ASU+GSV Summit action shots

What’s on the Horizon for AI in Education?


Written by V. Châu with Daniel Obregon, Maxine Webb, & Tyler Nakatsu

What’s on the Horizon for AI in Education?

Innovations in AI for educators and its role today

With the emergence of artificial intelligence, global workforce shifts, and new social challenges, what will the future demand of our education systems?

That question was at the heart of the 2024 ASU+GSV Summit, an annual gathering of PreK-12 leaders, higher education, workforce experts, not-for-profit organizations and foundations, investors, and edtech startups to explore ways to accelerate cross-sector societal impact.

This year, several Leading Educators team members were on the ground, engaged in rich conversations about how anticipated shifts will shape the path to realizing our mission of ensuring every student has access to excellent and equitable teaching every day. I spoke with Daniel Obregon, Tyler Nakatsu, and Maxine Webb about lessons and ideas they are taking away from the summit.

Daniel Obregon, Chief Partnerships Officer

Circle cut-out headshot of Daniel Obregon, Chief Partnerships Officer
Daniel Obregon

Daniel Obregon is the Chief Partnerships Officer at Leading Educators, leading our innovation and growth efforts, including program strategy, partnership cultivation, and marketing and communications. Through more than twenty years of strategic marketing and communications work, Dan’s leadership has created new paths to innovation and impact in education technology, college and career readiness, the future of work, and, most crucially, equity and opportunity.

AI is everything everywhere all at once.

Just like the 2022 Oscar-winning film, AI’s rapid pace makes it exhilarating and, dare I say, a little hard to follow. However, one thing is certain: AI is here to stay, and its impact on the world of education will be profound.

At the core of many conversations at ASU+GSV was the desire to harness the power of AI to elevate human potential. How can AI help educators do more, do better, and do new, and what guardrails are needed to ensure the responsible use of AI in the classroom?

There were great examples of the field moving forward with AI through experimentation, including many educators who were part of Google GSV’s Innovation Fellowship, as well as encouragement from large district leaders such as Alberto Carvalho of Los Angeles Unified School District and Calvin Watts of Gwinnett County Public Schools who both shared how they’re leveraging AI to support their students.” 

Bridging the gap between policy and practice has never been more important.

“Over the years, attendance at ASU-GSV has broadened beyond the investment and tech community to include voices from across the education ecosystem, including policymakers, systems leaders, philanthropy, nonprofits, and more. This year’s conference had the most diverse range of stakeholders I’ve ever seen at the event, which is encouraging.

To tackle the systemic challenges across education, we need close collaboration across stakeholders to ensure what’s best for students by aligning policy with practice and enabling proven models with technology. 

ASU+GSV offers a space to explore innovations with great potential and highlight evidence-based solutions already driving impact in the classroom. The combination of technological innovation and research-backed practices can enable organizations like Leading Educators to reach even more students at scale and increase our impact on learning outcomes.” 

Equity must remain front and center of the innovation agenda.

“While new technologies, like AI, hold great promise for improving education, they also risk exacerbating equity gaps. This session, moderated by Geoff Livingston, highlights the need to reflect on these crucial questions surrounding innovation: Who benefits from it? Who collaborates in its creation? Who drives the process?

We must protect against the misuse or misdesign of technology that could reinforce existing biases or stereotypes, lead to misinformation, or perpetuate discrimination. At the same time, we need to create opportunities for marginalized populations to have access to the benefits new technology has to offer, which is why I’m excited about organizations like that are focused on democratizing access to AI tools so that educators can bring more of what AI has to offer to their students.” 

Looking Ahead

First, we can’t ignore AI. Even if you’re skeptical about AI, not engaging with it and learning about it could result in misuse of the technology (even if the intentions are good) that could negatively impact student outcomes and deepen equity gaps for those students with the greatest needs.

Second, we need to remember that we’re in this together. Public, private, and nonprofit organizations must collaborate to address systemic challenges across education. We can’t operate in silos, and we must make sure that we’re aligning policies and incentives to create solutions that will improve instructional practices and lead to better learning results for students.” 

