VP of Product, CL Next Jamie Sterling reflects on the present and future of education.
“It’s so dynamic, inspiring, and vibrant!” I exclaimed repeatedly while taking in the world of education innovation that was the ASU+GSV Summit 2023.
This year’s ASU+GSV Summit was bigger and better than ever before, minus some small snafus with having enough space and food for all attendees due to conference growth. As a first-time attendee, I expected to have a very engaging and educational week that I would walk away from with many takeaways, but I didn’t expect to feel as inspired as I was by the end of the event. I came home and proclaimed loudly to my family that I will change the world through education!
From my perspective as an innovator and change agent in K-12 education, my top three takeaways from the ASU+GSV Summit are outlined below.
1. AI Took Center Stage at the ASU+GSV Summit.
The 2023 ASU+GSV Summit highlighted the growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in education, with ChatGPT emerging as a key player and large language models all the rage. It was, by far, the most discussed topic.
Experts discussed how AI can enhance personalized learning, streamline administrative tasks, and even improve mental health support for students. ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI, was showcased as a powerful tool for facilitating natural language interactions between students and virtual assistants, providing real-time feedback and support to enhance learning outcomes.
Its potential to revolutionize the education sector was a hot topic among attendees, who were eager to explore its various applications and implications for the future of education. It also wrote the majority of this first paragraph under my guidance, which I thought would be a fun experiment as well!
It was truly exciting to feel as though we are in the midst of one of the largest revolutions in education (and the world!) of all time. At the ASU+GSV Summit, Professor Ethan Mollick of Wharton Graduate School stated that the explosion of generative AI is expected to gain us 20-80% more efficiency in white collar tasks and jobs, or as some reports have said, potentially up to a 10x productivity gain. For comparison, steam technology provided us with approximately a 25% productivity gain. What does this mean for us? Well, we honestly don’t know yet! And, everyone at the ASU+GSV Summit was very upfront about that.
At Carnegie Learning, we are lucky to have both a Research department and an Innovation department that are and will continue to be paying very close attention to the matter, using practical research to measure and evaluate the potential impacts on student outcomes, teacher support, and internal company practices. While we’re not sure of everything, what we are sure of is that it is unlikely AI will replace most jobs, but the people who use AI will displace those who do not. So, understanding generative AI is becoming more important to education and training at all levels.
At the ASU+GSV Summit, I was further intrigued to listen to Professor Mollick of Wharton discuss how he is training his students on the opportunities and pitfalls of AI. It was fascinating! The limits of AI that he shared with students were numerous but specifically focused on:
Additionally, AI offers students a place to practice their debate skills, hone their understanding of the written language, literacy, and mathematics, and receive immediate feedback without judgment or eyes on them. One example of this that was pretty fascinating was hearing the story of a student reading The Great Gatsby and trying to better understand the literary symbolism. They were able to speak with Jay Gatsby about their questions and kept the discussion going for two hours, thanking him at the end for spending time with her despite it being an AI bot. I think this is a really interesting study of the power these solutions may have.
And, it’s important that we don’t forget the potential upsides to educators who will benefit from easier scoring, review, and feedback processes, faster content generation, and virtual assistants. With generative AI, we can better solve one of the most challenging problems in the education space—limited instructor time and capacity!
Of course, with massive opportunity comes massive responsibility and the need to plan to mitigate potential risks or threats. Student security, privacy, bias, and discrimination in the algorithms and other ethical considerations are extremely important conversations that I’m glad everyone at the ASU+GSV Summit was having. It’s critical that we lay out all potential scenarios upfront when developing generative AI tools so that we think about these things during development and don’t rush forward to launch new AI products without the proper privacy, security, and bias considerations in place from day one!
Overall, the 2023 ASU+GSV Summit highlighted the immense potential of AI in education, while also emphasizing the need for thoughtful consideration and ethical practices when developing and implementing AI solutions.
2. Leaders in education are more inspired and passionate than ever but disappointed we haven’t challenged the status quo.
The disappointment was particularly strong because so many people indicated that they felt we had an opportunity presented during the COVID pandemic, during which we could have more strongly challenged the systems we work and abide by today in education.
We know some benefits have come from the pandemic. For example, we have seen post-pandemic that students now have 1:1 access to devices in most school districts and teachers have an increased comfort level with and access to learning technologies. Unfortunately, the system itself hasn’t changed in the ways we’d hope would be revolutionary.
For example, we’re right back to traditional practices related to standardized testing and requiring teachers to teach to the test, even though they reported benefits from the year when testing was paused and deprioritized. During that time, educators expressed how much freer they felt to engage their students in learning in new and engaging (and less rigid ways), while still being able to measure their progress through the abundance of formative assessment and ed tech tools available to them.
