AI in the Classroom: How a Master’s in Education Can Prepare You to Shape Tech-Focused Policy

February 6, 2024

When it comes to artificial intelligence in schools, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle. From elementary schools to universities, AI is here to stay, bringing a cascade of fears and warnings alongside predictions of better things to come.

“Once preoccupied with how generative AI tools like ChatGPT would lead to an epidemic of student cheating, college faculty are now turning their attention to how AI can be used to improve teaching and personalize student learning,” Forbes reports.

Student cheating is one of many concerns surrounding AI. Others include data privacy and the potential for the technology to further inequality, provide incorrect information that seems accurate, and reinforce existing cultural norms that impede diversification and equity. On the plus side, optimists believe AI can help reduce inequality, level the educational playing field, and enhance the work of teachers.

AI has the potential “to accelerate the process of achieving the global education goals” by “reducing barriers to access learning, automating management processes, and optimizing methods in order to improve learning outcomes,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Whether educators and policymakers see AI as good, bad, or in between, they need to learn as much as they can about the technology and its implications for shaping effective education policies.

The Evolving Landscape of Education Technology

AI has already brought dramatic transformations to classrooms; even more significant changes loom. Technology now provides students with personalized learning and instant feedback and helps teachers by automating tasks such as grading papers. Forbes cites several AI tools that have already found their way into classrooms; they include:

  • Ahura, an AI-powered learning assistant
  • Knewton and ALEKS, adaptive learning platforms
  • Querium and Carnegie Learning, AI-powered tutors
  • Smart Sparrow, which provides constructive, customized feedback
  • Gradescope, an AI-powered grading tool

Potential challenges accompany these breakthroughs. Many fear that generative AI such as ChatGPT will help students cheat and pass tests without absorbing information. Data privacy issues and algorithm bias also raise concerns.

“Whenever people create algorithms, they also create a set of data that represent society’s historical and systemic biases, which ultimately transform into algorithmic bias,” the journal AI and Ethics explains. “Even though the bias is embedded into the algorithmic model with no explicit intention, we can see various gender and racial biases in different AI-based platforms.” 

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The Role of Education Leaders in Shaping AI Policy

Education policymakers play a pivotal role in adapting policies to integrate AI responsibly. The US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) 2023 report “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations” calls for collaboration among the federal government, states, school districts, colleges and universities, and other partners to: 

  • Emphasize humans in the loop
  • Align AI models to a shared vision for education
  • Design AI using modern learning principles
  • Prioritize strengthening trust
  • Inform and involve educators
  • Focus R&D on addressing context and enhancing trust and safety
  • Develop education-specific guidelines and guardrails

Well-crafted AI policies have the potential to transform education for the better. “It ought to be possible within a few years, maybe by the end of this decade, to be delivering a pretty high quality of education to every child in the world,” an education expert told the UN’s AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva in 2023. “That’s potentially transformative.”

A report from McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, concludes that “20 to 40 percent of current teacher hours are spent on activities that could be automated using existing technology.

How a Master’s in Education Can Equip You for Policy Leadership

If you want to play an active role in shaping the future of AI in education, you should consider earning a master’s in education. A Master of Education degree can prepare you for leadership roles in education policy, curriculum development, and administration. US News & World Report identifies the following critical skills gained via an MEd:

  • Measuring student performance
  • Evaluating teachers and support staff
  • Assessing standard curricula
  • Creating school budgets
  • Working with other education professionals to create safe, supportive schools

For policy-minded educators, an MEd focused on educational policy and leadership can convey additional essential skills. Typical courses include Education Leadership and Organizational Change, Ethical Leadership in School Reform, Instructional Leadership, Quantitative Research in Education, Education Law and Policy, and Data Driven Decision Making.

Explore the Online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership

American University offers an Online MEd in Education Policy and Leadership that combines the advantages of the degree with the convenience and flexibility of distance learning. Education professionals can continue in their current jobs while gaining the skills and knowledge to advance their careers and influence policies at every level.

Faculty members with real-world experience guide students from written policy through implementation. The program focuses on policy, leadership, law, economics, equity, and research, preparing leaders to create innovative, evidence-based, anti-racist programs and policies. American University graduates acquire the tools needed to effect transformative change. 

A Policy-Focused Curriculum

The Online MEd aligns with the evolving needs of educators and policymakers, a critical consideration in the age of artificial intelligence. Students learn through live and asynchronous classes supplemented by projects and research assignments. 

The curriculum focuses on policy studies, including courses that specifically address technology in education policy. One class—Education and Public Policy—takes a deep dive into policy design, adoption, and implementation. It examines local and federal education policies, focusing on standards and accountability, whole-district reform, school choice, teacher quality, and college and career readiness.

Faculty Expertise in Innovative Education Policy

Faculty members with real-world experience in education policy lead the way. American University’s Online MEd faculty includes:

  • Dr. Reuben Jacobson, a former teacher in the Washington, D.C., public school system. He has served as Deputy Director for the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) and as an education research analyst at the American Institutes for Research.
  • Dr. Phelton Moss, a veteran teacher and principal who rose to become Bureau Director of Educator Effectiveness and Talent Acquisition at the Mississippi Department of Education. He is a Fellow for Education Innovation at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and has served as a Senior Policy Adviser to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
  • Dr. kecia hayes, who has worked for the New York Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools in New York City. She led two community-focused organizations at Columbia University. 

Learning Opportunities Rooted in Real-World Change

The final semester of the Online MEd program includes a significant hands-on learning experience, the Proseminar in Education Policy and Leadership. Small groups of students provide consulting services to an educational organization on a pressing policy or practice issue of policy or practice. This project draws on skills developed throughout the program, reinforcing lessons in client relations, analytical design, and project management and presentation.

Shape Policy That Informs the Future of AI in the Classroom

Will the future bring more AI-driven cheating and inequality or greater opportunities for educators? What we know for certain is that AI will significantly influence education for the foreseeable future.Tomorrow’s education leaders need the training and expertise to navigate these potentially choppy waters. The Online MEd from American University offers both, preparing aspiring leaders to contribute to thoughtful, equitable policy in our digital era.

Begin your journey by connecting with an enrollment advisor or starting an application.

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