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Embracing AI in Education

Embracing AI in Education
Kelly Fast, Director of Academic & Experiential Programs
AI Graphic

Imagine a world where technology seamlessly blends with reality, shaping an educational experience that fluctuates between utopia and dystopia. In this world, a student starts their day under the guidance of artificial intelligence (AI). Their AI assistant plans their schedule, optimizes their route to school, and keeps track of crucial deadlines. Upon entering the classroom, their presence is registered by an AI facial recognition system. Each lesson is tailored to their unique learning style, with AI-driven platforms adapting the content to their pace and understanding.

In this conception, AI elevates the teacher's role. Educators, armed with real-time data and AI tools, provide personalized content and assessments, shifting from routine tasks to nurturing each student's potential. The classroom becomes a collaborative learning hub, with AI enhancing teamwork and key interpersonal skills.

However, there's a darker side. In a dystopian twist, AI, while promising to streamline education, diminishes personal interaction and creative thought. The student, heavily reliant on AI, loses critical and independent thinking abilities. Teachers' roles are reduced as AI becomes the main source of knowledge in the classroom.

In both visions, AI in education is a double-edged sword. It promises engaging, limitless, and personalized learning, yet also risks an over-reliance on technology, which could erode the essence of human touch in education. It's crucial to navigate this landscape carefully, using AI to augment human learning, not replace it. The future of education with AI lies in finding a balance that preserves our humanity while embracing innovation.

Cascades Academy's Forward-Thinking Approach

As the Director of Academic and Experiential Programs at Cascades Academy, I'm continually inspired by our real-world learning experiences and commitment to innovation. Our educational approach, deeply rooted in experiential and off-campus learning, is a testament to our dedication to deeper learning. AI integration stands out as we navigate the evolving landscape of education technology and offer our students a 21st-century education.

AI is rapidly transforming the ways we approach teaching, learning, and administrative tasks. A 2023 survey reveals an increasing trend in educational settings, where 64% of teachers are actively exploring the use of generative AI technologies, and a significant 40% have integrated it into their teaching practices at least every week. Organizations like Getting Smart and the AI Education Project are at the forefront, creating resources for this shift, and Da Vinci Schools' Project Leo exemplifies how AI can tailor student projects and enrich learning experiences. This trend is matched by a growing consciousness about AI's ethical use in education, prompting districts and schools, including Cascades Academy, to implement comprehensive codes of conduct and usage guidelines. Consequently, AI's role in education is transitioning from a novel idea to a practical and impactful tool, influencing teaching methods, student engagement, and education policies.

AI Summit at Cascades Academy: Pioneering AI Integration in Education

Cascades Academy's recent AI Summit, "AI: Pre-K Through Life," underscored our commitment to be a leader in integrating AI into education.

This event brought together esteemed professionals from diverse fields, showcasing how best to embed AI into our curriculum and administrative processes while also sparking community-wide conversations about this groundbreaking technology. Our discussions spanned from educational advancements to the application of AI in healthcare and law, offering multifaceted insights into AI's expanding role.

"I think as a species, we've just stepped into a brand new era that is both terrifying in terms of its implications and the biggest and most important opportunity for value creation that has ever existed." - Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart CEO & “AI: Pre-K Through Life” Panelist

Panel of Experts Speaking at an Event

A deep dive into AI's role in reshaping education was at the heart of the discussion. With a panel of educators and specialists guiding the discourse, the focus was on aligning AI with our core mission of providing hands-on, experiential learning and maintaining tailored student engagement. The panelists explored how AI can transform conventional teaching, enhancing student engagement in creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving. Adapting teaching methods to incorporate AI as a complement to human decision-making was a key point. The conversation also ventured into the ethical dimensions of AI in education, addressing concerns like bias, data management, and implications for college admissions. This dialogue served as a clarion call for educators to thoughtfully integrate AI, equipping students for a future where critical thinking, creativity, and humanistic values are still paramount.

AI in Teacher Narrative Comment Reports

Cascades Academy's introduction of AI-assisted teacher narrative comment reports represents a significant step forward in leveraging technology to enhance the storytelling of a student's educational journey. By collaborating with division heads and using a series of targeted questions, teachers gather detailed insights into each student's progress and learning experiences. These responses are then processed by a custom AI tool, developed in partnership with PlayLab. This innovative approach goes beyond mere efficiency. It allows for a richer, more nuanced portrayal of each student's unique learning path, capturing their achievements, challenges, and growth in a way that traditional reporting methods may not.

By synthesizing complex educational data into accessible narratives, the AI tool enables educators to highlight specific areas of a student's growth, including social, emotional, and cognitive development. This personalized reporting paints a vivid picture of the student's path, reflecting individual learning styles and progress in specific subjects, skills, and competencies.

"It's not about what AI can do for us, but about what we can do with AI." - Kirk McDonald, Former Apple Data Science Leader & “AI: Pre-K Through Life” Panelist

Balancing Technology with Human Insight

Teacher with a student

While we explore the advantages of AI at Cascades Academy, we remain committed to maintaining the human essence of teaching. AI tools are used to enhance, not replace, the insights and feedback our teachers provide. The goal is to use AI as a tool that aids our educators, not as a substitute for their judgment and expertise. By thoughtfully combining AI's analytical capabilities with our teachers' understanding of their students, we can enhance the quality of our narrative reports while preserving the personal connection that is central to our educational philosophy. Ultimately Cascades Academy aims to provide a comprehensive, nuanced, and deeply personal educational experience to each student, preparing them for a future where technology and human insight coexist harmoniously.

To further this mission, we're exploring how to launch an AI Working Group at Cascades Academy. This new initiative will be an opportunity for parents, students, educators, and community members to join us in establishing AI's role in our school. We value your insights and want your participation in this collaborative endeavor to seamlessly integrate AI in a way that both enhances our students' learning and prepares them for a tech-savvy future. If you're interested in contributing to this exciting journey, we encourage you to get in touch ( and share your ideas. Together, let's shape an AI-empowered future at Cascades Academy.