How Schools Can Elevate Their AI Strategy: Essential Building Blocks

Make no mistake: AI is having a moment. Propelled by a new generation of powerful AI models, we’re seeing a rapid increase in awareness and adoption. For schools, this feels like a pivotal juncture, bringing with it opportunities and challenges. Though AI's potential ranges from personalized learning to enhanced administrative efficiency, schools must tread carefully to balance the promise of innovation with concerns like data privacy and algorithmic biases. Given the pace of change, it’s not surprising to find educators conflicted about the future of AI. We encourage schools to avoid rigid policies and, instead, adopt guiding principles for AI anchored in core institutional values. This approach ensures adaptability while also keeping intact our institutional ethos amidst this technological shift.

It is easy to think of strict policies as the answer to any emerging, fast-paced technology. Policies provide a structured framework and simple solution, but they often become restrictive and difficult to enforce. Rigid policies might stifle innovation or fail to address unforeseen challenges. In contrast, guiding principles can serve as a compass, offering direction without confining schools to a fixed path. Guiding principles allow schools to adapt, innovate, and make decisions that align with core values, even as the landscape of AI in education continues to shift. Leaning into principles offers schools a balance of stability and adaptability, ensuring they remain responsive to the ever-changing world of AI.

Let’s consider five essential building blocks schools should consider when creating guiding principles:

1. A Student-Centered Approach:

Well-being and growth of students is at the heart of any educational endeavor. AI tools should be designed and implemented with a primary focus on enhancing student learning and well-being. Recognizing the diverse needs of students, AI can be harnessed to offer personalized learning experiences, ensuring that each student receives the support and resources tailored to their unique learning journey.

2. Ethical and Responsible Use of Technology:

The integration of AI in schools brings with it a responsibility to understand and address AI’s ethical implications. This includes, at a minimum, ensuring robust data privacy measures, safeguarding students' personal information, and promoting transparency in how AI-driven decisions are made. Schools must be vigilant about potential biases in AI algorithms and datasets, facilitating fairness and equity in their application.

3. Lifelong Learning and Adaptability:

The world of AI is one of constant evolution. Schools should foster an environment where students and educators are encouraged to continuously learn and adapt to technological advancements. This not only involves understanding AI but also cultivating a growth mindset, preparing all community members to navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with technological change.

4. Collaboration and Community Engagement:

The conversation about AI in education shouldn't be confined to the walls of the classroom. Engaging parents, educators, and the broader community (especially students!) is crucial. Collaborative efforts with experts, other schools, and stakeholders can lead to shared best practices and insights. Including students' perspectives also ensures that their voices are central in discussions about new technological integrations.

5. Inclusivity and Equity:

As schools embrace AI, it's essential to ensure that these tools are accessible to all students, regardless of background or ability. Addressing AI’s potential biases and ensuring that AI solutions are designed with inclusivity in mind is paramount to ensuring that every student benefits equally from AI’s advancements.

What actions can support the creation of a set of principles? First and foremost, robust discussion and professional learning is crucial. Educators are the frontline users of AI in classrooms, and their comfort and proficiency with these tools directly impacts student experiences. Schools’ technology teams should be engaging with AI vendors and experts to help schools make informed decisions about the tools they adopt, ensuring they align with the school's values and needs. Regular reviews of these guiding principles are also essential.

Schools should also make room for both fear and excitement surrounding AI. Depending on the day, even the most tech savvy educators may feel mixed emotions about the adoption of AI. Technology moves fast, often faster than our rational brains. As educators, we should give ourselves and our colleagues some grace if today we feel overly optimistic and tomorrow the opposite. The more we make our campuses safe spaces to discuss both feelings, the closer we’ll get to an optimal outcome about the appropriate role of AI in our classrooms.

Incorporating AI into education transcends mere technological adoption; it's about aligning innovation with an institution's foundational values. When it comes to emerging technologies, GOA has participated in these discussions before. GOA itself has been a partner to many schools seeking to embrace emerging technology while holding on to an institutional ethos. These conversations resemble those we’ve had at GOA since its inception. For us, GOA has never been about the “emerging technology” of “online;” it has always been about good teaching and learning, and now we are taking the same approach when considering how to thoughtfully integrate AI in courses and classrooms..

By adopting a proactive and principle-driven approach, all schools can more confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI. It's a journey of balance – embracing the potential of AI while ensuring that the essence of our pedagogy, centered on student growth and holistic development, remains undisturbed. As we look to the future, GOA challenges schools everywhere to the same cause of action: lead with purpose, adapt with agility, and always prioritize the well-being and success of students.

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This post is part of our Shifts in Practice series, which features educator voices from GOA’s network and seeks to share practical strategies that create shifts in educator practice. Are you an educator interested in submitting an article for potential publication on our Insights blog? If so, please read Contribute Your Voice to Share Shifts in Practice and follow the directions. We look forward to featuring your voice, insights, and ideas.

GOA serves students, teachers, and leaders and is comprised of member schools from around the world, including independent, international, charter, and public schools. Learn more about Becoming a Member. Our professional learning opportunities are open to any educator or school team. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.

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