance and tools to support decision-making. Working in a technology department, Maria jokingly noted that technology teams are often viewed as the “No, nope, just say no” team. She says they don’t try to be that way. Instead, they need other departments to understand privacy and security issues and that the entire system is focused on protecting the PII—or personally identifiable information—of students and others.

“Sometimes I think the smaller districts do a better job at it if they have enough leadership that is proactive versus reactive,” she said. Larger districts can have more turnover and sometimes, she observed, things slip through the cracks. These issues can be swept away due to the “It’s not my job. It’s somebody else’s job” syndrome. She suggests this issue is likely at all of our jobs but we can all be diligent. “Use your resources. Find things in supporting documents. Identify and question things. Talk to your peers.” These are all ways we can be diligent about keeping on top of AI and how it’s being used.

If you’re in a district where you’re not exposing your staff to AI, Maria recommends you start at the top. “You can either partner with external consulting firms for structured AI training tailored to your district’s needs or leverage your internal talent to create a customized AI professional development program. Both approaches offer unique advantages, whether it’s accessing specialized expertise or fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability within your team.” But they have to have some understanding of AI first.

Focus on Instruction

Of course, your teaching and learning staff need to understand how their practice might have to change. For example, how do they shift the discussions they have with students? With other teachers? With parents? They need to understand how the tools and resources they are using might be incorporating AI. She notes that if you haven’t been focused on personalized learning, now more than ever you will be personalizing learning.

Personalized learning and the resources that support it have pushed data privacy laws and policies. AI ramps up the importance of following procedures to keep data safe and secure. AI is going to be embedded in all kinds of resources teachers use—their LMS, search engines, record-keeping tools, and even productivity suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft Office. If a student or teacher is using one of these resources and entering pirvate information or student identifiers, according to Maria, “we’ve got issues.” For teachers, that means what you have in your online storage, the information in your emails—perhaps information about students—all has to be kept secure.

Truly personalizing learning can yield benefits, though. Schools and districts that do it well have already seen those benefits. Just like when I was talking with Eric[DBH3] , we came across the “If you can Google it …” question. If you can, it’s not a great assessment. Now with AI, if you can get AI to answer it, consider turning it around. Asking students to write a definition of new vocabulary and use it in a sentence, write extemporaneously about a topic, or even complete a cookie-cutter science lab report are all tasks GenAI can do for them in a matter of seconds. But teachers may be surprised by the suggestions they might receive asking a GenAI tool to generate classroom activities that could replace these activities. Vocabulary practice could become collaborative storytelling. Students older than 13 might use AI to brainstorm ideas and create an outline for a writing assignment that includes peer review all supported on a collaborative document. Students might create their own labs to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. None of these ideas will be a stretch to most teachers and may just be reminders of more personalized learning opportunities.

When we truly personalize learning, we can move beyond auditing student recall and foundational skills. Maria is excited about the ability for AI to help generate opportunities to help students develop their critical thinking skills. It’s going to be necessary in some fields, as technology is not just replacing labor-intensive jobs but is supplementing or supplanting decision-making positions and creating the need for differently-skilled workers. Quoting The Future of Jobs Report 2023 from the World Economic Forum, Maria said many workers “will need to upskill and reskill to remain competitive” and there is a growing need for “soft skills, such as creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking.”

Teachers are often called upon to be creative problem solvers and to think critically. That’s because we work with humans—a wide variety of humans—and all their complexities. As Eric did, Maria sees the potential for AI to support education by completing some of the administrative tasks people don’t really need to do or by using it to assist in these tasks so we’re more efficient and effective. That leaves teachers to do what they do best, teaching those humans—but doing so with an assistant that’s going to take care of the little things that could otherwise sap your time.

Getting Started as a Teacher

Where to start? What if you are a teacher and already have all these other things on your plate and it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? Maria echoes advice I received from Eric: “Jump in and try a few things, but use it for personal reasons first. If you’re comfortable with that, consider how those resources can help you with your instruction. Keep talking to it. Keep prompting it.” Maria said, “I love that it doesn’t get mad at me. I rephrase the question when I don’t get what I want, but that helps me get better at prompting.”

