Revolutionizing Classrooms: How Microsoft's AI is Changing Education

Revolutionizing Classrooms: How Microsoft’s AI is Changing Education

Lydia Smyers, the VP of US Education for Microsoft, shares the AI initiatives that are transforming districts and edtech companies. Recorded at ISTE Live 2023.

Artificial intelligence is the top conversation among educators everywhere. It was truly a thrill for me, as a classroom teacher, for Lydia Smyers, the Vice President of US Education for Microsoft, to sit down with me at ISTE. As educators, we're at the forefront of this exciting (and scary) change with unprecedented learning opportunities (and threats.) Whether you're new to AI or a seasoned AI-enthusiast, you'll gain invaluable insights into one of the companies on the forefront of AI in education. Brought to you by Microsoft, this podcast offers a glimpse into the future of education and an AI-infused landscape where possibilities are endless (and challenges abound.) Let's do this! 

This show is sponsored by Microsoft. Check out their new AI Course. All opinions are my own.

10 Minute Teacher Podcast - Episode 808

Revolutionizing Classrooms: How Microsoft's AI is Changing Education

Lydia Smyers, VP of Microsoft US Education shares AI trends in education, how schools can get started, a word for teachers, and useful information on Microsoft's initiatives.

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Table of Contents in This Episode

Table of Contents

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Lydia Smyers - Bio as Submitted

Lydia SmyersLydia Smyers is the Vice President of US Education for Microsoft. She leads the sales teams supporting the adoption and sales of Microsoft’s solutions across K-12 organizations and higher education customers in the United States.

Before joining Microsoft, Smyers was group vice president of Worldwide Alliances, Channels Programs and Communications at Oracle Corp. In this role, she had global responsibility for Oracle Partner Network (OPN) programs, strategy, marketing and communications. Her organization supported Oracle’s channel ecosystem with an emphasis on driving partner profitability and satisfaction.

Smyers is a member of the EDUCAUSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board and has been named as one of CRN’s “Top 100 Women of the Channel” 2009–2013 and named to its advisory board. She is also committed to empowering the next generation of leaders and supporting her local community. She serves on the board of several community nonprofits including Friends of Marblehead Public Schools, MassCUE, and the Marblehead Family Fund.

Smyers holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Trinity College-Hartford. She is a sports enthusiast, an active triathlete in the summer and an alpine backcountry skier in the winter. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Transcript - Episode 808 with Lydia Smyers

00:00:00:05 – 00:00:03:28

John Davis

This is the Ten Minute Teacher podcast, but your host, Vicki Davis.

Microsoft Education: Free AI Course – Sponsor


00:00:03:43 – 00:00:24:06

Vicki Davis

Today's sponsor is Microsoft Education. Stay tuned at the show's end to learn more about their (free) Artificial Intelligence Course for educators


Lydia Smyers – Vice President of Microsoft Education

So this is Vicki Davis with the 10 Minute Teacher. This is another ISTE special with Lydia Smyers, who is a Vice President of Microsoft Education. Thanks for sitting down with me today.


00:00:24:08 – 00:00:26:12

Lydia Smyers

Oh, Vicki, I'm so thrilled to be here.


Microsoft Announcements at ISTE and their Mini Keynote

00:00:26:17 – 00:00:45:03

Vicki Davis

So I just live-blogged the min-keynote with many really cool announcements and all that's on my blog. But what I really want to talk about is so many teachers I know are out there who follow everything they're talking about with A.I., and their districts are saying, “BLOCK it can't use it. BLOCK It can't use it.”


00:00:45:03 – 00:01:03:10

Vicki Davis

Well, first of all, we know we can't really block it, but there are some safe, effective ways that some school districts are using artificial intelligence. Could you tell us a little bit about what you're working with and what you're seeing? And I know the New York City schools talked about some of their deployments.


The Rapid Adoption of AI in Education

00:01:03:22 – 00:01:32:24

Lydia Smyers

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Vicki. And I'll tell you what's really incredible about this moment that we're in. Technology is just the positive impact it is bringing to all industries, including and especially education. So Openai founder and CEO, a gentleman by the name of Sam Altman, he says that education is the industry that fastest goes through the adoption curve of this new technology.


