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Report of the NEA Task Force on Artificial Intelligence in Education

NEA President Becky Pringle created the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence in Education to investigate the current and future roles of artificial intelligence in Pre-K–12 and higher education.
Published: June 26, 2024

I. Executive Summary

Technology is a transformative force in education. The digital revolution and artificial intelligence must be pedagogically harnessed by [educators] and integrated through active and human-centered teaching and learning methods and practices.

United Nations (UN) High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession Transforming the Teaching Profession: Recommendations and Summary of Deliberations of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, International Labour Office (Geneva, 2024), Go to reference

Throughout our seven months of work together, we have heard from NEA members brimming with excitement over the time they have saved planning lessons with artificial intelligence (AI), the creative jump start AI provided their music class when composing a new song, and the scene-reader that is helping their visually impaired students get a mental layout of the playground or classroom that surrounds them.

Recognizing the seismic potential of this technology led the Task Force to believe that, like the internet, access to safe and effective AI-enhanced technology should be viewed much like a modern-day utility and made available (equitably) to every student of every economic status, whether they are Native or newcomer; Black, brown, or White; LGBTQ+; or disabled.

We have also heard from educators dismayed by the zero scores inaccurately attributed to their students when AI was used to grade their assessments; those worried their districts are considering object recognition tools that will alert the police if AI has determined an object looks amiss; and those incensed by AI software that is unable to recognize the faces of their Black students when logging into lessons. We must never forget that artificial intelligence offers intelligence without consciousness. We are concerned by not only the evidence of bias and inaccurate or nonsensical outputs we found in numerous studies and articles but also the overconfidence and trust placed in untested AI technologies and lack of planning and evaluation that could be detrimental to our education systems, students, and educators. The lack of diverse representation in the development and evaluation of AI technology in education and the lack of clear and transparent data governance at every level of the education system are causes for alarm.

Our report and statement cover ideas that are essential to the question of AI in education, namely:

  1. Students and educators must remain at the center of education
  2. Evidence-based AI technology must enhance the educational experience
  3. Ethical development/use of AI technology and strong data protection practices
  4. Equitable access to and use of AI tools is ensured
  5. Ongoing education with and about AI: AI literacy and agency

At the heart of all our recommendations is the principle that humans must always be the center of the teaching and learning experience and play a significant role in every consequential education and employment decision. Coming out of the pandemic, authentic human-to-human relationships are more important than ever, with the U.S. Surgeon General warning us of an epidemic of loneliness and isolation and with student and educator mental health concerns remaining high. Some policy papers we reviewed used the phrase “keeping humans in the loop,” but we found this phrase to be an inadequate description of just how important it is to prioritize authentic and healthy educator-to-student relationships that help facilitate a sense of self, a sense of trust, and safety, all of which are critical to academic and lifelong success.

We spend considerable time in the report and in the proposed Policy Statement articulating the criticality of student, educator, and caregiver voice in the adoption and evaluation of AI and AI data policies, particularly if the technology will play a part in any high-stakes or determinative education or employment decision. We acknowledge that students and educators must have AI literacy and, ultimately, fluency if they are to have true agency over their own education and professional practice. Additionally, we stress the importance of including the diverse and intersectional perspectives and experiences of those who are Native, Asian, Black, Latin(o/a/x), Middle Eastern and North African, Multiracial, and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, and from all economic backgrounds and abilities; this is essential if AI technology is to be effective in its educational purpose.

One area that we believe will distinguish our report from similar association statements is our exploration of the powerful potential and risks that AI holds for students and educators with disabilities. People with disabilities are the most marginalized members of our society, and disability is an identity that can intersect with all other identities. Our belief is that AI technology must not conform to a purely ableist and privileged standard that neither serves nor adapts to the educational needs of students with disabilities.  Effective AI tools in education must be designed to meet a range of disabilities (i.e., learning disabilities, hearing impairments, visual impairments, etc.).

The second area that distinguishes our report from other similar reports is our exploration of the effects of AI on the climate. Although these technologies operate in virtual spaces, AI and the cloud will intensify greenhouse gas emissions, consume increasing amounts of energy, and require larger quantities of natural resources. Research suggests that a single generative AI query consumes energy at four or five times the magnitude of a typical search engine request, and image-generating tasks are even more energy-intensive. Further, with the increasing need for computing power, new data centers are being built across the country, often in rural areas that have lower land valuations compared to suburban or urban areas. These data centers need and compete for not only energy but also local natural resources, like water.

It is clear that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize the educational experience of our students and the professional experience of educators; therefore, it is essential that the National Education Association (NEA) play a leading role in ensuring that the transformation is a positive one.

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II. The Task Force and Its Work

II. The Task Force and Its Work

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.