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NSBA 2024: Students Must Learn AI to Compete on Global Stage

In Bakersfield, Calif., Chris Cruz-Boone and other school leaders gathered input from parents, teachers and industry leaders on what every graduating student should have. An ability to innovate was one priority.

To education leaders like Chris Cruz-Boone, new technology isn’t merely a goal, a budget item or an “issue,” but a staple of the job done well.

Attending the National School Boards Association conference in New Orleans last month, Cruz-Boone, a board member of Bakersfield City School District in California, was both curious and cautiously optimistic about the most-hyped new tool — artificial intelligence — but didn’t see it as entirely separate from what teachers in her district were doing already. She said “innovative” is a core skill in her district’s “portrait of a graduate,” informed by input from industry leaders, parents and teachers, and embracing change has served the district well so far.

“How far we’ve come as a leadership governance board and being able to share information because of emerging technologies, it’s really exciting,” she said. “And even the app that we use for this conference … has everything from health to looking at the schedule to logging into your social media and making sure to tag them, so they way that everything is folded so effortlessly into technology now is exciting and fun.”

Asked what school board members across the U.S. could do to prepare for the future, Cruz-Boone teased that no one is truly “ready” to be on a school board until they get there, but now more than ever, curiosity and openness to technological transformation are indispensable.

“I have teenagers and I’m a big nerd, so I thought I understood technology, but I don’t. I use TikTok and I have a PlayStation 4, and I thought that I was on top of it, and I’m not. The amount of things people can do is changing every single day, so I think the only thing that we can do to prepare ourselves as board members is be open minded and be willing to have a change-framework ideology, because you cannot be stuck in the past if you want to be part of leadership in the future, especially for the coming generation,” she said. “We can’t compete on a global stage … if we’re not willing to embrace change and embrace technology, so just be open to that.”

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.