00:01:32:29 – 00:02:15:50

Lydia Smyers

From amazement to fear to witnessing the power of the potential. And so we're seeing lots of districts get to that point of beginning to see just the incredible impact it can bring. 


New York City Public Schools – Chatbot Tech Support and Teaching Assistance

So you heard New York City public schools, they've introduced this. First of all, for parents and students to help them navigate their website. So a quick bot that just searches their internal sites and then, at the request of teachers, they've brought it to a pilot in just a couple of classrooms where students started to see how it could help them with some tutor assistant types of things.


00:02:15:55 – 00:02:25:55

Lydia Smyers

So just the beginning of new ideas and trialing and learning is what we're seeing. Districts just do incredible things with early on.


00:02:26:00 – 00:02:50:06

Vicki Davis

And there's a real world stat. The speaker said that their call volume had declined 33% when they implemented the the chat bot that can answer the questions and help. That's incredible because that's less frustrated parents and students. It it saves money because you don't have to have people to take those calls and it's just done with a chat bot like, that's amazing.


00:02:50:06 – 00:03:18:08

Lydia Smyers

It is amazing. And what is piling on, to the amazement, not only did it save 30% in call volume, but also they had been working on implementing a solution like this for like months, quarters, even potentially years. They got a pilot up and running within a few weeks. So we're seeing a real agility to have the fast trials to just see the potential that it can bring to any scenario.


How Schools Districts Can Start with AI

00:03:18:13 – 00:03:40:50

Lydia Smyers

What we've seen is schools start sometimes with administrative functions first, like a chatbot to search a portal or like the support of the development of lesson plans. Folks are even using Bing Chat to actually support lesson and curriculum development and ensuring that it is standards-aligned. Yeah, so the opportunity is pretty vast.


00:03:40:55 – 00:04:09:23

Vicki Davis

So teachers who are listening are saying if I could just get my administrators and my principal is to even talk about using AI in our district. So you talk at the high level with superintendents and principals nationwide. What has principals and superintendents excited, and what are some resources that teachers can point their administrators to so that they can know that there are opportunities and they don't have to be scared of it?


00:04:09:27 – 00:04:39:28

Lydia Smyers

Well, there's so much to be excited about, but really, the leadership, they understand that journey of the teacher, and they're super excited about how these technologies can help save teachers time and help transform classrooms. And so we're seeing a lot of excitement at the superintendent cabinet level around just beginning that journey. I would encourage folks to certainly search the ISTE website for lots of the great content that's getting published this week.


00:04:39:33 – 00:05:07:21

Lydia Smyers

Also, go to, where we have updated all of the latest information, but we also have launched just a new course for educators that helps teachers learn and think about how to bring AI to their classroom. Think about teaching A.I. and just some of the foundational principles.


The Safe, Ethical Use of AI in Education: What Guidelines Should Be in Place?

00:05:07:26 – 00:05:31:08

Vicki Davis

So we would be remiss since you're talking about education if we didn't say that not all A.I. is the same and there need to be effective, safe principles put in place for your use of A.I.. So how do you suggest that districts start on their journey to put those principles in place? Because, you know, safety monitoring, a lot of these things have to be trained, which means they need good feedback.


00:05:31:13 – 00:05:32:41

Vicki Davis

How do you help districts with that?


00:05:32:41 – 00:06:10:31

Lydia Smyers

Creating a committee. It's just one of the most essential first steps. And that committee figures out governance. They identify a foundation of principles upon which they'll make decisions on assessments. And that really serves as a framework, a framework for everything that folks want to do. Microsoft actually had an event just last week where we announced our recommendations for policy initiatives, and we offered tools to districts to how do they begin to formulate their own governance councils to adopt AI into their organizations.


00:06:10:45 – 00:06:40:27

Lydia Smyers

So you can certainly find that on our website. But Microsoft's principles are fairness, inclusivity, transparency, trust, privacy, and reliability. But every district will make its own and reflect on what's important, what's needed, and what are the most pressing use cases. Because finding those use cases is the first step. Once you think, okay, wow, generative. I can really change so many things.


00:06:40:31 – 00:07:07:24

Lydia Smyers

Then you get that governance committee together. First, you ideate whiteboard all the potential use cases you have, and then you pull out your rubric, and you think about prioritizing them, and then you just begin it with trial and error and get right into some of them in a safe and secure space. Microsoft provides those kinds of environments and tools for you, and then you're off on your learning journey.


