Generative artificial intelligence has been in our lives for a year now, and education leadership, teachers, and students are all navigating how to use it in the safest way possible. At the EdTech Innovation Committee’s November 2023 meeting, co-chair David Jarboe (D2 Harrison Schools, Colorado) shared that educators and students at his school don’t just want lists of what they can’t do, but rather are looking for guidance about how to use tools and how to approach AI right now.

On the other hand, some districts may feel frozen about how staff and students should use AI in education and, thus, are not saying anything about it. “Whether or not you know the next step, you need to start talking about it so that everyone’s on the same page, and you’re not veering off in completely different directions,” said Committee member Emily Marshall (Vail School District, Arizona).

Whether you’re able to organize a professional development (PD) day at your school or are interested in creating a self-guided resource to help educators explore AI, CoSN’s EdTech Innovation Committee offers seven key elements to include in your PD offering:

  • Educate Teachers on What AI Is
  • Include Hands-on Learning & Make It Playful
  • Focus on Productivity & How It Can Help
  • Explore How AI Can Help You Do More
  • Talk About Compliance & Regulation
  • Clarify Teacher Use vs. Student Use
  • Leave Room for Discussion

Educate Teachers on What AI Is

It may seem obvious, but we cannot assume that all teachers know what AI is, have researched it, or have used it. “They might think that it’s a search engine on steroids, but it’s not,” said Jarboe. “It’s a totally different concept, totally different technology.”

Include Hands-on Learning & Make It Playful nathan dumlao eubnegqeh2u unsplash

Co-chair Stacy Hawthorne (Learn21, Ohio) spoke about the importance of professional development play. She shared takeaways from a recent Camp Learn21 event, in which Hawthorne created an AI playground for educators to be able use AI themselves to explore areas like Music and Movement, Arts and Crafts, and Ghost Stories, in which attendees were invited to write a story warning others about the bias of AI. Read three ways to make AI less spooky. 

“We’re just not giving teachers enough time to play with AI, to experience it,” said Hawthorne. Remember that, for some educators, using AI may be daunting. Giving them a fun space to create prompts and uncover AI’s true benefits will foster adoption much sooner.

Focus on Productivity & How It Can Help

A great mindset for teachers to think about AI is as an assistant or co-pilot to help reduce the minutiae of their work. Committee member Pete Just, CETL (Indiana CTO Council, Indiana) shared examples of how AI can save teachers time, including writing letters to parents and creating a first draft of a lesson plan. “Give them an opportunity to simplify their lives a little bit,” said Just.

Also, remind teachers of how they can use artificial intelligence as a tool to help them become even more efficient and productive with their time. Committee members who’ve conducted training at their schools emphasized how valuable this idea can be for educators. “One thing that stood out with teachers was how productive they can be with just AI – it’s an important first step,” said Committee member Doug Couture (South Windsor Public Schools, Connecticut).

Explore How AI Can Help You Do More

In addition to helping educators become more productive with their current practices, Committee member Ruben Puentedura (Hippasus, Massachusetts)  shared that teachers should also be encouraged to shift their thinking to “modes of critical analysis” about how they can use AI as a “thinking co-pilot” to discover what is possible. Puentedura, creator of the SAMR model, suggested:

  • Think about how students can achieve more with the help of AI.
  • Conversely, think about what is no longer interesting because either the AI takes it over or because it’s something that we had to do before, but, with the help of AI, don’t really need or want anymore.
  • Consider the whole student experience, including assessment, and how it can be framed by this new way of thinking.

Talk About Compliance & Regulation

In addition to educators trying out AI tools, Couture stressed the importance of discussing compliance and regulations. “It’s like the Wild West out there,” said Couture. “Data privacy laws vary significantly across states, leading to inconsistencies. In Connecticut, it’s against the law to mandate using AI tools, such as free LLMs [large language models], in assignments if they don’t adhere to the state’s student data privacy regulations. Teachers really need to know about those [laws and regulations] right now.”

group spending time working togetherClarify Teacher Use vs. Student Use

Another component of a well-rounded PD offering is to include information about teacher vs. student use of AI. While this will evolve with products and time, Jarboe said, there are different regulations based on who is using the product. Be sure to clarify expectations with teachers so they know the difference.

Leave Room for Discussion

Once educators have had time to learn about AI as a group or on their own, be sure to schedule time dedicated to discussion. Topics of discussion may include:

  • How curricula may need to change
  • How traditional projects or reports may need to be adjusted in light of the  generative AI that students are using
  • How to address concerns with cheating and academic integrity

Moving Forward

While these seven ingredients work well served to a group or individually, it’s important to note that each school district’s recipe will be one-of-a-kind. There is no one size fits all, but these tips will help you take that first step — or continue confidently on your AI journey — to create a safe environment for your educators and students to learn, grow and thrive with AI.

During the November 2023 committee meeting, co-chair David Jarboe suggested the following major resources that have been recently published that EdTech leaders can use to “plug and play” so that teachers can jump right in and start learning about AI quickly: AI 101 for Teachers
Artificial Intelligence in Education
AI for Education:
Essential Guide to AI for Educators (Course)
Teach AI: AI Guidance for Schools Toolkit (Includes A Framework for Incorporating AI in an Education System and Principles for AI in Education)
CoSN & Council of the Great City Schools (lead partners): K-12 Generative AI Readiness Checklist AI in Education: A Comprehensive AI Framework and Resources (

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

Published on: December 11th, 2023

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