6 Risks of Neglecting AI Professional Development

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to transform K-12 teaching and learning and educator productivity, but it can be intimidating to teachers and leaders, which is understandable. Just like any novel technology with significant educational potential, training is absolutely essential if we are to alleviate concerns about this revolutionary technology, as well as integrate it in a safe and intentional manner with our students. The focus should go far beyond discussing the potential benefits of AI; it's equally important to understand the risks of not providing teachers with proper AI training. In this blog post, we'll delve into six risks districts assume when not offering AI training to their teachers and staff.

Inadequate Foundational Understanding

Scenario: A teacher is using AI in their classroom with the best of intentions, but they lack proper guidance on the tools and policies for AI use. Students are now engaging with AI in a way that does not adhere to district goals and regulations. 

Just like the dawn
of the internet, AI is feared by many educators due to the current lack of understanding regarding what AI even is and how it will impact them in their roles. Countless students and teachers are already ahead of the curve, using AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard regularly for productivity, instruction, and learning. Offering professional development around the basics of AI can go a long way in alleviating the fear and uncertainty among educators. Additionally, equipping teachers with foundational AI knowledge and skills will support them in adequately educating the modern student whose life will undoubtedly be impacted by the rapid growth of AI in education and the workforce. Districts need to catch up and provide support in a unified and intentional manner that is aligned with district goals and regulations.

K-12 Implications

Scenario: A teacher started using AI to organize her personal life over the summer, and she can’t wait to integrate AI tools into her classroom. While she understands how AI works in a personal context, she excitedly begins infusing the one AI tool she knows well. Students are now using a tool that is engaging, but not age-appropriate or aligned with instructional goals.

The quality of our classroom educators are the single most important factor when it comes to student success. Therefore, teacher input and buy-in is critical when it comes to any new innovation in K-12. Beyond a foundational understanding of AI and how to use it on a basic level, teachers need to understand what this means for their own instruction, student learning, and education as a whole. Artificial intelligence has the capacity to completely change the landscape of our industry, and we need to provide classroom teachers with the
why, as well as vetted resources just for K-12 to start them off on the right foot.

Data Privacy and Confidentiality

Scenario: Unaware of data privacy protocols, a teacher uses a free third-party educational app that collects student data without proper encryption. The app's lack of security measures results in a data breach, exposing sensitive student information to unauthorized parties.

Not all apps and sites are safe for use in K-1
2, and some may even collect student data. As AI collects and analyzes this data to provide personalized learning experiences, data privacy and confidentiality concerns arise. Teachers may not fully grasp the importance of safeguarding sensitive student information without adequate AI training. This lack of awareness could lead to unintentional mishandling of data, potentially violating privacy regulations and eroding the trust between educational institutions, students, and their families. Teachers must be aware of data collection, storage, and usage regulations in the educational context. Professional development around data and privacy is essential if K-12 educators plan to leverage AI for teaching and learning.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Scenario: A teacher receives AI-generated insights about student performance. Lacking proper training, they misinterpret the data, leading to ineffective interventions and skewed assessments.

AI affords us with an opportunity to analyze student pe
rformance in a way we’ve never experienced. Teachers who lack AI training might struggle to interpret the information generated by AI tools effectively, leading to ineffective interventions and skewed assessments. Of course, we want to avoid misguided decisions based on flawed or incomplete data analysis. Such decisions could impact assessments of student performance, resource allocation, and even curriculum or intervention planning. Teachers need professional development on how to effectively use AI to not only gather student data, but also interpret that data to make informed instructional decisions.

AI integration Strategies

Scenario: A teacher has received a list of approved AI resources and basic training from his district. He now understands AI basics and which tools are district-approved, but he’s clueless as to how to integrate these tools into practical learning experiences. It becomes clear that this teacher lacks intentionality in his AI-supported lessons. The AI tool becomes an impediment to learning, and student achievement begins to suffer.

Philosophical dis
cussion of a new tool is one thing, but we know implementation is a whole other ballgame. Anytime an innovation, new curriculum, or novel tool is introduced in K-12, we must offer concrete, relevant use cases for educators to guide them as they integrate new tools in their practice with actual students. From lesson planning, to stimulating creativity, to group and individual feedback, AI has the ability to ramp up a teacher’s practice and offer new avenues to increase student achievement. For instance, there are specific strategies regarding the use of ChatGPT to promote meaningful questioning in the classroom. Teachers may also be interested to learn more about how they can use AI for productivity, such as email template generation, so they can focus their time on what matters most - their students. PD with examples and concrete strategies can make all the difference so your teachers can go beyond theory to strategic, real-world implementation.

Duty to our Students

Scenario: Teachers at a high school are fearful and ill-prepared to leverage AI for teaching and learning. As a result, students graduate with no knowledge of how to use these tools productively in order to maximize learning and creating. They enter their post-secondary schooling and work experiences at a disadvantage, as many of their peers have already been using AI for years.

This was mentioned briefly earlier, but we think this one deserves a highlight of its own. There is so much evidence pointing to the monumental impact that AI will have on our field. The growth of AI in such a short time indicates that this rapidly changing technology will only grow in significance in K-12 and our workforce. It is our duty to prepare our students for their future educational endeavors and the unpredictable future of our workforce. We are, of course, preparing the modern student for careers that don’t even exist yet, and we must equip them with an understanding of AI and how to use these tools safely and effectively. For instance, students need to understand why we need to check AI’s work, and why we should never share sensitive data through an AI tool. Without proper instruction for students, they are likely to use these tools in an unproductive or unsafe manner. Our students can’t possibly learn such essential information if our educators aren’t comfortable or prepared themselves, and that is our role as educational leaders.

Interested in learning how to provide AI professional learning to your educators?

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