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Generative AI & schools: Strategy versus the wild west

A steampunk robot thinking pensively
co-created by Roger and DAL-E

The Australia Framework for Generative AI in Schools has done the heavy lifting. Implementing this framework in your school is where it pays to get strategic.

In what can only be described as an incredibly agile response, Australia is leading the world in developing a quality framework for schools to respond intelligently to the storm that is Generative AI. While still a consultation paper, the Australian framework is a excellent starting point for all schools, outlining 6 core principles. Taking an approach that is positive and principled, rather than rules and prohibition, this framework gives schools a huge boost.

The first core area is exactly as it should be - placing teaching and learning in the first position: Generative AI tools are used to enhance teaching and learning.

The use of Generative AI in your school should be more like a pushbike and less like and Uber. A pushbike uses your effort and direction to take you further and faster. An Uber, on the other hand, effortlessly outsources the journey part and only cares about the destination. School learning is about a journey where the process of learning-how-to-learn is more powerful than the content and our students need to peddle to achieve that.

The Australian Framework outlines principles and aspirations that describe a great response to Gen AI, but to efficiently move from that framework to reality in your school requires strategy.

So let's talk strategy - how to move your school from "now" to a future "later" of safe, AI cyclists. An instinctive approach for teachers and school leaders is to put in a huge effort to "get it right". This strategy is great for, say, uniform policy where the landscape is settled and you can afford to be exhausted and then leave it alone for a decade. For a phenomenon as rapidly evolving as Gen AI, it can be much more effective to take that budget of "effort" and break it into smaller chunks.

Deliberately truncating the effort to produce your first, interim response is difficult but worthwhile. That saves your precious time to invest in reviewing and altering the trajectory as your school becomes more experienced and as the landscape starts to emerge from the fog that currently shrouds the near future. It can also be helpful at the start to consider what data would you want to collect so that your first review is evidence-based. Working that out now will set you on a path to make that first review relatively easy. It is a useful "spend" from that first small bucket of effort.

Chan, C.K.Y. A.

A useful addition to the Australian Framework is this visualisation from Chan et., al. 2023.

It was based on ecological data from students and teachers and helpfully describes the dimensions to be considered. The only adaptation I'd like to see is pedagogy circle on the top. Considering these three dimension will help school leaders to plan for each one interdependently.

Why is this needed?

It can be very tempting to hope this will all just go away. However, unlike COVID lockdowns and remote lessons, this is here to stay. Many of our young students are adding Gen AI to their list of things to worry about - you know, the list they started in 2019 when their world was literally on fire, followed by the zombie apocalypse with COVID and a lost year of schooling. They need us to walk alongside them with this, modelling appropriate and ethical use, modelling how to bring people together around shared values, normalising for them what will be the new normal in their future. To do that well, our teachers and school community needs a leadership-lead, strategic response to provide the protection to experiment, laugh, learn and move forward. Education is the antidote to fear - for our students and all in our school community.

Dr Roger Kennett, Learning Forge

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