Building an AI Steering Committee in One of the Largest Public School Districts in the Nation

Steffi Grado
January 11, 2024

We recently had the privilege of interviewing Antonio Vigil, the Director of Innovative Classroom Technology for Aurora Public Schools.  He is a lifelong educator, school leader, and helped to build the Aurora Public Schools AI Steering Committee.  Antonio shares his insights in building an AI Steering Committee for one of the largest public school districts in the nation.

Steffi: How did this AI Steering Committee get that started? Where did the idea come from?

Antonio: The steering committee grew out of the necessity to think more strategically around the integration of AI in public K-12 education… and discussions from forward thinking educators around the district.

We wanted to leverage AI for a transformation in public schools. We started with 13 members, and now we have a core group of about nine, including administrators, students, staff, and teachers. Our focus is on building AI literacy among teachers and transforming the learning environment.

We knew that it was going to be essential for us to ensure that our teachers had the first opportunity to experience AI to support their learning and to support their growth and to support their humanization within the classroom. So that's where we started.

Our initiatives were twofold: One was eventually we knew we're going to get to the policies, guidelines, procedures, etc, for best practices. But first and foremost, we doubled down on implementation for an AI tool at that time. We started thinking about ‘how is the AI steering committee going to create this bridge for teachers?’

I wanted to make sure we had district leadership on board before moving forward. I met individually with leaders in the district and shared our plan and the safeguards in place to build buy-in.

Steffi: Tell me about the committee.

Antonio: We have school administrators, we have students, we have staff, we have teachers. So every stakeholder represented within APS is part of that committee. And when we talk about AI within Aurora Public Schools (APS), we don't talk about the axis of good and evil, we talk about what is the transformative potential? What are the systems that exist already that it can integrate into very seamlessly? What sort of professional capacity building do we need to create in order to build that bridge to greater AI literacy and impact and efficacy. So we've been pushing for greater clarity, prioritizing the things that really matter the most, especially around security and privacy. Those are the biggest pushes that we've had.

And so that AI steering committee, then created a cross functional implementation team. So we have a team, which has now created key performance indicators [KPIs or Goals] for the deployment and use of MagicSchool AI. So it is our explicit way of tracking the progress associated with our implementation.

We recategorized the KPIs into three specific categories: ethics, engagement and usability. Within each of those domains, there are certain indicators that we’ll measure for at the end of q3 and q4. We have explicitly built a communication campaign with the high schools. We've been on site. We've done some professional learning with them to build their capacity and their awareness of the tool and how to utilize it. 

Our goal next year is to take all of the learning we'll be able to and share out some qualitative and quantitative data with the leadership team at the end of the school year. And our hope is that next year, one of the non-negotiables around onboarding and leadership in learning our professional development series, MagicSchool and just AI in general, is going to be a thread for that sort of onboarding process, and also capacity building on the professional learning side.

If you're an individual who's deeply engaged in utilizing supportive tools to really generate and iterate on your work, it's likely you're going to be more successful. We are hoping that those power users and that cohort of high performing AI engaged [users] around curriculum, around assessment – that those individuals are going to demonstrate higher performance with their academic achievement. 

I think we're ahead of the game because we've already established the metrics, the KPIs, and the dashboard for measuring the effectiveness or the efficacy of the deployment of the actual platform.

Steffi: What exactly has professional development and implementation looked like?

Antonio: Professional development exists both asynchronously and with targeted sessions. We have an asynchronous platform called Performance Matters with tutorials and courses for teachers. We also provide targeted professional learning for our high schools, demonstrating the impact of MagicSchool AI. Our goal is to make AI literacy part of the onboarding and professional development process.

Steffi: Advice to a school or district looking to form their own steering committee?

Antonio: When you first start, there should be some like mindedness around your outcomes and achievements. Conflict can and will arise amongst cross-functional communities; center and prioritize on what matters most. Ground and focus on student and teacher support, experiences and don’t lose track of the big picture. Commit to serving people, owning mistakes, and getting better every time you meet. 

Learn more about Antonio and follow him on his LinkedIn page here.