I heard loud and clear that we need to continue to do more to support teachers and challenge the status quo politically to ensure equal access, funding, and support for all students. We need to be more mindful of what we need to do to support a student body experiencing mental health issues at a higher rate than ever before. We need to rise to the challenge the world has given us to bolster the next generation and the one after that.
It was also wonderful to listen to Governor Jared Polis discuss his success in expanding Universal Preschool, Pre-K, and Extended Day Kindergarten across Colorado, which will continue to make a real and measurable impact to Colorado families.
As a woman working in STEM and technology, I was proud to see so many diverse, wonderful women leaders featured, all passionate and active in their efforts to change the world through education. One panel featuring Sheryl Lee Ralph (Barbara Howard from Abbott Elementary!), Janice Jackson (CEO, Hope Chicago and former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools), Joanna Smith-Griffin (CEO, AllHere) and Dr. Mahalie Hines (President, Common Ground Foundation) had me cheering and walking out of it saying “I will change the system; no, the world, no matter what it takes!
They spoke of sisterhood and mentorship needed to support female leaders, particularly Black female leaders, as the panel comprised all Black women, which I was so happy to see. There was a lot of discussion about how to continue to focus on the needs of diverse students and educators. And, generally, this group was one of the few to be so openly vocal about their disappointment in our inability to change the system post-COVID with the opportunity we were given. I was particularly moved by Sheryl Lee Ralph’s impassioned speech about recognizing and addressing how we’re in a new era of slavery due to the school-to-prison pipeline. I so appreciate the inspiration, brave leadership, and determination to question the status quo demonstrated by these amazing women.
3. K-12 schools and organizations are concerned over the loss of ESSER funding.
It was clear that there is a broad concern over how to strategically finish spending all ESSER funds—and a worry about what will happen when the funding goes away.
Overall, the sentiment I heard from a lot of educators and education technologists is that we have an infusion of cash now to implement specific programs, but that we haven’t made enough of an impact on the learning loss that has resulted from the pandemic. Teachers are also reporting issues with student disengagement that have not been fully resolved or brought back to pre-pandemic levels. That student disengagement and loss of learning opportunities may not be completely addressed by the time the ESSER funding program runs out. How will we continue to support students and their diverse learning needs? It’s a question we all need to think deeply about.
With the upcoming end of ESSER funding in the market, education, and tutoring companies are more likely to begin facing more challenging times. The one benefit of this may be that we weed out the lower-quality programs and products, in favor of higher-quality products that drive measurable student outcomes, as we heard Superintendent Carvalho discuss in regards to Los Angeles Unified School District and their consolidation of vendors and strategic ESSER expenditures!
Since data collection was not done to a high standard around ESSER funds, we also don’t have a good sense of what is working and what is not since schools took that money and threw it at a host of different products and services solutions. From what I heard at the event, I think that American education policymakers should be thinking long and hard about how to scale the things that worked best during these times. I also believe we need to gather better data and conduct research to extend funding past the ESSER cut-off date into the tutoring services and technologies that are helping schools scaffold. We should take a data-driven approach to scale the support that is working to improve all students' learning!
Reflecting on my experience at the ASU+GSV Summit, I realize how much I learned, how many incredible and smart people I met, and how fortunate and grateful I am to work for a company that continues to innovate fearlessly to ensure that future generations have access to the best education possible. I am more excited than ever about the possibilities ahead of us and our ability to bring ideas to life even more efficiently and effectively.
Jamie serves as VP of Product, CL Next (Carnegie Learning’s Innovation Department), where she strives to help Carnegie Learning continue to build innovative products that change the game in K-12 education, while empowering and supporting both students and educators. For the previous four years, Jamie served as VP of Product, STEM, at Carnegie Learning. Under Jamie’s leadership, the CL Product team won the EdTech Breakthrough Award for “Best Use of AI in Education” for the new LiveLab product and the “Best Artificial Intelligence Solution” 2019 and 2020 EdTech Awards for our flagship software solution, MATHia.® Prior to joining Carnegie Learning in 2017, Jamie was an early pioneer in education technology and digital and mobile marketing. Fun fact: Jamie was the first education marketer to advertise on Facebook’s “new ad platform” back in the day.
Jamie is also a mother of three boys and four dogs and hundreds of houseplants. She can be found reading a new book in her limited spare time.Explore more related to this author
It’s critical that we lay out all potential scenarios upfront when developing generative AI tools so that we think about these things during development and don’t rush forward to launch new AI products without the proper privacy, security, and bias considerations in place from day one!
Jamie Sterling, VP of Product, CL Next (Carnegie Learning’s Innovation Department)