U.S. Department of Education publishes recommendations for AI use

“Everyone in education has a responsibility to harness the good to serve educational priorities while also protecting against the dangers that may arise as a result of AI being integrated in ed tech,” according to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology’s report, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations.

Published in late May, the report explains the basics of AI, examples of how it’s being used to support learning, considerations for building ethical and equitable school policies, and recommendations for education leaders as well as next steps the department is taking on the matter.

Educators are exploring opportunities to use AI-powered tools like speech recognition to increase the support available to students with disabilities, multilingual learners and others who could benefit from greater adaptivity, as well as ways to personalize learning, adapt lesson plans and more.

But there are also potential risks associated with the technology, such as security and data privacy concerns, impacts on academic integrity and the possibility that content produced by AI includes bias, inaccurate or inappropriate information.

In developing its guidance for education technology, the Education Department consulted students and families, teachers and support staff, researchers, policymakers, advocates and technology developers.

Addressing AI

Listening sessions held in summer 2022 with education leaders and stakeholders revealed an overwhelming interest in taking action now to prepare for the anticipated rise of AI in ed tech. “When AI enables instructional decisions to be automated at scale, educators may discover unwanted consequences,” the report. “In a simple example, if AI adapts by speeding curricular pace for some students and by slowing the pace for other students (based on incomplete data, poor theories or biased assumptions about learning), achievement gaps could widen.”

AI’s potential to “enable achieving educational priorities in better ways, at scale, and with lower costs” was another motivation. The technology could be used to improve the adaptability of learning resources to help students recover academically from the pandemic, according to the report. It can also be used to customize educational materials to meet local needs by incorporating elements of an area’s community and culture. AI tools, such as automated assistants, can also provide teachers with in-class support and be used by educators to extend support to students after class.

Uses and recommendations

Educators are already using AI to support learning via AI-based tutoring to help students solve math problems, AI support for effective teamwork by students and utilizing AI to improve adaptability for learners with special needs.

Foundational elements for building ethical and equitable policies around teaching and learning — such as centering people (parents, educators and students); advancing equity; ensuring safety, ethics and effectiveness; and promoting transparency — are critical.

In building policies, the report suggests that education leaders “recognize and build on prior accomplishments in ed tech (such as strong prior work on student privacy and school data security) as well as broad frameworks for safe AI (such as the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights). Leadership must also reach beyond these accomplishments and frameworks to address emerging opportunities and risks that are specific to novel capabilities and uses of AI in education.”

Recommendations for policy action are as follows:

  • Emphasize keeping humans involved
  • Align AI models with a shared vision for education
  • Prioritize strengthening trust among users
  • Inform and involve educators
  • Focus research and development on addressing context and enhancing trust and safety
  • Develop education-specific guidelines and guardrails
  • For the research and development sector, design products using modern learning principles

Moving forward, the Education Department will examine specific policies and regulations, collaborate on additional resources and events to increase the understanding of AI, and work across sectors to update the National Educational Technology Plan to “guide all constituents toward safe, equitable, and effective AI in education in the United States, in alignment with our overall educational priorities.”