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NSBA 2024: One Technology Initiative Lays Groundwork for the Next

Schools that had already embraced the imperatives of Internet access, digital literacy and 1:1 device plans fared better for it during the pandemic. AI could be a similarly urgent pragmatic concern.

rocket flying off a tablet in someone's hand
With guidance on generative artificial intelligence now flowing from state agencies, nonprofits and school leaders, one kernel of wisdom that has resonated with some experienced educators is that keeping up with technology changes today will make tomorrow’s changes easier.

An attendee at the National School Boards Association conference in New Orleans last month, Superintendent Dr. Trevor Greene of Yakima School District in Washington pointed specifically to 1:1 student device plans, which put a laptop or tablet in every student’s hands, as a foundational step.

“We’re in a different era now,” he said, adding that the teaching and adoption of AI tools is less daunting to his staff than it might have been if students had less access to that technology. He said that access has prepared the district not only to explore new tools like generative AI, but to design more modern and relevant classes for students.

“One of the things that we’re doing in Yakima School District is we’re focused around, in one aspect, the development of our CTE, career and technical education courses, which do offer training in cybersecurity,” he said. “And then around teacher development, we are just emerging into the area of AI and what that would mean regarding pedagogy and how to utilize that in instruction.”

Greene called this a difficult time for staff, but said it doesn’t hurt that the students themselves are less rooted in old ways of doing things and therefore less intimidated by change.

“What we’re trying to do is just lay out a framework to make sure that people understand that AI is not something that we should fear, but if we embrace that in a way that is positive, then we can build upon that for all of our students,” he said.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.