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AI in Education: 4 Key Considerations for Today’s Educators

February 20, 2024

This article was originally published in the Battelle for Kids LinkedIn newsletter “Vision to Action in Education.” Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and read additional insights from Battelle for Kids.

In an era where artificial intelligence is reshaping the educational landscape, it’s imperative to explore the implications for K-12 education leaders who are focused on Portrait of a Graduate and durable skills. 

Battelle for Kids recently hosted an EdLeader21 Network Acceleration Series event dedicated to the topic of AI in Education. Vice President Valerie Greenhill facilitated the discussion alongside three expert panelists:

  • Dr. Punya Mishra, Associate Dean and Professor at Arizona State University.
  • Bree Dusseault, Principal and Managing Director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE)
  • Rachna Mathur, Educator, Researcher, and Doctoral Candidate at Arizona State University

Here are four key insights for today’s educators to consider about the future of AI in K-12 education:

1. AI assistance – is it plagiarism, cheating, unethical, or none of the above?

When ChatGPT burst onto the scene, the primary concern was the threat of rampant plagiarism, especially in K-12 education. Now that the world of AI continues to evolve, we are seeing a number of different risks and concerns, with plagiarism being just one of them. 

However, the specter of cheating via a chatbot looms over the conversation of AI in education. If a student gets assistance from AI for an assignment, is that considered cheating or plagiarism? How much does it straddle the line of ethical conduct? Do we need to cite or attribute AI in some way?

Unfortunately, we do not yet have the answers to these questions as there is currently no widely adopted definition of how AI fits into the framework of authentic student work. And, so far, state systems vary in their guidance on the topic.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recently released AI implementation recommendations and considerations for schools. In its guidelines, North Carolina took the bold step of saying that schools must rethink the concept of plagiarism and cheating in the Age of AI.

From its guidelines, on page 22, North Carolina moves past present-day thinking of AI and imagines where we may be going:

“In the not-too-distant future, it will be a common assumption that all writing from academic papers to news reports and emails may be written with AI. In light of this, it is perhaps shortsighted to automatically consider all use of AI as ‘cheating’. Educators will need to rethink their ideas of what constitutes plagiarism and cheating in today’s world, and adapt their teaching, assignments, and expectations to this new reality.”

North Carolina, like many other states, offers an AI Acceptable Use Scale to help build common understanding, clear expectations, and common language around the use of AI by students. The scale outlines the levels of AI use (red/yellow/green) and disclosure requirements for each.

2. The pace of change with AI in the world is rapid. Students must be prepared with the skills, abilities, and knowledge to navigate a future we can’t completely foresee. 

What we prepared students to be ready for in the past is not the same now and will be different in the not-so-distant future. AI is hurtling us all toward a new and unpredictable workforce landscape. 

The students who will be best prepared to navigate this landscape shift are those who not only have the technical skills but also have the durable skills we see in many districts’ Portraits of a Graduate – critical thinking, communication, adaptability, and learner’s mindset to name a few.

Our society has continually been threatened by the onset of new technologies and the implications it has for the world. The proliferation of social media almost two decades ago connected the world in a new way, but it also brought about mental health concerns, political divisiveness, and the spread of misinformation. 

Not dissimilar when it comes to AI, how are we leveraging Portrait of a Graduate durable skills so that this generation of young people – AI natives – can navigate the complexities of life in the 21st century, beyond just the immediate-term concern of chatting with a bot?

3. Educators are not only learning how to use AI for student learning but also how to use AI at all. Districts can create space for innovation and exploration by supporting educators with tools, training, and resources.

The conversation around AI in education has mostly stayed at the level of plagiarism and professional efficiency. But in order to transform learning experiences for students, educators must be given agency to explore AI, be curious lifelong learners, and feel safe to fail.

There are a number of resources available for educators to use in the exploration and application of AI such as and These tools still rely on the discretion of the teacher to determine the quality and effectiveness of the output while also keeping in mind personal data and privacy concerns.

Districts should consider supplementing these tools by bringing in external expertise for staff professional development. Leaders should also lean into their own professional development and knowledge base, as it can be difficult to know how to lead in the space while still learning. 

At the same time, districts should consider establishing guardrails so that parents feel comfortable letting their children explore and innovate with AI in school and be safe doing so.

4. Equity concerns around access to AI mirror those of the pandemic.

Leading in the Age of AI can be as disruptive to education systems as the COVID-19 pandemic was. While not as physically disruptive as the pandemic, AI is creating cognitive challenges for leaders to tackle – the primary of which is the creation of an AI divide. 

Much like the onset of the digital divide in the late 1990s, we are now seeing distinct groups of people who are separated by their levels of access to AI technology. 

Districts and leaders who are able to get out ahead of these equity concerns can offer more access and opportunities to more students. By considering Portrait of a Graduate durable skills in relation to AI, districts can reimagine learning for all students and offer greater access to future pathways.