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Educators for the Future:
An AI Education Accelerator

In the sprawling city of Los Angeles, where dreams are as diverse as the people who call it home, an ambitious initiative was taking shape. It aimed to bridge the gap between education and the rapidly evolving world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest K-12 district in the United States, recognized the urgency of preparing its students for the future. It was a district filled with promise, where over 70% of the students identified as Latino, and 10% as Black or African American. The educator population was equally diverse, reflecting the vibrant tapestry of the city.

The IBM Artificial Intelligence Education Accelerator (EA) program was the catalyst for this transformation. It was designed to upskill educators in the development and integration of Computer Science (CS) and AI across the district. This was not merely about teaching technology; it was about unlocking opportunities, promoting equity, and filling the workforce gaps that loomed on the horizon.

The Burning Glass Revelation

The program's foundation rested on a revelation from a report by Burning Glass Technologies in 2020. Markow and Sederberg identified AI and machine learning as the most disruptive skills, projected to grow in demand by a staggering 71% over the next five years. The data spoke loudly: the future belonged to AI and ML, and Los Angeles Unified School District was determined to equip its students and educators to be a part of it.

The Three Prongs of Transformation

The AI Education Accelerator had three distinct components, each with a unique mission.

  1. The Teacher Leader Network (TLN): Sixty-three educators from fifty-one different schools formed this group. They embarked on a journey from a beginner's level of AI knowledge to becoming torchbearers for AI and CS education. The TLN groups took on the challenge of developing innovative AI and CS education pathways.

  2. The Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI): Comprised of administrators, central office staff, instructional technology facilitators, and EdTech coaches, the ITI group had a critical role. They discussed labor market needs, workforce gaps, and how to prepare students for the evolving job landscape in AI and CS.

  3. The Digital Citizen Team (DC): Seventy participants from practitioner and Verizon Innovative Learning Schools came together in this group. They delved into concepts like misinformation, 'deepfakes,' and the intersection of AI and social studies. Their aim was to explore AI concepts and share their knowledge with colleagues and students.

IBM AI workshop with MindSpark Learning
Challenges and Goals

Los Angeles Unified School District faced a profound challenge: how to ensure equitable access to quality AI and CS education. The answer lay in empowering educators. The TLN group, in particular, created plans to actively engage students in AI and CS concepts, guided by international standards. They saw AI as a tool for good and an opportunity to dissect false narratives perpetuated by big data and algorithms.

One participant encapsulated the experience: "The hands-on experience and the resources were a highlight of my time. This was very engaging and allowed us to take part actively. Thank you for providing the tools that we can use in the classroom right away."

The Work Done by Participants

Participants did not stop at acquiring knowledge. They actively engaged with colleagues to develop implementation plans in their respective schools and communities. They tackled ethical considerations head-on, experiencing simulations like the Social Credit Score that opened their eyes to underlying biases. These experiences paved the way for more profound discussions on the ethical implications of AI.

Following these discussions, participants went back to their classrooms, implementing new content, upskilling their colleagues, and returning with evidence of their progress. They created curriculum and resources, taught AI lessons, and led professional development sessions.

Sustaining Progress and Involving the Community

For the TLN group, the journey did not end with the program. They formed AI committees in their schools, shared successes through exhibitions, newsletters, and social media, and engaged with parents and industry partners to identify community problems solvable with AI. They created a ripple effect, involving the community and ensuring that AI's relevance extended beyond the classroom.

In the spirit of collaboration, the district planned to work with other educational institutions that had implemented AI in K-12 settings, sharing knowledge and support.

Instructional Technology Initiative: Fostering Ethical AI Conversations

The ITI group embarked on a journey to prepare students for AI's ethical implications. They explored AI's use for social good, analyzed diversity in AI, and created pathways for their students. Their discussions centered on supporting L.A. Unified educators in embracing and implementing CS and AI education.

Digital Citizen Group: Exploring AI Concepts

The DC group ventured into visual representation of misinformation, 'deepfakes,' and the evolving field of AI studies. They explored employability skills and took the Turing Test to differentiate human responses from computer responses. Their discussions went beyond theory, focusing on practical applications for students.

Conclusion: The Impact of the Education Accelerator Program

Through the Education Accelerator program, Los Angeles Unified School District educators transcended from beginners to leaders in AI education. They empowered themselves and their students, recognizing the importance of AI in the future workforce. The partnership between MindSpark and the district ensured equitable access to AI and CS education, making these subjects integral to learning.

In the city of dreams, the dreamers were now equipped with the skills and knowledge to shape the future. Los Angeles Unified School District had taken a bold step, ensuring that AI and ML were not just technological buzzwords but tools of empowerment for its diverse and promising student population.

Learn More With Our Webinar Series

View our webinar with L.A. Unified discussing equitable computer science and AI education:

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