Microsoft Copilot is Not an Autopilot

00:07:07:29 – 00:07:26:08

Vicki Davis

So you have a line you say about Microsoft Copilot, which is something you're testing privately I actually really like this because I write a lot about artificial intelligence. And human intelligence is I can continue the 80 days of AI and I. Can you tell me the line you say?



This is copilot, not autopilot.


00:07:26:13 – 00:07:52:30

Lydia Smyers

We think of copilot as helping to automate complex tasks for humans, but our copilot put the human at the center. Right? And they really help human agency. They're not autopilots. They're not replacing humans. In fact, our copilots, they really just lower the barrier between humans and computers. They allow a more natural interface and more natural language between humans and computers.


00:07:52:30 – 00:07:56:18

Lydia Smyers

So that technology can empower more people.


Message to Educators Around the World

00:07:56:22 – 00:08:18:13

Vicki Davis

So what is your message to teachers right now around the world who, you know, we've come through a really stressful season? This year wasn't really that much easier with our substitute teacher issue. A lot of us lost a lot of our planning periods and had a tiring year. So what's your message to educators worldwide that you'd like them to hear from you?


#1. Take Time to Recharge

00:08:18:17 – 00:08:45:14

Lydia Smyers

Well, first of all, recharge. Find your time your way. What matters to you to assure you're putting yourself first so that you can care for others. Because when you do, it's so important and we're so grateful for all that you do. That's first for us. 


#2. Be Curious about AI

But secondly, hopefully, maybe in some of that recharge time or you find time to be curious, there are a lot of great resources out there.


00:08:45:14 – 00:09:13:27

Lydia Smyers

We encourage you to go to, but there are many more where you can learn about initial ways to bring to the classroom. 


#3. Take What You Learn Back To Your School

And then thirdly, after that big curiosity, bring it back, share it, ask for that governance council, and introduce it to your peers because people are looking to learn right now. And that growth mindset that we talk about in education is as important today as it ever has been.


00:09:13:38 – 00:09:14:38

Vicki Davis



We Need to Be Educated About AI

00:09:14:43 – 00:09:42:46

Vicki Davis

And ignorance about I will bring a catastrophe. It just will. I mean, that's the truth. But if we use it effectively, one of the speakers said today, saving 15 minutes or a day or an hour a week really adds up for us teachers. And that's what a lot of the AI tools that you talked about, whether it was the Kahoot integration or the PowerSchool integration, are examples of what New York City schools are doing are just really great examples of saving time for us teachers.


00:09:42:46 – 00:09:54:53

Vicki Davis

And I think the other thing you said that is so important is it's not autopilot, it's a copilot. Everything we use needs to follow that principle because we, as teachers are still at the center and still have to drive that learning in our classroom.


Saving Teacher’s Time Matters

00:09:55:04 – 00:10:14:59

Lydia Smyers

Well, you know, so well, we like to say that 4 minutes is 10% of learning, right, in a 40-minute classroom. So where we can save teachers time, that allows more emphasis being put on that most important thing, which is engagement with the students.


00:10:15:04 – 00:10:16:32

Vicki Davis

Thank you, Lydia, for coming on the show.


00:10:16:34 – 00:10:18:35

Lydia Smyers

It was a pleasure. Thank you, Vicki.


Microsoft’s Free Open AI Course – Sponsor of this show

00:10:18:40 – 00:10:42:31

Vicki Davis

Microsoft has an amazing artificial intelligence course for educators that will help you and your education team have the knowledge you need to understand the best practices for artificial intelligence in schools. AI is changing rapidly, and you'll want your team to take advantage of this free course from Microsoft today. Go to


00:10:42:31 – 00:11:07:32

Vicki Davis

Now that sign up for this free course today so that you're ready to understand and use AI in your school in ways that are safe and work for schools. I highly recommend this free AI course from Microsoft. So sign up today.


00:11:07:33 – 00:11:19:22

John Davis

You've been listening to the 10 Minute Teacher podcast. If you like this program, you can find more If you wish to see more content like this, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @coolcatteacher. Thank you for listening.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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