As the 2023-24 U.S. academic year wraps up, what were some of the successes and challenges faced in your school district? We asked a similar question of CoSN’s EdTech Innovation Committee at this month’s committee meeting to explore the current climate in K-12 schools across the nation. Read on to see the two key topics that stood out in the conversation.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence

Generative AI was a large part of the education narrative this year. In the 2024 Driving K-12 Innovation Report, 73% of respondents voted for Gen AI as one of the top three most important Tech Enablers for education systems to leverage in 2024. Many committee members at the May meeting were able to share progress on their AI strategic plans and resources created this year. Beatriz Arnillas (1EdTech Consortium) mentioned that the use of data and AI was an area in which the suppliers in their consortium needed help. They created a brief self-assessment rubric for 1EdTech members — including K-12, higher education, and supplier groups —  to address data concerns when AI is used in educational apps and platforms, like incorporating AI into their privacy forms and terms of service agreements. “The main purpose of this first version of the rubric was to provide a quick guide for suppliers on what it means to provide AI in education,” said Arnillas.

At the K-12 level, many districts are preparing their plans and checklists for unrolling AI out at their schools soon. “The one thing that I think our district has benefited the most from has been guidance in the use of AI,” said Brandon Manrow (Corpus Christi Independent School District, Texas). Manrow shared his gratitude to CoSN, as his district was able to model their guidelines based on the organization’s resources.

Katie Harmon (Westhill Central School District, New York) shared that her district is very close to adopting AI guidelines for students after conducting a series of focus groups with teachers and parents. “The feedback from parents came from those who are using AI in the workplace right now,” said Harmon. “It was awesome to read their comments and thoughts…things I didn’t even think about.

Speaking of thinking about AI differently, Ruben Puentedura (Hippasus, Massachusetts) shared that while generative AI has been a large part of the discussion this past year, his international K-12 clients are thinking about it through a different lens. “I’m seeing less of ‘how do you use AI to do what you’re doing, except better and more easily’; there’s much more of a shift towards ‘how do you use AI to really change the rules of the game,’” said Puentedura. He noted that colleagues in Latin America and the European Union are ones to watch.

AI on the Backburner: We Need Teachers

While Emily Marshall (Vail School District, Arizona) knows that schools need to figure out their AI strategic plan, there’s an even bigger issue looming: a lack of qualified educators in U.S. schools. “It’s hard to layer on things like AI implementation and edtech standards when people just need basic classroom management,” said Marshall. “It’s been a challenge trying to figure out how we do the things that kids need in 2024 when there’s such a need for qualified teachers.”

Attracting and Retaining Educators and IT Professionals was a featured Hurdle (challenge) in the Driving K-12 Innovation Report, a topic that has been voted into the report by the 100+ global Advisory Members for the past three years.

Additionally, in the 2024 CoSN Leadership Survey Report, edtech leaders cited the inability to hire skilled staff as a top challenge, ranked second behind budget constraints. Outsourcing is a strategy that helps address staffing issues. The most common function outsourced by districts (57%) is cybersecurity monitoring, more than double last year’s rate of 23%.etinnovationnotes5 24

The committee’s reaction to this challenge, or Hurdle, was to explore and identify the technology that can support the issue. How can technology support teachers better? Marshall added: “I think awareness is one of the things we need most at this point. I don’t believe the true scale of the problem is currently visible from outside of education. I worry that we’re getting to a tipping point where it will be difficult to recover and those who are hurt most are those who can’t pay for access to high-quality and qualified teachers.” The committee also mused on systemic transformation and what it means to be a qualified teacher, as well as the pathways to become one.

But that’s where Kathleen Stephany (School District of Holmen, Wisconsin) believes AI can help strained, sometimes archaic systems. “It’s the potential that AI has that can impact future generations: the ability to differentiate and provide greater accessibility will improve,” she said.

We need to reinvent the system and make it relevant and meaningful, and modernize what learning means today,” added David Jarboe, D2 Harrison Schools, Colorado, and EdTech Innovation Committee Chair.

Learn more about the EdTech Innovation Committee.

AUTHOR: Stephanie King, Writer and Communications Manager, CoSN’s EdTech Innovations Committee and Driving K-12 Innovation

Published on: June 11, 2024

CoSN is vendor neutral and does not endorse products or services. Any mention of a specific solution is for contextual purposes.

cc by nc