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AI in Education: Region One hosts 9th annual UTECH Conference

Focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom, Region One Education Service Center (Region One) welcomed over 250 educators to its 9th Annual Using Technology (UTECH) Conference, held Nov. 3, 2023 at the Region One Conference Center in Edinburg.

The UTECH Conference promotes innovative instructional methods to educators, information technology specialists and other professionals through hands-on education technology professional development sessions. Sessions were led by educators in the Region who are at the forefront of instructional technology trends and teaching methods.

According to Region One Instructional Technology Specialist Karla Lara, the conference was designed to address the hesitancy and caution regarding AI among educators.

“We wanted to start a discussion with our educational community on how AI can be used as a tool,” Lara said. ”A lot of the participants were cautious about the idea of AI in education. However, after hearing from our keynote speaker, education technology advocate Holly Clark, they began to see it from a different perspective.“

The instructional technology specialist said educators gained valuable tools and insights as to how they can implement AI in lesson planning and brainstorming after attending conference sessions.

Santa Rosa ISD Spanish teacher Rosa Ramos said she attended the conference to remain informed on current industry practices.

“AI is everywhere,” Ramos said. “Teachers need to be up to date because our students are already aware of AI and its usability. As educators, we need to be able to integrate technology in classroom to supplement students’ knowledge and utilize it to increase student outcomes.”

In addition to the variety of professional development sessions, participants interacted with the Lyford CISD Tech Squad’s EdTech Playground, a student-led exhibition that introduces educators and students to devices and games that can be used to advance STEM concepts in the classroom.

The technology presents educators with different ways to learn, according to Lyford High School senior Avery Greenhill.

“It’s so exciting for so many adults to interact with our exhibit and be so interested in how we utilize technology,” Greenhill said. “Essentially, we’re teaching the teachers, and it’s so cool because they are more likely to use technology in their classrooms.”

The Region One Instructional Technology Department helps improve student outcomes by providing school systems with innovative professional development and technical assistance. The department will host a summit on AI for educators in December.