Prompting is an important skill in using AI. It’s strategic. In some tools, like Chat GPT, the user has to create the prompt. But there are tools like Magic School AI where it provides a template so users can build better prompts. It may ask, “What grade? What’s your goal? What are you looking for?” She compares that process to building a website from scratch versus using plug-and-play elements you can drop into a website template. Some people will need the template but others will not.

There will be users at different levels—from those who “geek out about AI” and want to have full control to those who will benefit from a template. Maria says the templates are a great way to get some people started. “Not everybody has to be a coder, or a developer, or a prompter of AI. They can use the supports that are built into some of the tools, whether it’s an adult, a child, or somebody in between.”

The course she’s teaching for Quincy University has 15 teachers and counselors exploring and using AI in their own practice. They recently completed an assignment anyone can do and it would be a good group project for any district or school trying to learn more about AI. She asked them to review all of the curricula that is being used in their line of work and all of the tools being used with their students. She told them to look for AI infused into tools. She challenged them to find AI elements and determine how it was being used right now. She also challenged them to think about how it might it be used. She asked them to evaluate how it might be used more effectively and efficiently. She encouraged her teachers and counselors to talk to their peers and also to students to see how they might be using any of these resources. “It’s important to talk to the students, because sometimes teachers assign things and don’t realize there are more ‘bells and whistles’ on there, but the students always find everything.”

She urges her teachers and counselors to build a more global perspective on AI and its uses. If they haven’t yet capitalized on these tools, she encourages them to go further to find out what is available. They are encouraged to start with something relevant in their practice and then go a step further with their students and create some acceptable classroom procedures that incorporate AI. By doing that, they are generating samples that can later be shared in their own schools and districts.

She shared one last activity that is not only fun but actually accentuates the idea that AI is more than just a text generator. There’s a lot of focus on plagiarized text right now, as my friend Eric noted, but AI can create a range of content in different media formats that can be used to explore, encourage, or reflect on new ideas. Maria had her students use a prompt to create an AI-generated photo. Using Adobe FireflyCanva, or Microsoft Bing and the prompt “A (color) (animal) eating (food) in (destination)” her students could generate images of a purple goat eating pizza in Rome or a pink giraffe eating macarons in Paris. She shared one of the images.

Make a Fake graphic using a prompt

It was great to have a fun ending to our conversation and to understand that not all is doom and gloom in AI land. I told her my next step was to dump our recorded chat into Otter AI so it could generate a transcript. “I’m so proud of you,” she beamed. “This is how it starts for you.” And, you know, I guess it is.

John Daniels and Eric Nentrup

This is the second in a series of three interviews on my path to learning more about AI. Next I will share what I learned from John Daniels, an EdTech coach at Newport Elementary School in Carteret County, NC. I have been working with the EdTech coaches this year and AI is a popular area of interest amongst them. John Daniels has taken it a step further and is presenting at the North Carolina Technology in Society (NC TIES) conference on how he uses AI with teachers in his school.

If you missed the first one, this conversation started  with an interview with my friend and colleague Eric Nentrup, who is one of the authors of Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations and has more publications forthcoming.

Discover more about Maria Stavropoulos, an EdTech Specialist dedicated to enhancing education through technology in the Chicago area. Beyond her daily role, Maria is an active participant in the tech community, often sharing her insights at esteemed conferences like IDEAcon and CoSN. Connect with Maria on LinkedIn or via Advanced Learning Partnerships.

Build Your Own HI about AI by Exploring these Resources Maria Mentions

Please note: not all resources are free

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations f from the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 from the World Economic Forum

Consortium for School Networking toolkit and guide

Illinois Educational Technology Leaders (IETL)

Khan Academy’s AI tutor Khanmigo

Magic School AI provides templates for prompting

Generate images with Adobe FireflyCanva, or Microsoft Bing[CH5]