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When AI is used in PD, educators can better reflect on their instructional practices and target areas for improvement

AI’s pivotal role in authentic PD


When AI is used in PD, educators can better reflect on their instructional practices and target areas for improvement

Many people envision artificial intelligence’s (AI) role in education with a sci-fi twist, but in reality, AI is already embedded in promising new tools that address student learning, real-time feedback, and continuous professional development (PD).

AI-powered learning tools can offer students immediate feedback and a customized learning experience. And when used in PD, time-strapped educators can better reflect on their instructional practices and target areas for improvement.

Edthena, a provider of video-powered PD tools, is harnessing AI in its new AI Coach platform. The solution helps schools and districts give teachers access to supportive coaching to improve teaching effectiveness. AI Coach uses artificial intelligence to guide teachers through coaching cycles aligned to common growth areas.

Using AI Coach platform, teachers connect with Edie, their virtual coach. Edie asks teachers about their professional goals, and then teachers analyze and reflect on videos of their classroom instruction by adding time-stamped comments.

Edie takes a guide-on-the-side approach to help teachers summarize the evidence found during video analysis and develop action plans to increase impact with their students. As part of their conversation with Edie, teachers develop a short-term goal, identify a strategy for change, and commit to a timeline for implementation. This evidence-based process enables teachers to receive many of the benefits of instructional coaching even if an in-person coach is not available.

“In the conversational AI space…you’re fundamentally able to have a conversation with the computer on the other end. That’s really exciting,” said Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena. “What it means is that we’re able to take the ideas of some general-purpose technologies people are becoming familiar with and translate those techniques to professional learning for teachers. High-quality coaching is essential to helping teachers succeed in the classroom. However, ensuring that a coach is available for every teacher on a regular basis to support ongoing reflection was a near-impossible task until now. The AI Coach platform is a support tool for teachers that complements the efforts of school leaders and instructional coaches.”

The AI Coach platform helps school leaders and instructional coaches support teachers’ continuous learning and growth.

“Ideally, we’d have enough coaches and time to go visit every teacher in-person, but that’s just not possible, and it means that some teachers are getting ongoing support of a coach while others aren’t,” said Valerie Minor, coordinator of professional development and leadership at Keller Independent School District in Keller, Texas. “I see great value in being able to offer all teachers access to AI Coach which can guide them through cycles of self-reflection and empower them to continue their professional learning.”

Trained by experienced instructional coaches, the AI Coach platform personalizes the coaching cycle for each teacher’s self-identified focus areas. For example, if a teacher indicates they are interested in observing for “checks for understanding,” the AI Coach platform provides related observation tips for the video analysis. Then, when it’s time for the teacher to develop a strategy for making progress against their goal, the platform offers curated content to help the teacher learn more about “checks for understanding.”

“AI Coach by Edthena is not meant to replace existing coaches,” said Geller. “Instead, the platform is meant to help every school and district provide more coaching and feedback than they can deliver today due to not having coaches or not having enough coaches.”

And in the future, AI’s capabilities will bring more professional development opportunities to educators.

“We’ll continue to build out the ability of the AI to suggest things in a more nuanced way,” Geller said. “When it’s time to suggest more resources, maybe those resources will become more nuanced over time. Maybe the way the back-and-forth interaction works can become even more open-ended.”

Using AI in professional development is in its infancy, but its potential is great.

“I think we’re really at the beginning of the next generation of teacher professional learning tools. What it means for teachers is more personalized experiences that feel more streamlined, more integrated, and in some ways, invisible–more magic, because the best technology is the one that feels like magic,” Geller said. “I think where we’re headed is that teacher professional development tools will have the same delight and the same ease of use as when you pick up your phone and ask the phone’s digital assistant for the weather.”

AI Coach by Edthena is in continued development and testing with teachers this spring. Schools and districts will be able to share the AI Coach platform with all of their teachers starting in fall 2022.

“I think that idea that what AI will do is take technology for PD to this place that it feels invisible, magical–I think that’s the type of experience we’re trying to provide. Technology shouldn’t make people feel disconnected from each other; it should make them feel connected,” Geller said. “It shouldn’t feel like something extra; it should feel like something that’s streamlined. As we’ve built this tool, we’ve built something that helps prepare people to be better collaborators with their colleagues, their stakeholders, and their community while also making it easy to use.”

To learn more about the AI Coach platform and to join the waitlist for access, visit www.YourAICoach.com.

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Laura Ascione

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