With Artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies holding immense promise for enhancing teaching, learning, and school administration, navigating this complex terrain requires ambassadors who can bridge the gap between the capabilities of the technology and its practical application. By working hand-in-hand with students, teachers, policymakers and community members, researchers can help create an educational future that is more equitable, empowering and profoundly human.

Researchers investigating AI and emerging technologies in education and related areas such as educational psychology, cognitive science, and learning sciences are uniquely suited for this role, due to their (a) deep knowledge and expertise, (b) compelling communication and storytelling, (c) strategic foresight and vision, and (d) networking and community building skills.

Deep knowledge and expertise

From their disciplinary training, investigations of phenomena, and development of solutions, researchers have unique insight into emerging technologies and their potential in education. This means they can  answer questions from students, teachers, administrators, parents, community members, policymakers, and others confidently and address concerns effectively, by:

Compelling communication and storytelling

Articulate and passionate, researchers can tailor their message to make complex concepts relatable and memorable to different audiences through:

  • Powerful metaphors: In, “Navigating A World Of Generative AI: Suggestions For Educators,” Chris Dede and Lydia Cao use the moon and sunlight as metaphors. They describe AI in education as mirroring human capabilities, reflecting both truthful insights and biased misinformation, just as the moon reflects the sun's light. This analogy highlights AI's dependence on existing data from the World Wide Web, a vast repository that can be both accurate and flawed. This analogy highlights AI's dependence on existing data from the World Wide Web, a vast repository that can be both accurate and flawed. Here are more examples of researchers using figurative language to explain and understand AI in education.
  • Ongoing conversations: Silver Lining for Learning is an ongoing conversation about the future of education, hosted weekly by prominent researchers including Chris Dede, Curt Bonk, Punya Mishra, and Yong Zhao. Through their live streamed podcast and archived episodes, they explore trends, challenges, and opportunities related to building more equitable, humanistic, and sustainable learning ecosystems. Topics range from student voice and research to reimagining assessment, the future of higher education, and the impact of technology on learning. With a broad focus and insightful discussions, Silver Lining for Learning provides a valuable platform for envisioning and shaping the future of education.

Strategic foresight and vision

Diplomatic, empathetic, and open to feedback, researchers can build relationships and engage in respectful dialogue, adapting their approach to different cultures and contexts through:

  • Trust, transparency, transformation: In its policy report, "Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations," the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology acknowledges the need to share knowledge, engage educators, and refine technology plans and policies for the effective use of AIED. It provides valuable insights and recommendations for the ethical and effective use of these technologies in education. It recognizes the need for researchers, educators, and related parties to work closely together, with empathy and openness, to align AI models to a shared vision that supports student learning. By taking a human-centered approach focused on building trust and adapting to different contexts, researchers can engage students, educators, and interested parties through respectful dialogue. Researchers must be diplomatic yet visionary, listening to feedback while guiding AI development in a way that enhances–not replaces–the human connections at the heart of education. With trustworthiness and care, researchers can foster collaborative relationships to shape AI for the common good.
  • Leveraging AI for secure, efficient English testing: The Duolingo English Test (DET) applies their Responsible AI Standards to utilize AI while valuing human expertise for reliable, secure, and efficient assessment. It uses AI for test design, scoring, and security, but human oversight ensures fairness and accuracy. Practice test scoring with AI provides quick performance feedback, while adaptive testing keeps the test duration low. Human expertise remains crucial in decision-making for high-stakes testing, ensuring fairness and security. The DET ecosystem integrates various frameworks to guarantee valid and reliable scores for university admissions.
  • Empowering Communities, Dismantling Inequality: Sasha Costanza-Chock's "Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need," challenges traditional design practices, arguing that marginalized communities must lead design to dismantle structural inequalities. This collaborative approach, exemplified by global partnerships with social movements, exposes the limitations of universal design and advocates for solutions tailored to diverse needs. Costanza-Chock calls for a future where design fuels collective liberation and ecological sustainability, showcasing real-world examples that move beyond "design for good" and towards transformative change.

Networking and community building skills

Researchers skillfully build and maintain connections with key decision-makers, thought leaders, and specialists. These relationships are crucial for promoting the widespread acceptance and use of AIED and other emerging technologies by:

  • Building Ethical Guardrails: As acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Alondra Nelson played a pivotal role in shaping the future of AI ethics in the U.S. She led the OSTP team in developing the groundbreaking "Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,"which lays the groundwork for policymakers, technology developers, and others to better safeguard people’s rights as algorithms and AI reach further into our lives.
  • Cultivating Global Collaboration for AI in Education: The EdSAFE AI Alliance is a global initiative coordinated by InnovateEDU and powered by a coalition of organizations dedicated to the development of a safer, more equitable, and more trusted education ecosystem of AI innovation. The alliance brings together experts in industry, research, and practice at the intersection of education and AI to promote AI safety, ethics, and policy in K-12 education. It is anchored in the SAFE framework, which emphasizes safety, accountability, fairness, and efficacy in the use of AI technology in education. The organization also offers fellowship programs to support individuals in the AI sector, including the Women in AI Fellowship and the AI Catalyst Fellowship, which aim to promote AI safety, ethics, and policy in education. 
  • Tackling the Complexities of AIED in Education: In, “Ethics of AI in Education: Towards a Community-Wide Framework,” Wayne Holmes and colleagues drawing on experiences from other AI domains to explore the intricate questions surrounding AI ethics in education. They argue that researchers and others using AI and advanced technologies for teaching, learning, and administration must differentiate between doing ethical things and doing things ethically, understand the nuances of making ethical pedagogical and administrative choices, and actively account for the ever-present possibility of unintended consequences.

Researchers are ambassadors!

The path forward in education is filled with complexity, but also possibility. As we seek to embrace this change with cautious optimism, ethical responsibility, and human-centered collaboration, researchers have a special role to play as ambassadors guiding this transformation. 

Looking ahead, my next blog will delve into the transformative potential of AI within the instructional core—the dynamic interplay between teachers, students, and content. Join me as we explore how AI is reshaping this fundamental triad, revolutionizing teaching methodologies, personalizing learning experiences, and unlocking new avenues for educational innovation!