Artificial intelligence has already become such a big part of life that students themselves are now advocating for inclusion of AI tools in their learning experiences. But many schools are still struggling to figure out how they should evaluate those AI tools, and have been lacking formal guidance from the professional organizations, state departments, and district leaders they usually look to. We recently surveyed K-12 technology leaders and found that a mere 4% of respondents have a formal, documented policy governing the use of AI.
The benefits of using AI in the classroom are limitless: it can save teachers time, personalize learning content, and improve accessibility for students. That said, those benefits are accompanied by legitimate risks and concerns. It’s imperative to make sure that any AI tool used in your classrooms aligns with your educational goals, contributes positively to student outcomes, and adheres to privacy and ethical considerations. Here are the most important questions to ask in order to help guide your evaluation of any new AI tool.
1. Educational Impact: How does the AI tool support the curriculum and educational goals of our school district?
Consider the tool’s ability to align with your district’s specific educational objectives and enhance the overall learning experience for students. It should complement the curriculum you already have in place, not deviate from it or add distractions. You should be able to make a clear case as to why the use of AI is an improvement over traditional alternatives.
2. Teacher Training and Support: What training and professional development opportunities are provided for teachers to effectively use the AI tool?
Ensure that adequate support and training are available to empower your teachers in leveraging the AI tool to its fullest potential. AI technology is new to all of us, and teachers need to feel confident using it themselves before introducing it to their students.
3. Student Engagement and Learning Outcomes: How does the AI tool enhance student engagement and contribute to improved learning outcomes?
Look for evidence of the tool’s impact on student motivation, participation, and overall academic achievement. In recent years, teachers have identified low student engagement as the most widespread problem behind why their students are struggling to reach grade level expectations. That indicates both a challenge and an area of opportunity for AI tools to make a meaningful difference in the classroom.
4. Data Privacy and Security: How does the AI tool handle and protect sensitive student data?
Ensure that the tool complies with privacy regulations and prioritizes the security of student information. Student privacy is not a new concept, but the use of AI tools will require strict adherence to the privacy policies your district already has in place.
Read more: AI in Education: Privacy and Security
5. Customization and Adaptability: Can the tool be customized to align with the specific needs and goals of our school district?
Assess the tool’s flexibility to adapt to the unique characteristics and requirements of your educational environment. One of the biggest promises of AI is that it can deliver a more personalized learning experience to each user, so you’ll get more value from tools that do this well.
6. Integration with Existing Systems: How well does the AI tool integrate with the existing technology infrastructure of our school district?
Consider the tool’s compatibility with other systems to ensure seamless integration into your district’s technological ecosystem. If it pairs well with the other tools you already use, you’ll save time for your teachers as well as your technology leaders and administrative staff.
7. Feedback and Reporting: What kind of feedback and reporting features does the AI tool offer for teachers to track student progress?
Evaluate the tool’s ability to provide actionable insights and facilitate data-driven decision-making. AI tools should not directly make important decisions based on those insights, but rather should identify areas of opportunity for your teachers to step in and make those decisions in a more well-informed manner.
Read more: AI in Education: Keeping Humans in the Loop
8. Cost and Sustainability: What is the total cost of ownership, including any hidden costs such as maintenance, updates, or additional modules?
Ensure a comprehensive understanding of the financial implications and the long-term sustainability of the AI tool. This includes the cost of the tool itself, but also any hardware or software needed to implement it, and any professional development needed to train teachers to use it.
9. Ethical Considerations: How does the tool address biases and promote fairness in its algorithms?
Prioritize tools that uphold ethical standards, mitigate biases, and contribute to an inclusive learning environment. Rather than giving students direct access to a tool like ChatGPT (which shouldn’t be used by anyone under 13 years of age anyway), look for tools developed specifically for use in schools that employ additional layers of moderation.
Read more: AI in Education: The Bias Dilemma
10. User-Friendliness: How intuitive and user-friendly is the AI tool for both teachers and students?
Choose tools that are accessible and easy to integrate into existing workflows, minimizing disruptions to the teaching and learning process. AI tools that are easier to use will be easier to scale up and ensure a more cohesive learning experience across all your classrooms.
Every school is unique – and your AI adoption will be, too.
The questions above are meant to be a starting point for those who have not yet developed a formal framework to use for evaluation of AI classroom tools. It’s important to note that your school’s needs and priorities may differ, and if an AI tool does not pass with satisfactory answers to each question, that doesn’t mean it automatically needs to be ruled out. Innovation requires a bit of risk, but by asking yourself the questions above you can mitigate that risk and make more informed decisions about which AI tools are worth your time and money.
For additional information, explore takeaways and best practices from the K-12 Generative AI Readiness Checklist.
Subscribe to the EdTech Evolved newsletter to receive the latest policy guidelines and other important updates on AI in education each month.