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SREB takes the lead on AI and education in the South. What are the takeaways so far?

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In February 2024, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) announced a two-year commission to convene leaders in education and business, charting a course “for how AI is used in classrooms and how to prepare a workforce that is being transformed by technology,” according to this press release

Then in April 2024, SREB announced who would be on the commission. “Chaired by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and co-chaired by Brad Smith, president of Marshall University in West Virginia and former Silicon Valley CEO, the commission consists of more than 60 policymakers, education leaders, and business executives from each of SREB’s 16 states,” said the press release.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) was the fourth state in the nation to issue guidance to schools on using AI in classrooms.

Four members of the commission are from North Carolina, including leaders from DPI:

  • Vera Cubero, Western Region Digital Teaching and Learning, DPI;
  • Vanessa Wrenn, Chief Information Officer, DPI;
  • Robert Van Dyke, Assistant Director for Computer Science, IT, and Technology Education, DPI; and
  • Jay Chadhauri, State Senator.

The second meeting of the SREB Commission on AI was held recently in June 2024.

“The commission’s approach is to provide leadership to education and the workforce that is thoughtful, strategic and practical,” said SREB President Stephen Pruitt in a press release. “What we saw in this second meeting is a tsunami of information. Commission members are working to ensure they have the best information and the best recommendations as they lead the work in the South and country.”  

After the meeting, SREB released five takeaways from the work to date:

1. Address the ethical and privacy implications of AI first

“Commission members emphasized the need to create guidelines that protect student privacy, maintain AI equity and inform K-12 educators and students of the potential risks and benefits of AI.”

“Ethics should be the rock, the foundation on which AI is built. While AI has tremendous potential for good, if we are not creating it on an ethical framework and including a diverse population in its creation, we risk biases that could have a negative impact.” 

–Kim Christ, member of the commission’s workforce skills subcommittee and Director of Workforce and Education Innovation for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness

2. Build a comprehensive AI framework for K-12 educators and administrators

“The SREB region should work to clearly define AI literacy, establish best practices and create resources for training and support to ensure consistency. In addition, commission members stressed that integrating AI into education requires teachers to adapt to new technologies and teaching methods. Adequate professional development and support, they said, are necessary to ensure that teachers can effectively use AI tools in the classroom.”

“AI presents an incredible opportunity for educators to combat disinformation. With generative AI tools producing results often with no citations or even fabricated ones, it’s imperative for us to teach students to critically assess information and recognize quality sources.” 

– Matthew Kinservik, member of the commission’s postsecondary instruction subcommittee and University of Delaware Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

3. Integrate AI through all school disciplines

“Preparing students for the future workforce involves teaching them how to use AI tools effectively. Commission members stressed that AI should be integrated across all subject areas, not just computer science. An interdisciplinary approach ensures that students develop a broad understanding of AI and can apply it in various contexts to enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills​.”

“AI isn’t taking anything away that shouldn’t have already been done. Now, we can replace those and allow humans to focus on more meaningful work.” 

 John Matthew Cortez, member of the commission’s K-12 instruction subcommittee and high school AI educator in Pinellas County Florida Schools

4. Collaborate with industry and deliver students prepared with success skills

“Collaboration with industry partners is essential to ensure that the skills taught in schools align with the needs of the workforce. Industry feedback provides real-world context for students. In addition, preparing students by developing “durable” or “soft” skills such as critical thinking, creativity and ethical reasoning are essential to prepare them for an AI-driven workplace.”

“AI is a tool like the internet and other forms of technology. It’s how we are using it, how we want to use it, and how we plan to use it. I look at humans learning how to effectively use artificial intelligence, not AI taking away from humanity.” 

 Robbie Melton, member of the commission’s postsecondary instruction subcommittee and Tennessee State University Vice President for Technology and Innovation

5. Develop clear AI in education policy

“State and district policies play a vital role in shaping AI integration in education. Clear policies and guidance can help educators and administrators navigate the complexities of AI, set expectations, and ensure consistent implementation across different areas of a state. (To help states share strategies, SREB has begun publishing a scan of AI guidance, policy and standards on the Southern states).”

“Many of us don’t fully understand AI yet, but SREB has taken a bold step to bring people together and start defining it in various contexts. It’s a tool that will help us, but we need to be aware that it will do things beyond the exact instructions we give it.”

Eric Ebersole, member of the commission’s policy subcommittee and Maryland State Delegate

Next steps for the commission include developing recommendations for Southern states to lead on:

  • Using AI in teaching and learning, K-12 and postsecondary.
  • Developing related policies in K-12 schools, colleges and universities. 
  • Preparing students for careers in AI.  

Here are additional resources provided by SREB:

Commission Announcement

Commission Members

Meeting 1 Press Conference video

Meeting 1 Overview

Meeting 1 Keynote Speaker 1 Overview: Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana

Meeting 1 Keynote Speaker 2 Overview: Asa Hutchinson, Former Governor of Arkansas

Meeting 1 Keynote Speaker 3 Overview: Pat Yongpradit, CAO of

Meeting 1 Keynote Speaker 4 Overview: Nancy Ruzycki, Director of Undergraduate Laboratories at the University of Florida

SREB’s AI in Education Insights Newsletter

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.