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AI in Special Education: Paradigms, Programs, and Possibilities

Colorado Convention Center, 111/13

Listen and learn: Panel
Recorded Session
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University of Kansas
James D. Basham, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. His work is focused on developing future-ready learning environments that are equitable, beneficial, and meaningful for all learners. His research focused on UDL, AI, STEM education, learner-centered design, innovation, and technology in human learning. He has several federally and privately funded research and technical assistance projects, including the Center for Innovation, Design, and Digital Learning (CIDDL). He is well-published, has given hundreds of talks, and serves on various national and international boards for journals, companies, and education organizations.
Head of Research and Innovation
Jody Britten is a thought leader in digital learning, as an activist for purposeful, quality learning experiences for all children Jody currently serves as the Head of Research and Innovation for the Team4Tech Foundation and a partner at Jody's work ignites impact for global educators inspiring quality learning experiences. She has supported national and international private, public, and K12 organizations. Her work has supported large-scale change that has led to better learning experiences for children. She began her career as a public school educator and grounds her work in practical yet strategic efforts to transform learning systems.
Chief Research and Development Officer
Dr. Tara Courchaine is the Chief Research & Development Officer at CAST. In her role, she leads the research and development division to re-set CAST’s transformative vision for applied research in education for the next generation. She expands CAST’s network of enduring strategic partnerships across the applied research eco-system and helps to ensure equitable access to learning by advancing the body of knowledge around Universal Design for Learning, supportive technologies and inclusive education.
An experienced social entrepreneur and leader in technology for social impact, Ayan has a successful record in building and growing tech organizations that have helped millions globally– particularly minorities and the disadvantaged –to learn and secure jobs. Ayan is focused on unlocking opportunities for large-scale systems change and driving innovation through technology to transform how students across the globe learn through inclusive and equitable access to information. Since 2008, Kishore has served as the Chairman of the Board for Development Solutions Organization. Ayan received a BSS in Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech and an MS in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.
University of Central Florida

Session description

Can AI transform Special Education? Join us for a panel discussion as we dive into emergent paradigms, innovative programs, and future possibilities. Engage with experts in the field and hear about their work to deepen AI's role in individualized pedagogy and inclusive learning environments.

Purpose & objective

This panel is a collective of connected, albeit individual, voices and perspectives that can speak to the work that combines AI and special education. From policy to practice to parenting, these presenters have unique perspectives that will add value to the overall conversation.

Specifically, the panel would function as a high-impact intellectual forum, bringing together experts, educators, and policymakers to catalyze actionable strategies and ethical guidelines for AI's role in special education. It would essentially serve as an incubator for informed, multidisciplinary dialogue to drive use improvements and positive student outcomes for AI.
Reports from other conversations have been used to outline six focus areas for this panel. These include:

Clarification and Demystification: To elucidate the operational mechanics of AI in educational settings, addressing the "how" and "who" questions that often pervade the discourse. This would serve as a foundational bedrock for educators unfamiliar with AI paradigms.

Professional Development and Skill Enhancement: To discuss the requisite professional development modules and training educators must undergo to integrate AI into special education pedagogies effectively.

Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion: To probe the ethics of AI, focusing on ensuring that AI technologies are equitable and accessible to all students, especially those with disabilities. This also aligns with regulatory compliance like FERPA.

Practical Applications and Case Studies: To share real-world implementations of AI in special education, from automated IEP goal-setting to assistive technologies like image and audio descriptions.

Policy and Governance: To deliberate on the need for comprehensive policy frameworks that govern AI's ethical and responsible use in educational contexts, highlighting data privacy and student confidentiality.

Future Outlook: To forecast how AI could reshape the educational landscape, particularly in assessment methodologies, teacher quality, and individualized educational programs.

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I. Introduction to panelists
2. Question 1: What has been your most important lesson regarding AI regarding special education?
3. Question 2: Thinking about the current and emerging research on AI and special education, what is the most prominent finding you want to be sure others are aware of?
4. Question 3: Considering the working groups that each of you participate in, where do you see the conversation in special education turning in the next year?
5. Question 4: What use points would you want all parents to understand?
6. Question 5: What use points would you want all developers to understand?
7. Question 6: What use points would you want all educators to understand?
8. Moving forward, what questions about AI inclusion and equity will you answer next?
9. Open discussion and Q&A with the audience

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Supporting research

Marino, M. T., Vasquez, E., Dieker, L., Basham, J., & Blackorby, J. (2023). The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Special Education Technology. Journal of Special Education Technology.

Basham J. D., Blackorby J., Marino M. T. (2020a). Opportunity in crisis: The role of Universal Design for Learning in educational redesign. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 18(1), 71–91.

Britten, J. (2017). 4 Myths and 4 Truths of the Empowered Learner. ISTE Blog.

Britten, J. (2017). Getting to the Heart of the Empowered Learner.

Britten, J. with others (2018). EdTEch in K12 Classrooms. ISTE: Arlington, VA.

Britten, J. with others (2016, 2021). Digital learning pathways for ISTE student standards. ISTE: Arlington, VA.

Britten, J. (2021). Superintendents Roadmap: Communicating effectively about educational initiatives in digital learning. ELAN: Indianapolis, IN.

Britten, J. (2023) Codesign toolkit. Team4Tech: Menlo Park, CA.

Britten, J. and Cocharan, T. (2023). AI Conventing at the OSEP Project Director’s Conference. CAST: Boston.

Edyburn D. L. (2006). Cognitive prostheses for students with mild disabilities: Is this what assistive technology looks like? Journal of Special Education Technology, 21(4), 62–65.

Office of Education Technology (2023). Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning Insights and Recommendations. U.S. Department of Education.

National Science and Technology Council. (2022). Supplement to the President’s FY2022 Budget. Office of science and technology policy. Author.

Swiecki, Z., Khosravi, H., Chen, G., Martinez-Maldonado, R., Lodge, J.M., Milligan, S., Selwyn, B. & Gašević,D. (2022). Assessment in the age of artificial intelligence. Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence, 3.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (2022). The white House. [cited 2022 December 29]. Available from:

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Session specifications

Artificial Intelligence
Grade level:
Skill level:
Principals/head teachers, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices:
Devices not needed
Subject area:
Special education
ISTE Standards:
For Education Leaders:
Connected Learner
  • Develop the skills needed to lead and navigate change, advance systems and promote a mindset of continuous improvement for how technology can improve learning.
For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.