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The importance of AI acceptance in education

Implementing artificial intelligence in schools can be a challenging discussion. As AI continues to develop, its applications in education are evolving, which begs the question: how can we adapt to this dynamic landscape while addressing potential problems?

Kerry Gallagher, assistant director of teaching and learning at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, developed a method to effectively integrate the use of AI in her district. Her approach emphasizes staying engaged and informed about the role of AI in education. As the recipient of a Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Award for Most Innovative Assistant Principal, Gallagher shares her inclusive method for understanding and implementing AI at her school.

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Staying open about AI
Gallagher overcame the initial media negativity surrounding AI in schools.

“I think most of the media attention [on AI] at the time was quite negative and designed to scare people,” she says. “We had colleagues who were scared, some curious, and some with mixed emotions. We started by listening to our colleagues’ concerns. We then scrutinized student work to determine if AI was being used.”

By understanding teacher concerns and how students were using AI, Gallagher was able to devise a strategic approach to introducing AI into schools.

“In retrospect, I’m proud that we didn’t rush into a ban or set guidelines without first approaching the situation with curiosity,” she says. “We reviewed our academic integrity and data privacy policies to see how they apply to AI.”

Everyone in the school community, including students, parents and teachers, was informed about AI developments at the same time.

“We shared what we learned with students, parents and teachers at the same time,” says Gallagher. “This made sure everyone was on the same page.”

Tackling AI through existing policies
Gallagher found that existing policies were sufficient to control AI use among students.

“Our academic integrity policy requires students to cite sources when using anything other than their own work, including generative AI,” she explains. “Teacher permission is also required to use computer-generated materials. This was already in our policy, so no new rules were needed. We just clarified how to apply this policy to AI.”

Throughout the AI ​​integration process, Gallagher kept families informed of the school’s progress.

“This is how we ended the school year, applying our policies as promised and allowing those interested in exploring AI to do so on a small scale,” she says.

Building on the existing model
After the initial AI integration cycle, Gallagher expanded the approach, focusing on specific AI platforms.

“This school year we decided to identify generative AI tools that would be useful for our teachers,” she says. “We selected a tool, rolled it out and provided extensive training for all teachers.”

This widespread training helped normalize the use of AI, even for those who weren’t using it directly in their classrooms.

“As a result of this training and ongoing professional learning, our educators’ use of AI is now aligned with our mission and ethics,” says Gallagher. “The platform we chose allows us to monitor usage, and teachers regularly share their AI experiences with us.”

Shifting perceptions of AI
Now that a more stable structure is in place, Gallagher sees a growing excitement and curiosity about AI.

“Fear and anxiety have not gone away, but they are decreasing,” she says. “The next step is to do similar work with students: listening to their concerns, educating everyone, and applying our values ​​to their AI use.”

Gallagher’s approach to AI reduces bias and fear while fostering a learning environment for teachers, students and parents. By turning fear into curiosity and aligning AI use with school policy, she has introduced AI safely through professional development and open dialogue.

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