Coaching for a digital future

Navigating AI Ethics and Citizenship in schools

Fifteen years ago, I was an instructional technology coach in a school district just outside of Seattle, Washington. As we planned for the roll out of our laptop program, I began my work to prepare teachers on how to use successfully integrate this technology into their curriculum. As my fellow digital coaches know, this initiative came with A LOT of questions and trepidation. Our district is in the backyard of Amazon and Microsoft, yet there was still tremendous anxiety on what the future of learning would look like in the age of technology. For me, the key component was starting with helping teachers embrace the idea of integrating digital citizenship concepts into their daily lessons.

The Intersection of AI and Digital Citizenship  
Fast forward to today. Yes, we have policies around cyberbullying, plagiarism, and digital literacy, but teachers still struggle to embed these concepts into their daily curriculum. Knowing how to navigate the Internet safely and ethically is as important as knowing how to read and write.  

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly prevalent, the ethical use of this technology and the guidance on using AI detectors become paramount. Instructional coaches play a pivotal role in how schools can embrace AI instead of blocking it.  

AI’s prevalence in our digital lives is nothing new. From personalized recommendations to automated customer service, AI is everywhere. We use AI to offer grammar and spelling suggestions on papers, generate data with Excel, we can even use apps to create beautiful newsletters with just a couple of clicks. But now with the onset of Generative AI, school systems are grappling with what to do.  

Instructional coaches play a pivotal role in how educational institutions embrace or reject AI. Coaches are in the ideal position to guide teachers and leadership in understanding AI technologies and navigating their complexities. By demystifying AI, coaches empower teachers and students to use these technologies effectively and responsibly.  

The Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University created a Digital Citizenship+ Resource Platform that provides over 100 educational tools that can help teachers teach digital citizenship skills to their students. These tools are based on their Digital Citizen+ Framework in which AI is one of the 17 components.  

Using AI in practice 
In education, we have two paths we can take: Be reactive or proactive. AI detectors are tools that identify AI-generated content. Focusing on finding ways to “catch” AI generated content is reactive. As coaches, we need to show the importance of being proactive. Instead of blocking AI generators, and purchasing AI detectors, start with a few simple strategies to promote the ethical use of AI. You also get better quality results with both AI generators and student work.  

  1. Have a consistent, unified message among your staff on when and how students can appropriately use AI. Microsoft has a dedicated website with guidance on responsible AI practices   
  1. Show teachers how they can use AI to improve their own practice  
  1. Suggest that teachers pre-emptively address how students can use AI to enhance their work, not replace it. A recent study of college students found that 51% of students agree that using AI is cheating, but still use it to complete assignments. We need to change that perception. 
  1. Provide learning options for teachers to better understand the why, what, and how of Generative AI. Microsoft Learn has free online courses and resources to get them started.  

Instructional coaches play a crucial role in promoting ethical AI use and digital citizenship. They bridge the gap between technology and users, fostering an informed and responsible digital community. As we navigate the AI-infused digital landscape, the role of a coach becomes increasingly important, guiding teachers and students towards a future where technology serves humanity ethically and responsibly. 

About the author 

Dr. Kimberly West is CEO of i2eEDU. Her work focuses on instructional leadership and policy design, centered on redefining how we educate today’s learners. She believes a vital component is the role technology plays in providing equity and access to quality education for all students.