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Reflections From the K-12 Symposium at OLC Innovate

  • 4 Min Read

AI, community building and equitable learning programs were all topics of interest at the first OLC Innovate K-12 Symposium.

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A new offering at the recent OLC Innovate conference signals a growing interest in supporting online and blended learning initiatives for the K-12 industry. The first-ever K-12 Symposium was a two-day event held in conjunction with the conference, and it welcomed K-12 teachers, administrators, consultants and advocates.

As I attended sessions and chatted with attendees, it was clear what is top of mind for many in the K-12 space—how do we embrace disruptive technologies, while serving our students? And how can we provide needed support around innovation when budgets are getting tighter, ESSER funds are going away, and demands on accountability keep increasing?

Let’s look at a few of the key highlights from the symposium:

AI Remains a Hot Topic

Much like the conversations happening with higher education audiences, there was a heavy focus on AI and how teachers, administrators and districts are thinking about it. Sessions focused on practical approaches from teachers, including idea sharing around integrating ChatGPT in assignments and how LLMs might be used in creative ways to reimagine assessment and engagement. While there were skeptics, most attendees were curious about implementation and lessons learned. Whether using AI to assist in brainstorming and planning, or as a centerpiece in learning activities, advocates for experimenting with AI touted the benefits in critical thinking, information literacy and meaning making with students.

From a strategic perspective, the conversations around AI focused on ethical use and academic integrity. In the opening panel, speakers discussed adamantly the need to stop fearing AI and for teachers and administrators to start embracing and learning. When asked about what teachers should consider if they are fearful about AI, one panelist noted that it is a moral imperative for kids to learn these skills for the future of work.

Learning for All: Designing Equitable Online and Blended Programs

Another question at the forefront of the symposium was around how to create equitable online and blended programs that meet the complex needs of K-12 students. School leaders focused on the foundation of SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) and the need for intentional design that honors student identities and the challenges that many students are facing. Many noted that online and blended learning can provide a reframing of student support, but the strategy needs to be much more than seamless technology, well-designed curriculum and stellar teaching.

Ensuring equitable learning in online and blended spaces means we are acutely aware of the student experience (in and out of their time at school) and we are personalizing and humanizing that learning experience using technology. In other words, we must be student-first rather than technology-first.

Community Building and Collaboration

Across many conversations, I heard about the benefits of community building and collaboration. This theme was evident when school leaders discussed the importance of engaging with parents and guardians in a positive way, while understanding that many of these same people raising the most vulnerable students had their own negative experience with schools. K-12 teachers and leaders are grappling with how to invite community voices in, and how technology plays an important role in that community-building. At the same turn, the ineffective use of technology creates more barriers for all community members—teachers, students and guardians alike.


The deep, engaging conversation at the K-12 Symposium validates what I already know about K-12 teachers and administrators: they are problem solvers who care deeply. But they’re also worried about how to meet growing demands in the wake of looming budget cuts and policy changes.

One thing that’s clear is that instructional technology will remain a critical pillar in the strategy to meet the challenges that these schools are facing, and there is an appetite for K-12 stakeholders to be engaged in the conversation about online and blended learning. With the advent of the K-12 Symposium, OLC has offered a much-needed space for that collaboration.

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Table of Contents

  1. AI Remains a Hot Topic
  2. Learning for All: Designing Equitable Online and Blended Programs
  3. Community Building and Collaboration
  4. Conclusion