AI Takes Center Stage During CSEdWeek

    Girl looks at viewer as she interacts with a robot.

    Girl looks at viewer as she interacts with a robot.

    As AI rapidly makes its way into the various facets of our lives, the discourse around its power – and potential problems – is at an all time high. One hot spot where these conversations are occurring is in discussions around K-12 education. How are (and should) educators be integrating AI into their classroom instruction and pedagogy?

    This topic was on the agenda with policymakers in Washington, D.C. during Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) last month. Representatives from the White House, National Science Foundation (NSF), National Economic Council, and other federal agencies convened to discuss AI in K-12 education, inclusive AI instruction, and the role of AI in CS education and workforce development. 

    Building Systems that Empower Educators and Students

    Pictured above left to right: Dr. Carol Fletcher, Director of EPIC; Dan Blier, Past President CSTA Board of Directors; Chanel White, Computer Science Teacher, Crowley ISD.

    One voice in these discussions was our very own Dr. Carol Fletcher, Director of EPIC (Expanding Pathways in Computing) at TACC (Texas Advanced Computing Center) and Principal Investigator (PI) for the national ECEP Alliance. Dr. Fletcher met with leadership at the NSF,, and CSTA to discuss effective national strategies for addressing AI in K12 computer science education. According to Dr. Fletcher, bringing computer science educators into the conversation with district leaders is key to district-level planning because these educators likely have the most sophisticated understanding of the science of AI and its social and ethical implications of any district employees. Computer science teachers are also more likely to be steeped in the discourse of how to educate and empower their students to be safe and informed consumers and developers of technology.

    "AI has tremendous potential for both positive and negative social and personal consequences. All children need to be informed users and understand 'what's under the hood' of AI," Fletcher said. “The choice is between empowering them to navigate and use technology to their advantage or risking them becoming victims of AI. The fundamental question remains: Do we want our children to grow up empowered to understand technology or completely cede their own agency – and increase their vulnerabilities – by being excluded?”

    Leveraging Existing Resources 

    EPIC, through its various programs, is actively working to ensure that all students can learn computer science and become informed and critical consumers and creators of knowledge  in our increasingly digital world. Driven by this mission, EPIC provides resources for both teachers and administrators. Administrators and policymakers are encouraged to:

    • Reach out to ECEP Alliance State Teams: Composed of thought leaders with expertise in state-level computing education, including representatives from universities, Departments of Education, nonprofits, and teacher leaders, these teams offer valuable expertise in the intersection of computing, including AI, which is a subset of computer science, and K-12 education. As states and districts grapple with developing policies around teaching with and about AI, ECEP state leaders can serve as experienced thought partners.

    • Reference the TeachAI Toolkit: This toolkit offers practical guidance, sample policies, and resources to develop district policies around the use of AI in schools. .

    • The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) is updating the K-12 Computer Science Standards to address standards for teaching about AI in schools. Leverage their expertise for guidance on what AI content to address at different grade levels in your district. 

    Looking to the Future

    As AI continues to shape our future, it is imperative to equip our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate this evolving landscape. The key, as emphasized by Fletcher and supported by EPIC, lies in leveraging the existing expertise of CS educators in the conversation and focusing on empowering students to be informed and confident users of AI technology. By engaging teachers and students in the conversation about AI in education, we can ensure that the next generation is equipped to not just survive the advent of AI, but thrive by actively contributing to the development and application of generative AI tools in a responsible and ethical manner.