Over the past few years, we have seen many changes in education. We live and teach in an increasingly digital world that involves rapid technological advancements through emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). The technologies are not only impacting our lives as educators, but they are impacting the world of work that our students will enter.
To best prepare our students, educators must constantly adapt and evolve to keep up with these changes. However, there are challenges when it comes to these technologies: a lack of professional learning opportunities, not enough time to participate, and uncertainty about the best options for learning. Bringing in new technology can also feel like adding to an already overflowing plate.
Beyond the basic technology skills that educators need for everyday teaching, they also need to be knowledgeable about emerging technologies, particularly AI, and how to bring them into their classrooms. Over the past five years, my work has focused on collaborating with teachers to get them started with emerging technology—including, more recently, AI. Here are some things that work when designing AI-related professional learning.
AI Professional Development for Educators
Professional development (PD) focused on implementing classroom technology goes beyond simply training educators in how to use it and apply it to their curriculum. It requires rich and personalized learning experiences that will engage educators and enable them to see the possibilities available for amplifying learning through educational technology.
Building knowledge in an area such as AI and other emerging technologies takes time with consistent and guided exploration. It also requires that educators be able to explore a variety of resources to find what best meets their specific needs. Without support, teachers are less likely to dive into these new technologies, especially if they do not see the relevance to their content area. Selin Akgun and Christine Greenhow call a teacher’s lack of knowledge “a barrier to AI implementation” that requires more professional development for K–12 teachers in both pre-service and in-service.
Here are some tips for planning PD around AI:
1. Start with the basics. Ask questions about what people think of when they hear the term artificial intelligence. Share ideas and then provide information about what it is, how it works, where we see it in everyday life. It is important to understand the key concepts and terminology.
2. Leave time for exploration. Offer resources that give educators a chance to explore AI. Hands-on learning opportunities are the best and will help them understand how AI works in practice and become familiar with its capabilities.
3. Make space for collaboration. A great way to build confidence and also help educators get started is by setting aside time for collaboration. Whether by grade level or content area, educators can exchange their ideas, share what they found during their own exploration, and come up with new ideas to try.
Resources for Educators
Technology will continue to evolve, and the tools we use will change and be increasingly powered by AI. There are a variety of PD options available. Here are some ideas for how educators can stay up to speed on AI and other emerging tech.
Self-paced courses: The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) offers a great course on teaching AI and provides curriculum guides for various levels and content areas. Other organizations, such as AI4ALL and AI4K12.org, provide ready-to-run lessons, including lists of blogs, podcasts, videos, and other resources for educators to find the PD that they need. Educators can also sign up for courses via Google AI Education, which provides resources to help educators and students learn about AI and machine learning. Microsoft offers a variety of courses for educators through the “Learn” options, one of which is focused on artificial intelligence.
Online learning communities and opportunities: Many online communities focus on AI and other emerging tech. Try exploring X (the former Twitter) chats, following hashtags, or joining a Facebook or LinkedIn group that is focused on teaching about AI and emerging technologies.
Professional development events: EdWeb and ISTE offer access to webinars about AI and education. Some edtech companies offer pop-up sessions about AI and how their tools or platforms are integrating the technology to benefit student learning or to help educators with workflow and other clerical tasks.
AI conferences: Over the past year, there have been multiple events bringing together edtech leaders to talk about AI. For instance, Holly Clark held an AI Infused Classroom Summit with different speakers focusing on topics related to AI in education; I presented 8 AI Resources for the Classroom. You can find an upcoming conference to participate in or watch recordings of previous conferences online.
Blogs, newsletters, podcasts, books: Keeping up with blogs on Edutopia and following people who are doing presentations about these technologies is quite helpful. You can also follow some educators who write about AI, including Holly Clark, Monica Burns, Matt Miller at Ditch That Textbook, Carl Hooker, Ken Shelton, and me. Definitely check out Al Kingsley’s weekly newsletter, which has tons of resources about edtech and emerging technologies.
Podcasts focused on AI and technology help with PD on the go. In my ThriveinEDU podcast, I share quick ideas on many edtech topics. Noa Daniel also held a series of podcasts focused on AI and ChatGPT in education.
All of these are of course available for free. If you’re interested in books about AI, I recently read and liked the book AI and the Future of Education, by Priten Shah, and always reference the book Teaching AI, by Michelle Zimmerman from ISTE.
Professional learning about AI and education doesn’t require everybody to sit in the same place at the same time and learn the same thing. The benefit of technology is that we can access professional learning that meets our specific interests and also works well with our schedule. We are at an exciting time, and with so many changes happening because of AI, it is important that we embrace opportunities to explore for our own learning and, more important, for our students.