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Four Education Experts Weigh In on Key Issues

From AI to anti-inclusion policies, experts share thoughts on classroom-related topics dominating headlines

Posted in: Education and Human Services, Faculty Voices

A new school year presents new challenges that go far beyond homework assignments and pop quizzes. Here, education experts offer commentary on issues that educators, students and their parents are facing and how they can be tackled effectively.

Addressing and Using AI in School Curriculum

The advice I have for teachers is to approach AI as a learner. Whereas once a learner might wander into an old bookstore for discoveries, today an AI toolbox can provide similar discoveries.

  • Identify two or three AI tools that are close to your discipline, passion or profession, and go ahead and play.
  • Get the tool to work for you, and examine the output critically.
  • Do this on your own and more importantly with students – nothing is more powerful than playing and creating with students, collaboratively, discovering possibilities, problems and roadblocks together. That’s authentic learning (and teaching).

The voices that we’re not hearing in the media are our adjunct professors, our general education instructors and our tutors. On the student side, we are not hearing enough from multilingual writers, poor students with limited digital access, students with disabilities, and African American and Hispanic students. To understand the impact that AI is having in higher education requires that the press investigate these instructor and student experiences.

Emily Isaacs, Executive Director of the Office for Faculty Excellence

How Anti-Inclusion Efforts Impact Children

Without inclusion, children can’t live in their authentic selves and be in a safe space. If children don’t feel safe, they cannot learn. Children deserve inclusive policies so they can achieve their goals, live authentically and experience joy which is a fundamental human right.

Patricia Virella, Professor, Educational Leadership

While the rise of anti-inclusion efforts has shifted to the public arena, the U.S. has a long tradition of excluding and misrepresenting marginalized groups in schooling.

Rather than viewing current anti-LGBTQAI and BIPOC inclusion as ignorance or implicit bias of individual teachers or parents, such efforts must be placed within the broader context of historical and institutional oppression and its role in U.S. schooling.

As these racist, trans and homophobic debates rage on in school board meetings and television screens across the country, students are watching and are being affected. A 2019 report from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) named racism as a social determinant of health that “has a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families.” Referring to racism as a “socially transmitted disease passed down through generations,” the AAP acknowledged that children who are the targets of racism have the most significant health impacts.

When an individual is exposed to discrimination, they experience stress responses including “feelings of intense fear, terror, and helplessness.” When students experience stress reactions to racist and anti-LGBTQAI rhetoric, it can be inferred that it will also impact “how the brain and body respond to stress, resulting in short- and long-term health impacts on achievement and mental and physical health.”

Taken as a whole, these anti-inclusion efforts go beyond the textbook and are issues of serious health concerns, particularly for children whose identities are already targeted through racism, homophobia and transphobia.

Bree Picower, Professor, Teaching and Learning

Concerns Over Mental Health of Students

Anxiety and depression have been rising in young people over the past few years. Social media is considered one of the major factors behind this increase. Many students have traded in-person social connections for hours spent on their smartphones, and the result is that today’s students report being increasingly lonely. We know that close social relationships are important for our mental health and especially in a world in which young people report feeling increasingly stressed by concerns about gun violence, climate change, and the country’s political situation.

Jeremy Fox, Associate Professor of Psychology

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