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Demystifying Artificial Intelligence (AI) for K-12

What are ways that districts have successfully leveraged the use of AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new concept, however, the recent proliferation of generative AI tools across society has a significant impact on teaching and learning. This rapid increase in AI tools has caused schools and districts to make decisions about restricting or allowing the use of these tools in their schools, often without fully understanding the solution. The use of AI in a K-12 school system raises questions in the following 3 areas:


MTF: Intelligent Environments (Advanced Analytics & AI)
Future Ready Framework: CIA, Data & Privacy, Robust Infrastructure & Time






Evidence-based Strategies

As K-12 school systems begin to explore the use of AI in their classrooms, they need to consider the efficacy and responsible use of these tools. AI applications should be implemented thoughtfully, with regular evaluation, to ensure they have the intended effects and do not inadvertently harm students’ education. Especially important is considering student data privacy and the responsible use of AI use. It is also important for school leaders to recognize that technology is not a panacea; it should be used as a tool to augment excellent teaching, not as a replacement for it.

Key Components

Implementing AI in Your School System:

Implementing AI learning within a school system with fidelity takes a comprehensive approach that involves stakeholders from IT, Leadership, the community, and most importantly, the classroom. Several key components need to be addressed including infrastructure, curriculum design, professional learning, and ongoing support. It is important to note that AI, especially generative AI, is still a relatively new concept, with changes happening at a rapid pace.

This guide provides strategies for schools and school leaders to consider when implementing the thoughtful and purposeful use of AI in the school system today and in the future. Implementing AI in a school system can be a complex, challenging process but can offer many benefits. It can help students learn more effectively and prepare them for a world in which AI is increasingly prevalent.

1: Setting the Foundation

1.1 Understanding AI: Before incorporating AI, it is crucial that the decision-makers understand what AI is, its capabilities, potential benefits, and limitations.

1.2 Educational Objectives and Goals: The school system needs to have a clear understanding of its educational objectives and how AI can aid in achieving those goals. This could include improving student learning, teacher effectiveness, administrative efficiency, and creating a more personalized approach to the educational experience.

1.3 Infrastructure and Data Privacy: Implementing AI can require robust technical infrastructure. This includes a reliable internet connection, hardware capable of running AI software, data storage systems, and cybersecurity measures. As schools collect a lot of sensitive data about students, they need to understand how to manage this data effectively and responsibly when using AI. This is especially important when it involves understanding data privacy laws and regulations at the local, state, and federal levels.

1.4 – Responsible Use of AI: AI can inadvertently reinforce stereotypes if not responsibly managed and monitored. Schools need to understand these risks and how to mitigate them. This includes understanding how AI models are trained and how to scrutinize them for fairness and equity.

2: Designing the Program

2.1 Creating an AI Policy Framework: The use of AI for learning raises concerns beyond just what may exist within the data. Much like acceptable use policies (AUP) that schools put in place with technology, an additional component around the responsible use of AI should be present in any district-wide policy or guideline.

2.2 Curriculum around AI: Learning AI literacy should not be limited to the STEM/STEAM or CTE classrooms. Critical thinking and age-appropriate discussions around the use of generative AI should be embedded in every grade level and subject area. This should include plagiarism, fair use, societal impact, and data use.

2.3 Training:
Both teachers and administrators will need training on using AI tools effectively and considering their impact on the future of teaching and learning. This might include integrating AI into lesson plans, interpreting AI-generated reports, creating prompts for various learning outcomes, and more. In addition, they will need to evaluate the use of AI in student-produced work to determine the efficacy and accuracy of what students are learning.

2.4 Evaluation Measures: Schools need to have processes in place to evaluate the effectiveness of AI tools and improve upon them. This could involve collecting and analyzing data on student performance, teacher feedback, and more.

2.5 Futureproofing: Given the rapid pace of AI development, it is important for schools to remain flexible and adaptive. This involves staying current on the latest AI trends and being ready to revise or update their AI strategies as needed. School systems need to have a process for vetting and onboarding new AI tools as they become available.

3: Implementation

3.1 Teacher training: Teachers will need training to understand AI concepts and to be comfortable teaching them. This can be a significant undertaking, but it is crucial to ensure that teachers have the necessary knowledge and skills. Initial training should be focused on addressing privacy concerns and introducing pedagogical tools that can help teachers drive students to deeper understanding of concepts.

3.2 Communication: Effective integration of any type of new tool or technology requires consistent and transparent communication between all stakeholders. Technology leaders that monitor network and data security need to be aware of any adoption of new tools in the learning ecosystem. Raising awareness of the use of AI (both benefits and challenges) with greater school community is vital to the successful implementation of AI tools.

3.3 Follow-up Support: Beyond initial training, educators and students will need consistent support for any new AI tools or strategies implemented. This includes data security and monitoring of newly adopted tools.

