Torrance Unified School District Prepares for District-Wide AI Implementation

Fri Jul 05 08:38:00 PDT 2024

To address unfamiliarity with AI among students and staff, TUSD employed several approaches.

The Torrance Unified School District (TUSD) is in the final stages of formally adopting new guidelines and policies that will allow for the integration of AI into classrooms. Tara O’Brien, Rob Johnson and Taraneh Karim from the district’s EdTech Team (within the Educational Technology and Information Services department, led by Gil Mara) have been developing its AI implementation plan in conjunction with the TUSD AI committee, a group of stakeholders that includes teachers, administrators and technology specialists.

Their goals for incorporating AI into education are to provide equity and access for all students and to equip them with the skills necessary for future job opportunities. The TUSD EdTech team believes that AI has the potential to dramatically transform teaching and learning by supplementing excellent teaching. They also recognize the need to educate teachers on AI, as they are fundamental to maximizing its potential.

The EdTech Team conducted anonymous surveys to understand how AI is being utilized in supporting curriculum, instruction, and assessment, gathering feedback from both students and teachers to inform future educational strategies. One survey found that over 60% of teachers had never used AI, highlighting the need for increased AI literacy among educators. The district acknowledges that teacher literacy is crucial for students to benefit from AI in education, as teachers need to guide and model its use.

To address unfamiliarity with AI among students and staff, TUSD employs several approaches:

  • Teacher and Student Surveys: The district launched multiple anonymous surveys with students and teachers. Students were surveyed twice, with 1,100 responses collected in the fall and 1,200 in the spring, focusing on their preferred platforms, usage frequency, and reasons for using AI. Teachers were surveyed in the winter, providing 400 responses that offered insights into their experiences and perspectives. Collecting this comprehensive feedback has been crucial for tailoring AI integration to effectively enhance educational outcomes. The survey data has also been transformative in the development of district-wide AI goals that impact educators and students. TUSD has used this data to inform its AI implementation plan and to advocate for increased AI literacy in the district. TUSD has used this data to inform its AI implementation plan and to advocate for increased AI literacy in the district.
  • Empowering student success with AI: Student survey data has been crucial in identifying strategies to enhance student engagement with AI, thereby narrowing the digital divide and equipping students with the digital literacy and fluency necessary for success beyond their TK-12 education. Additionally, student feedback has been fundamental in crafting guidelines for effective student AI use. 
  • Professional Development: The district has been offering workshops and webinars that cover AI basics, AI use for lesson and curriculum development, and AI's role in supporting digital literacy and citizenship.
  • Onboarding Presentation: The EdTech team has been conducting AI onboarding presentations at school sites. In August, the district will offer the presentation to all school principals, introducing them to AI concepts and best practices. Families and community members will be invited to attend a webinar in the fall to provide information on AI usage and the newly established TUSD policies.
  • Pilot Program: The district has launched a paid pilot program with 25 teachers who will pilot the use of SchoolAI, an AI education platform, in their classrooms. The program will involve training and provide opportunities for feedback on the platform. The goal is to gain insights into how AI can be effectively integrated into teaching and learning.
  • District Resources: A webpage of resources related to AI in education has been created for the district, offering information and guidance to staff.

TUSD’s AI implementation plan is still a work in progress. The new policy is expected to go before the school board for approval in the fall. Included with the new guidelines will be updates to student and teacher technology Acceptable Use Policies, in which parents and families will grant permission for their students between the ages of 13-17 to be able to use AI tools, satisfying the terms of service for AI tools such as ChatGPT. 

The EdTech team is excited to use AI to transform teaching and learning, especially to address student equity, improve student achievement, growth, and engagement. They view the introduction of AI as a unique opportunity for everyone - students and staff - to start from the same baseline and understand AI's capabilities and limitations. The team is enthusiastic about guiding and supporting teachers to highlight the positive impact AI can have on their professional and personal lives. 

Taraneh Karim, Rob Johnson and Tara O'Brien pose inside SoFi Stadium