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2024 AASA National Conference: My Takeaways From Sessions on AI and Other High Interest Topics

The annual School Superintendents Association (AASA) National Conference on Education was in San Diego this past week. Attendance was at a ten-year high. Thought leaders from around the country assembled to share ideas and plan for the future. I attended as both a superintendent and as one of four conference bloggers chronicling my experience and advancing some of the key learnings and ideas circulating around the conference.

The most talked about theme was Artificial Intelligence. It was the topic of numerous sessions, table talks, thought-leader sessions and one of three keynote presentations: Gen AI: How to Prepare Today's Students for an Augmented Tomorrow and the Ways Schools Must Adapt. The politics of the superintendency and superintendent turnover was a close second and dominated many after hours discussions. For many of the superintendents I met, this was their last conference as a superintendent after announcing their retirements at the conclusion of this school year. Most cited "it was time" as their primary reason for leaving the superintendency.

The diversity and depth of session topics were impressive. But it was the AI sessions that were consistently well attended. Even on the day most attendees had already headed home, a Saturday morning session at 9 am featuring Google educators envisioning the future of education was standing room only. Other well attended sessions on AI included, AI in Schools: Bridging Policy; Innovation Practices and Measuring Impact for Districts; Why Every District Should Unblock Artificial Intelligence and Understand its Impact on Learning; Chat GPT, AI, Oh My... What's A Superintendent to Do?; What District Leaders Need to Know About AI in Education; and Leveraging AI to Increase Productivity and Efficiency.

In my role as conference blogger, I spoke to hundreds of people. I didn't sense that AI is feared. In fact, I sensed the complete opposite. AI is becoming embraced as a tool that can be leveraged to improve productivity, operational efficiency, and student achievement. Much of what I heard from the presenters and their audiences was that we are on the verge of a revolution in education and AI will be the catalyst that will ultimately lead education to the technological promise land. Here's a list of my takeaways:

  1. Don't put the cart before the horse. Before drafting policies and creating curriculum, begin a conversation with everyone who has a vested interest in AI's success.

  2. AI takes things off a teacher's plate, not the opposite. See 7 education tools here.

  3. Establish collaborative, interdisciplinary partnerships that encourage responsible AI development, deployment, and usage.

  4. Join networks such as the EdSAFE AI Alliance that are dedicated to integrating AI in education.

  5. AI has a high level of consumer consciousness. Educators must in turn be consumer centric and institutionally agile enough to respond to consumer needs.

  6. Consider working with experts such as InnovateEDU to partner with to accelerate innovation towards radically different trajectories for all learners.

  7. Adopt standards for leaders, coaches, and teachers such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to guide the creation of high-impact, sustainable, scalable and equitable learning experiences for students and staff.

  8. Look towards Education Reimagined and other guidebooks to provide an on-ramp for using the ISTE Standards to guide systemic change.

  9. Experiment with Generative AI tools such as ChatGPTClaude and Midjourney, and a host of other tools to rethink technology and redesign how students and educators learn.

  10. Lead boldly towards developing a culture of change by providing the conditions for innovations such as AI to take root in schools.

  11. Do not do nothing. Don't wait for AI to force your hand. Lead everyone in your purview towards it.

Below are my conference blogs on a variety of topics.

FEB 16, 2024

FEB 15, 2024

FEB 15, 2024

FEB 14, 2024

FEB 14, 2024

FEB 14, 2024

FEB 13, 2024


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