How 4 Educational Leaders are Guiding their Districts in the Age of AI – Digital Promise

How 4 Educational Leaders are Guiding their Districts in the Age of AI

Teachers at Skyline High School meet with community partners

When it comes to AI in education, theory is one thing; implementing tangible approaches is another.

In the fourth session of our Age of AI webinar series, moderated by Digital Promise President and CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Vice President and Chief Program Officer Chaula Gupta, district leaders from around the country shared how they’re preparing their districts for AI. The session’s panelists included:

  • Patrick Gittisriboongul, Assistant Superintendent, Technology & Innovation, Lynwood Unified School District
  • Adam Kurth, Chief Financial Officer, Iowa City Community School District
  • Melissa Moore, Superintendent, El Segundo Unified School District
  • Daniel Weisberg, First Deputy Chancellor, NYC Public Schools

To kick off the session, Brizard reminded attendees of the ultimate goal of AI in education: to support relationships. “[At Digital Promise], we say the most important relationship in education is between teachers, students, families, and instructional content,” he said. Our challenge now is ensuring school systems have “coherent education technology initiatives” that can support and augment these relationships.

During the webinar, panelists shared real examples of how they’re developing safe, effective, and meaningful guidance on the use of AI. Below we share four key takeaways from the conversation

A Moral Imperative to Lead

All panelists emphasized the need to take immediate and proactive steps to implement safe and meaningful AI policies in their districts.

“As a superintendent, you have a moral imperative to prepare your students for the future, and the time is now,” said Moore. She urged fellow district leaders to “step up, take small steps, think out a plan, [and] ask for help.”

Gittisriboongul agreed, emphasizing the need to equip students with “the conditions, the tools, the applications, [and] the access to future-ready skills” for a world that will be driven by AI.

Start with Big Picture Thinking

When it comes to determining how to implement AI in schools, panelists recommended a “big picture” approach.

For Weisberg, integrating AI into NYC Public Schools is about “organizing our thinking around [the] big, urgent problems that we need to solve.” AI is not the goal; rather, it should be the “enabler of the goal.”

Gittisriboongul has taken a similar approach in Lynwood Unified School District in California. He recommended that educational leaders first “identify educational goals, KPIs, and performance indicators [that] the teaching and learning side would like to accomplish” before getting in a contract with an AI edtech vendor.

Engage in Community Conversations

Community input is also essential for establishing impactful AI policies. Panelists shared how their districts have organized AI committees and town halls to involve board members, teachers, students, and parents in discussions about AI in schools.

For Kurth, these conversations have helped develop a common understanding of what AI means. Often, community members equate AI with tools like ChatGPT, when in reality, his district has been using a variety of AI tools in the classroom for years. By working with his community to develop this shared understanding of AI, Kurth has helped overcome one of his district’s key challenges.

AI is a Tool to Enhance Human Connection

As the webinar drew to a close, Brizard asked panelists to take a step back and “dream a little bit.” If we’re successful in implementing AI in education safely, equitably, and meaningfully, what does that mean for the future of education?

Echoing Brizard’s introductory remarks, panelists emphasized the idea that AI in education can help support individual learners and enhance human connections.

Moore is hopeful that AI will help her teachers put frameworks in place and make it “easier for them to support those learners that need a little extra.”

Weisberg envisioned a school system that strategically uses AI to provide individual learners with the support they need. “Think of a school system where every student has an individualized set of goals […], where kids see school as a real method to achieve their goals—and it actually does that,” he said.

Kurth sees a future where teachers, staff, and students can intelligently use AI to reduce how much time they spend on routine. Ultimately, AI can “create more time for those truly exceptional interactions that people remember [and] that advance student learning.”

As for Gittisriboongul, he hopes that by automating mundane tasks, AI will lead to greater connectedness. “It can get back to why kids come to school in the first place: it’s for connections, for relationships.”

Learn More

This webinar was the fourth in a series of webinars on educational leadership in the age of AI. Hosted by Digital Promise with support from Siegel Family Endowment and the Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund, this series informs and supports educational leaders as they plan and adapt their priorities relating to generative AI, Digital Promise.

Want to know more about effective, ethical, and equitable uses of AI in education? Below are additional resources to explore

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