3.4 Equity and Access: While AI can offer new opportunities in education, there is a risk of exacerbating existing inequalities. Not all students may have equal access to technology or be able to benefit from AI-based resources. Implementation should be done with mindfulness towards providing equitable access to AI tools and resources. They should also consider the potential for AI to widen the achievement gap if not implemented thoughtfully.

4: Sustainability

4.1 Preparing for Future AI Developments: The field of AI is rapidly evolving. Schools should have a plan for updating their AI tools and curriculum to keep up with new developments.

4.2 Ongoing Support and Evaluation: After AI is implemented, there needs to be ongoing technical support for teachers and students, and regular evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the AI implementation and make any necessary adjustments.

4.3 Responsibility and accountability: Educators must be aware of AI systems’ limitations and potential impacts. They should be prepared to take responsibility for the outcomes and actions resulting from the use of AI in education. If an AI system fails or produces unintended consequences, educators should be ready to address the issue, rectify any harm caused, and learn from the experience to improve future implementations.

4.4 Use of AI for cost savings: AI-powered automation can streamline administrative tasks, such as scheduling, data entry, and report generation. By automating these processes, schools can reduce the need for manual labor and save time and resources, allowing staff to focus on more value-added activities. AI can also assist in optimizing resource allocation, such as classroom scheduling, staff assignments, and budget planning. By analyzing historical data and considering factors like student enrollment, teacher availability, and course demand, AI algorithms can suggest more efficient resource allocation strategies, reducing unnecessary expenses and maximizing resource utilization.

4.5 Partnerships: Collaborating with AI experts, researchers, and companies can provide schools with invaluable support and guidance. This includes partnerships for AI tool development, research, training, and more. K12 school systems should collaborate with tech companies, government organizations, and NGOs to promote sustainable AI. These collaborations can facilitate internships, projects, and research initiatives that help students gain practical experience in developing sustainable AI solutions.

Challenges and Opportunities

Data Privacy and Security

Challenge: AI systems in education often need to process substantial amounts of sensitive data (students’ personal information, academic records, etc.). The challenge is ensuring this data remains private and secure.

Opportunity: Enhancing data privacy and security practices can help schools develop a better understanding of how to manage and protect data. This also means updating existing academic and technology policies when schools create Acceptable Use Guidelines. Schools could also use this opportunity to educate students about the importance of data privacy.


Challenge: AI systems can behave in ways that are unfair, unreliable or reinforce stereotypes based on the data they have been trained on. For instance, an AI might unfairly favor students from certain backgrounds or unfairly disadvantage others based on their responses and what AI deems correct.

Opportunity: Addressing this challenge would provide an opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the implications of AI among students and educators. This can lead to a greater emphasis on developing and using AI responsibly, which can be incorporated into the curriculum.

Staff and Student Adaptability

Challenge: Staff and students may need to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning as AI becomes more integrated in education. This may require significant training and support to help alleviate concerns about the role of AI in everyday learning.

Opportunity: This challenge can stimulate ongoing professional development for educators in educational technology. It also emphasizes the importance of developing students’ skills for the future, such as adaptability, critical thinking, and digital literacy.

Equity and Access

Opportunity: The use of AI in schools might widen the gap between students who have access to technology and those who do not. Additionally, restricting the use of AI for some students will yield an advantage to those that have access to AI learning tools.

Solution: This challenge highlights the need for equitable access to technology. Efforts to address the digital divide can include programs to provide devices and internet access to underserved students, promoting digital equity and inclusivity.

Keeping Educators in the Loop

Challenge: AI should never replace the human interaction and emotional connection that is inherent in education. Over-reliance on AI could lead to a reduction in these valuable aspects of the educational experience.

Opportunity: Discussing the shortcomings of AI while highlighting the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence helps stakeholders understand and define AI’s role in learning. Creating classroom activities that leverage AI and human learning can help students learn valuable skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, and resilience. This leads to deeper learning and a higher focus on the learning process rather than the product of learning.


Unleashing the Potential of Student Learning: Exploring the Future Ready Emerging Practices Guides

Exploring New Opportunities in AI in education

Unlock Students’ Full Potential with Education Insights

How Data and AI are Changing for World of Education

Collaborating to bring AI innovation to education

Empower educators to explore the potential of artificial intelligence

Collaborating to bring AI innovation to education

Microsoft AI help & learning

Introduction to Azure OpenAI Service – Training

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning – Office of the Department of Education

Ethical guidelines on the use of AI and data in teaching and learning for educators

Glossary of AI terms for educators

Curriculum guides for AI

Writing AI policies

Additional Guides

To find more of our Emerging Practice Guides, click here!

Developed with support from Microsoft