Leading the Way: School Leaders’ Role in Promoting Productive Use of AI

Leading in an era of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence (AI) requires leaders to clearly define their vision, build consensus, effectively communicate with the school community, and allocate resources to support their policies.

It is a significant challenge for school leaders to navigate uncharted educational territory and make decisions that will affect the role of AI in schools. To do this, leaders must consider the following questions: How can AI contribute to innovative instructional practices in schools? What policies and support are needed to ensure responsible use of AI? How can we effectively communicate AI policies to staff, students, and families to promote understanding?

When grappling with these questions, I encourage you to take three actions. First, avoid isolating AI and instead think about how it can align with existing school initiatives. Focus on professional learning that improves the quality of teaching and learning through AI, rather than just the tools themselves. Give teachers the freedom to experiment, take risks, and innovate in their approaches.

1. Consider How AI Can Support Current School Initiatives

School initiatives vary in their focuses, such as literacy development, social and emotional learning, project-based learning, personalized learning pathways with blended learning, or inclusive learning with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). However, all initiatives require a clear vision and sustained support to yield results.

When thinking about the role of AI in your school community, consider how it can advance existing initiatives. For example, if your school aims to provide equitable learning experiences for all students, AI can support teachers in designing lessons that cater to individual student needs, ensuring they receive the necessary resources to achieve specific learning objectives.

AI-powered education tools can save time in lesson design by effectively differentiating instruction, models, and support for students with varying skill levels. Using an adopted curriculum, teachers can generate additional options or scaffolds in their lessons to remove barriers and help all students progress towards standards-aligned goals.

Present AI to the school community as an extension of existing values and priorities to gain more support from stakeholders.

2. Invest in Professional Learning that Harnesses AI for Strong Pedagogical Practices

School leaders play a critical role in resource allocation. If the goal is to leverage AI for improved teaching and learning, professional learning should focus not only on how to use AI tools, but also on how AI can support teachers in designing lessons based on sound pedagogical practices.

Training sessions that solely focus on using AI to generate lessons or assessments often lack a strong pedagogical foundation. Instead, emphasize how AI tools can help teachers bring intentionality to their design work, even when following an adopted curriculum.

The focus of this work will depend on each institution’s instructional models and strategies. When working with educators using AI, show them how to utilize these tools to support backward design, implement UDL guidelines, and create time for small group differentiated instruction using blended learning models like station rotation.

Challenge teachers to consider how AI can provide students with more agency, meaningful choices, and flexible pathways in their learning experiences. Explore how AI can generate examples, scaffolds, and other supports to ensure all students can access and engage with the material. Additionally, encourage the use of AI to make learning more relevant and interesting.

The goal is to help teachers understand how AI can enhance their ability to design effective and equitable learning experiences for diverse groups of students, while still remaining mentally engaged in the design process.

3. Foster a Culture of Experimentation and Iteration

In a rapidly changing technological landscape, the role of the teacher is evolving. As AI and technology advance and become more integrated into society, educators should be encouraged to experiment and design student-centered learning experiences.

Rather than spending most of the class period delivering information at the front of the room, teachers can embrace their role as designers of equitable learning experiences and facilitators, working alongside students to support their individual progress towards learning objectives.

Teachers can position themselves as “lead learners” in the classroom, serving as role models for taking risks, overcoming obstacles, and continually improving. Adopting this mindset makes it less intimidating for students to take academic risks and explore new ideas.

By granting teachers permission to be creative and providing opportunities to connect, share successes, and troubleshoot with colleagues, you foster a culture of learning at all levels, facilitating adaptation in changing times.

Aligning AI with existing school initiatives, prioritizing professional learning that emphasizes strong pedagogical practices, and cultivating a culture of innovation are vital steps for school leaders to pave the way towards dynamic, inclusive, equitable, and student-centered learning experiences.

If you have already implemented school-wide policies to support the use of AI by teachers and students, please share your experiences and advice in the comments section.

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