AI has already begun to reshape the future of education. So far, the discussion surrounding AI in education has predominantly focused on the power and potential of AI to further galvanize ed tech usage and impact in classrooms. It’s time for that conversation to expand to focus on the opportunity—and the need—for staff at Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and State Education Agencies (SEAs) to embrace AI literacy.

The rapidly changing nature of AI means that no individual can consistently remain expert, or even proficient, on what’s new. Instead, leaders in LEAs and SEAs will need to remain curious about AI’s features and applications, continuously question the limitations and risks of AI, and communicate with their stakeholders about the benefits, drawbacks, and opportunities that AI affords.

Here are three focus areas with actionable steps you can take to begin developing your AI literacy so that you are well positioned to navigate and embrace AI usage in your agency:

1. The Foundation

Most AI users still need a foundational understanding of AI, including the basic concepts of machine learning, neural networks, and large language models that power generative AI tools. There is also an increased interest in teaching AI literacy in schools, including two legislators who introduced a bipartisan bill that calls on teaching the pros and cons of AI. Providing resources and tools for students, families, and educators that help explain the basics of AI will be essential in getting people comfortable with the idea of eventually using AI in classrooms and schools.

Action step: Commit to a community-driven, non-commercial AI data operating system can integrate with any cloud platform. This includes introducing AI into the curriculum for students, offering AI explanations at family nights, and providing professional development for educators that teaches AI fundamentals. Additional classroom examples include:

2. The Ethics

There is no shortage of legal, ethical, and societal considerations when it comes to how your students’ data should and shouldn’t interact with AI tools. Education leaders must have a clear understanding of, and effectively communicate, the ongoing challenges and risks associated with AI, such as issues related to bias, equity, transparency, and accountability. Strategies for approaching this include probing biases in algorithms, promoting equitable access to AI tools and resources, establishing a clear framework for approving and evaluating the use of AI tools in educational settings, and sharing this information with educators, students, and their families.

Action step: Identify or create resources for students, families, and educators that discuss privacy, bias and discrimination, surveillance, and autonomy as it relates to AI. Some resources to get you started include:

3. Privacy

Safeguarding student data remains even more important to protect than ever in the AI era. Everyone within the education ecosystem must remain vigilant about robust privacy policies and practices. Unleashing AI algorithms on educational data has an immense potential for positive impact, but also carries significant risks. This is particularly true in cases when there is a lack of transparency regarding the collection, usage, repurposing, or sharing of data that interacts with these tools. Understanding the implications of data governance and ownership when using AI tools is one of the premier responsibilities of educational leaders.

Action steps:

The emergence of generative AI in our everyday lives, including in educational settings for both students and educators, is undeniable. AI is a rapidly changing and growing technology, whereas educational institutions can often be slow to adapt to technological shifts. This means that our work in education will continually be impacted in new and unpredictable ways. Formulating a strategy focused on the three areas above will help strengthen your awareness of how you can create a common language and understanding of AI with your schools. We encourage you to continue to:

  • Bridge the knowledge gap and seek resources like those highlighted in this blog that clearly outline AI concepts. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but searching for reputable and trustworthy resources does take time, energy, and resources.
  • Empower educators and academic leaders. You need everyone at the table when thinking about integrating AI tools into classrooms, schools, and districts. Providing them with vetted, useful information about AI concepts and how you want to use AI empowers them to make better decisions.
  • Share success stories of how AI has benefited one of your schools or districts. Some K-12 institutions have successfully integrated AI into their educational frameworks. Highlighting success stories of how AI is helping us realize the potential of personalized learning pathways and more real-time, data-driven decision making can help demonstrate the benefits of AI while balancing the need for safety and security.

Listen to EA's 2024 SXSW EDU Presentation!

Learn more about EA’s AI considerations, and check out our 2024 SXSW EDU presentation about safe, ethical, and private AI adoption in education.