Exploring AI in Education: An ISTE Cohort in Action

Whether you’re asking Siri a question, logging into your phone with your face, or programming your Roomba to clean your home, we are surrounded by instances of artificial intelligence (AI). If you walk into any educational institution these days, chances are you may hear some chatter about artificial intelligence (AI) and questions about how it is going to affect teaching and learning. AI has permeated almost every aspect of education and it is critical that educators both understand and incorporate AI into their practice. AI is a tool that is being used all over the workplace and having a better understanding of how AI works provides an opportunity for critical thinking and problem-solving, skills that are important when fostering an innovative workforce. Working together, four educators (Beth Elgert – New Kent, Kelsey Pacer – Chesterfield, Dr. Stephanie Playton – Longwood University, and Dr. Virginia Lewis – Longwood University) were accepted into an ISTE and General Motors professional learning course entitled Artificial Intelligence Explorations and their Practical Use in School Environments. The course was an eight-week deep dive into the “how,” “why,” and “what next?” of AI in education. As part of their capstone project, the team collaborated to present a two-part series to the GRAETC executive committee with the goal to better equip GRAETC’s instructional technology leaders with information on the challenges and benefits of AI in educational settings. 

On April 13, 2023, the GRAETC committee was presented with part one of the cohort’s learning–about the importance of computational thinking and how that applies to the current advances in AI. As part of the presentation, the members of GRAETC created a model of a neural network, providing opportunities to explore how a machine can actually learn. In addition, the committee members were presented with the Five Big Ideas of AI in Education from AI4K12: perception (how computers perceive), representation and reasoning, learning, natural interaction and societal impact. From there, the educators were provided a choice board for further exploration. 

As a continuation of the April professional development, on May 9, 2023, GRAETC members joined virtually to reflect on their AI exploration, discuss implications, and determine related next steps as edtech leaders. GRAETC members debriefed on their choice board selections, with Google Teachable Machine and generative AI (including craiyon) being popular topics. Issues and opportunities were then discussed in breakout groups differentiated by grade level. Regardless of level, digital citizenship came up as a critical component of the conversation surrounding AI. The professional development concluded with a coaching focus around encouraging open-mindedness amongst educators. However, the learning is not over because the slide decks are wrapped up! More AI updates and applications will be introduced in the field of education every day, and the GRAETC team plans to continue discussing and exploring AI in order to best support our member divisions and regions as a whole. 

The GRAETC/Longwood team learned a great deal about AI from participating in the ISTE/GM AI cohort and were honored to share takeaways with the GRAETC committee. The team would like to thank their ISTE coach, Dr. Manorama Talaiver for her feedback and support throughout the learning journey. 

Authorship Information:

Beth Elgert  is the Instructional Technology Resource Teacher at New Kent High School. Before joining faculty at New Kent, she worked in Newport News where she was an elementary school teacher and then an Instructional Technology Coach. Beth has been a member of GRAETC since 2018. 

Kelsey Pacer is the Virtual Professional Learning Support Specialist in the Office of Professional Learning for Chesterfield County Public Schools. Prior to her current role, she served as a Technology Integrator/Instructional Designer and elementary classroom teacher. Kelsey also supports GRAETC as the outgoing Committee Chair. 

Dr. Stephanie Playton is a STEM Specialist at Longwood University’s Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices (ITTIP). While in this role, Dr. Playton serves PK-16 students and teachers in Virginia. Dr. Playton also serves as the current Grant Coordinator for GRAETC.  Twitter: @STEMGal

%d bloggers like this: