Sep 22 2023

Why Independent Schools Lose Big When They Avoid AI

Short-staffed private, charter and other small schools can reap great rewards with artificial intelligence.

While there is no doubt that artificial intelligence and generative AI are disruptors in the world of education, they can never replace highly trained, compassionate and dedicated human teachers. The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidelines for AI that echo this sentiment: “A top priority with AI is to keep humans in the loop and in control."

However, for private, independent and charter schools, which generally have smaller student bodies, teaching staff and administrative teams than the average public school, AI could be the game changer they didn't know they needed.

How More AI Use Could Benefit Students, Teachers and Administrators

For teachers and administrators at independent schools, generative AI or large language models (LLMs) could assist in some of their more time-consuming tasks. The 2022 Merrimack College Teacher Survey found that teachers work an average of 54 hours a week, with only 25 hours spent teaching and the rest of the time allotted to “ancillary tasks.”

For schools with aging technology infrastructures, some of those non-instructional tasks could further bog down teachers. Believe it or not, there are still teachers at some independent schools who manually add student information to physical gradebooks.

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A recent survey from the Walton Family Foundation found that 40 percent of the teachers surveyed use ChatGPT at least once a week, and they are already seeing the tool as a huge timesaver. According to the report, “teachers are leveraging the tool to plan lessons, provide tailored feedback on student writing and help differentiate math support to learners at all levels.”

Additionally, the survey found that “71% of teachers and 65% of students agree that ChatGPT will be an essential tool for students’ future success in college and in the workplace.”

Classroom teachers are not the only ones who can benefit: For heads of schools who may also pull double or triple duty as IT or HR directors, AI could reduce the time it takes to manage community outreach, onboard new staff and address transportation logistics.

READ MORE: Learn more about the pros, cons and unknowns of generative artificial intelligence.

Three Ways Independent Schools Can Jump Into Generative AI

Integrating artificial intelligence is not a task to be approached lightly. To see the best results, private, charter and other independent schools should do the following:

Leverage Existing Tools: While ChatGPT is probably the most well known of the LLMs, you may want to explore tools that you already use. If your school has a Microsoft license, you can learn more about Microsoft Designer or Bing AI, which can generate both text and images.

If you have a Google Workspace for Education license, you can also explore Duet AI. If you are using Merlyn Mind, the digital assistant built specifically for education, you might want to explore the company’s LLM.

DISCOVER: Read more on the Department of Education's AI guidance.

Crowdsource Your Training: The amount of information out there on generative AI can feel overwhelming. However, start by asking people you already know for their AI resources. Look to your professional learning community or an education association such as ISTE for training. You can also check in with some of your trusted vendor partners. Microsoft has a robust library for educators, and CDW's Amplified™ IT has an on-demand webinar about AI for educators. Don't overlook your students: They may also have great resources to share.

Prepare to Share: Once you’ve learned as much as you can about generative AI, you will be in a great position to educate your board members, parents, alumni groups and the wider community about this emerging technology. And this is not just the responsibility of your head of school: Educators of all stripes can help address some of the fears and doubts community members may have about integrating this new technology into the classical learning process and/or your administrative process. Prepare an elevator pitch to share why you are leveraging this tool and how it can benefit students overall.

Watch CDW's webinar on AI or click here to learn more about how CDW can support private, charter and other small independent schools.

This article is part of the ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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