Readout from our Leadership Roundtables at SXSW

Most of the aiEDU team was on the ground in Austin, TX for the 2022 SXSW EDU conference, one of the biggest education events of the year. In addition to some long-overdue in-person team bonding, we hosted two Leadership Roundtables on AI Education and Workforce Readiness.

The invitation-only gatherings were co-hosted by Booz Allen Hamilton, and included top influencers in the education ecosystem, including executives from:

  • Dallas Independent School District
  • Austin Independent School District
  • Grandview C-4 School District
  • Cambridge City Schools
  • The Kapor Center
  • Schmidt Futures
  • ServiceNow
  • T-Mobile for Education
  • Google.org
  • Latinos for Education
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • STEM Next Opportunity Fund
  • The Oakland REACH
  • CityBridge

The discussions spanned an array of topics under the umbrella of tech equity, AI education, and future readiness. As is usually the case with our conversations with educators, we spent very little time aligning on the challenge facing our schools — administrators and education leaders broadly agree that we must be doing more to prepare students for the new digital economy and society which awaits them, and for the need to integrate AI literacy into those efforts.

One participant noted that we need to consider alternative channels to reaching students, including opportunities to educate and empower parents through community-based platforms. This can help address one of the principal barriers to AI education: the lack of mandated classroom time dedicated to career exploration.

Another spoke about the need to raise awareness and literacy amongst administrators who are today making decisions about which AI tools they might employ to improve education. For instance, AI tutoring services are driving a lot of attention due to the acute need for remedial support in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns. However, such services risk putting students at risk of the negative impacts from poor design and biases/inequities that can be exacerbated by such automated tools that replace humans.

Discussion about bias and equity was central throughout both convenings. Beyond a catalog of the many ways that students could be impacted by AI and algorithms during and after high school, we elaborated on approaches which will help us reach historically underrepresented communities, which are at a higher risk of being displaced and harmed by biased algorithms. Reaching those students requires a strategy to reach their teachers, and one participant suggested a program of educator trainings designed to raise awareness amongst targeted cohorts of teachers from these at-risk communities.

Booz Allen, aiEDU’s co-host for the two convenings at SXSW EDU, was represented by Jandria Alexander, a Vice President and cybersecurity leader focused on the company’s Navy-Marine Corps clients and cross-market research and development. Jandria spoke about her work guiding the implementation of innovative technology solutions, emphasizing the importance of investing up the pipeline to inspire a more diverse group of students to build technical, computer science, and cybersecurity skills.

These conversations with education leaders are important opportunities to raise awareness about how nonprofits like aiEDU can work with schools and other nonprofit partners. We’re thrilled to have had the privilege of convening such an impressive group, and look forward to the next discussion, wherever that may be.

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