Tyler Nakatsu, Senior Director, Digital Solutions & Strategy

Circle cut-out headshot of Tyler Nakatsu, Senior Director, Digital Solutions & Strategy
Tyler Nakatsu

Tyler Nakatsu leads digital solutions and strategy on the Leading Educators’ innovation team. As the senior director of digital products and strategy, Tyler shapes the portfolio of digital products and services as part of our focus on new models in education. 

Tomorrow’s classroom will look very different. That is a good thing.

“Our educators face many complex challenges every day: stagnant student outcomes, absenteeism, and the wellness of both educators and students.

New solutions, including those that are tech- and AI-enabled, can be part of the solution. For example, AI offers the potential to redesign learning environments, enhance classroom instruction, manage administrative tasks, and personalize learning. It can also support rapid teacher coaching and development cycles across multiple schools. Tailored support of this kind has always been needed, but is difficult for school systems of any size to scale.

It also brings some risks. Rapid adoption without thoughtful implementation could lead to an overreliance on AI, potentially widening the digital divide and exposing users to poorly designed solutions. Thus, successful implementation will require collaborative and networked learning, leadership, and piloting programs. Evaluating the evolving nature of tools through flexible procurement processes is crucial.”

AI Offers New Possibilities for Preparing Students for the World.

“New technology and AI, in particular, come with a mix of bright spots. For example, AI can be used as a tool to foster environments that sustain democracy, enhance collaborative problem-solving among students, and address absenteeism with innovative learning methods.

The post-pandemic era is a prime time for innovation with increased connectivity. AI offers opportunities to reimagine educational assessments and adapt to rapid changes.”

Looking Ahead 

“The teaching profession faces major structural challenges, such as high turnover, the need to cater to diverse student needs, and balancing multiple informal roles beyond teaching.

I hope AI can alleviate some of these pressures by automating administrative tasks, supporting lesson planning, and creating personalized learning materials, allowing educators to focus more on human connections and less on routine tasks. The ASU+GSV Summit provided valuable insights into how AI integration can look in practice. I’m excited that Leading Educators is already leaning into new learning and support models that embrace technology

Maxine Webb, Managing Director Of Development

Circle cut-out headshot of Maxine Webb, Managing Director Of Development
Maxine Webb

Maxine Webb is the Managing Director of Development at Leading Educators, leading efforts to cultivate philanthropic partnership in our mission. Having led teams who’ve collectively raised more than $20 million for organizations like City Year, the American Lung Association, Girl Scouts, and most recently, the ACLU of Wisconsin, Maxine knows the power of strong, integrated coalitions and the difference philanthropy can make in fueling movements.

A more just and equitable system will require coordinated action from all of us.

“ASU+GSV provided an immersive experience for me, characterized by thought-provoking discussions, interactive sessions, (endless) networking opportunities, and access to cutting-edge innovations in educational technology. I had the chance to engage with industry leaders, educators, and philanthropic leaders, gaining insights into the emerging solutions shaping the future of education.

What resonated most with me was the coming together of so many seemingly disparate sectors that all play a vital role in the ecosystem of our country’s educational system. People from all walks of life shared their informed perspectives on what will ultimately lead to improved educational outcomes for all students, especially those who have been historically marginalized.” 

The role of philanthropy is evolving.

I see great promise and potential in the role of philanthropy at this critical juncture. Philanthropy in educational technology can fund research and development of innovative tools, provide access to technology for underserved communities, support teacher training in tech integration, and foster collaborations between tech companies and educators to create impactful, enduring solutions for students and teachers.”

Looking Ahead

“The ASU+GSV Summit impressed upon me the urgency of addressing the challenges related to educational technology. Philanthropy can help bridge the digital divide, ensuring equitable access to educational resources and empower educators to adapt to rapidly evolving technological landscapes.

I’m encouraged by the leadership and vision of our philanthropic sector, which is already at the forefront of this AI revolution, for working in partnership with nonprofits to better understand the real needs to maximize long-term impact and sustainable outcomes.”

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