AI & Educational Leadership

May 29, 2024

four professionals use technology to brainstorm and look at data


One of the core tenets of being an educational leader or administrator is recognizing that the academic landscape is forever changing. One of the latest shakeups to education is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). While artificial intelligence has been around for a while, the way it has rocketed to being a tool of teaching and learning in the last year means many educators are grappling to catch up. 

For some, AI is an exciting new tool, capable of enhancing learning experiences and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete administrative tasks. For others, AI, and the lack of regulations around it, poses challenges to academic integrity and ethics, and can potentially provide unfettered access to content that may be too mature for some students. 

No matter how one feels about AI personally, it would be an oversight to ignore AI — especially when preparing students to succeed in a world that is becoming increasingly more technological. 

What is artificial intelligence?

AI is technology that allows computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities. Many of the apps and technologies we use on a daily basis use AI, from streaming services that seek to personalize music and tv to your preferences to Siri and Alexa that can answer questions when prompted. As educators begin to understand the possibilities of AI, they are finding more and more creative ways to leverage it to enhance their teaching and learning practice.

Why use AI in education?

illustration of three elementary students around large laptop, representing using AI in education

AI has the ability to free up time and resources while creating customized learning experiences. Here are some ways educational leaders are using AI in the school system:

  • Generate lessons and resources: Teachers are using AI to develop creative lesson planning ideas, activities, and projects based on specific criteria. 
  • Identify at-risk students and intervene sooner: Educational administrators can use AI to analyze data to identify trends in student performance, attendance, and behavior, making it easier to implement targeted interventions more quickly for optimal outcomes. 
  • Create tailored study plans: AI can interpret data to determine a student’s learning patterns and preferences to create tailored study plans that are responsive to a student’s pace and learning needs. It can also provide real-time data to help instructors determine how to adapt curriculum and instruction to support student needs. 

Automate administrative tasks: Leaders can free up precious time to focus strategic planning and student-centered initiatives by automating administrative tasks such as grading, communications, attendance-taking, scheduling, and resource planning.

What are the challenges of using AI in education?

As with most technology, one of the biggest challenges facing educators is the simple fact that students are often ahead of their teachers. That means educators must adapt and adopt. Shares Dr. Jennifer Clayton, professor of educational administration at the George Washington University School of Education and Human Development, “In the K-12 space, we need to make sure we are embracing productive technology while also protecting them. The thought and speed with which changes are happening makes that ingredient of time challenging.” 

Common issues arising with AI in education include: 

  • Students using AI to complete assignments rather than completing the work themselves, hindering their ability to think and write critically using their own words in their own voice.
  • AI’s inability to recognize misinformation or age-appropriate content.
  • Determining what filters to set without restricting students’ basic civil rights. For example, a recent survey found that one-third of teachers reported content related to race or the LGBTQ+ community was restricted by filters, which affects vulnerable students disproportionately. 
  • Unauthorized access or misuse of student records, performance data, and personal information. 

As AI continues to evolve, educational administrators and leaders need to be prepared to create and set policies around AI. That means making it clear to students when AI is acceptable to use and when it is not. That also means developing a disciplinary action plan for when students use AI inappropriately. However, that also comes with its own challenges: namely, if a student claims they didn’t use AI but a teacher thinks they did, what happens then? It is up to leadership to use their best judgment to make a decision.

How can educational leaders prepare for these transformations?

illustration of two professionals studying data on a large computer in front of them

While you can encourage AI literacy among school leadership and governance, it evolves at such a rapid pace that educators can only marginally keep up. Instead, the best way to prepare for such shifts in education is by developing guiding principles that support thoughtful decision-making. 

For leaders who want to take this further, a graduate program in educational leadership and administration can help define these guiding principles to inform your practice. Trainees are encouraged to consider the perspectives of parents, students, staff, and their own instincts in approaching unprecedented scenarios. Explains Dr. Clayton, “Our job is to always push their thinking and challenge them…so when they encounter something completely unexpected that could have never been written into a textbook, they will still have a set of principles to run from.” Alternatively, if you’re interested in designing and implementing technology-enhanced educational environments, consider a graduate program in educational technology leadership. 

AI is just one way the classroom is changing. Be prepared for what’s coming next by pursuing an advanced degree from the George Washington Graduate School of Education and Human Development.