Embracing AI in Education: A Brainstorming Companion
Morgan Lindstead | October 24th, 2023
Just as the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the way we shared knowledge, AI stands ready to redefine how we think, learn, and collaborate in academic settings. This new technology is exciting to many, but also terrifying; AI has already posed numerous challenges related to academic integrity. Without reliable ways to scan papers to indicate the use of AI, there is no real way to prohibit its use. While we cannot (and arguably should not) eliminate AI, we must learn to adapt and harness its potential to our advantage. In the ever-evolving landscape of education, AI stands out not as a threat but as a tool; one that, when used ethically, can revolutionize the way we teach and learn.
Using AI as a Tool
Even though AI reached prominence fairly recently, many students have quickly adopted it as a shortcut for their homework assignments. This method, when misused, can undermine the principles of academic integrity and honesty. However, AI extends beyond just assisting with homework; it can spark ideas to overcome a year-long writer’s block or offer guidance in grasping a topic for an upcoming exam. AI is able to take on many personas, acting as our proofreader, our boss, our professor, and ultimately help us to further our knowledge and success. However, these beneficial uses of AI have become back-burner thoughts as we fuel our fears rather than satiate our curiosities. We have become more focused on the potential pitfalls of AI, rather than harnessing its vast capabilities to aid and enhance our learning.
Many individuals seek to simply ignore the existence of AI. However, I would argue that doing so is just as irresponsible as using AI as a shortcut for doing your homework. Throughout history, we’ve witnessed numerous technological breakthroughs, from the invention of the Gutenburg printing press in 1450, which made knowledge accessible to the masses, to the compiling of said knowledge into a single Encyclopedia by Diderot and D’alembert during the Enlightenment in 1751. And now, in the modern age, we’ve seen the invention of the internet, Google, and hand-held phones. Each of these past revolutions may have similarly been terrifying, but we learned to use them as tools, and AI should be no different.
Case Study: EUS 2230W – Using AI to React to the Past
Dr. Holly Tucker, the Director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, has adapted AI as a crucial part of her class EUS 2230W: European History and Culture Through Immersive Gaming. EUS 2230W is an immersive role-playing class where students are assigned roles as real historic characters to achieve designated goals. By acting as their designated characters, the students get a hands-on understanding of why certain events occurred the way they did, even though their actions will eventually deviate from actual history. Additionally, students in this class acquire a range of new skills in the realms of public speaking, persuasive writing, research, networking and collaboration, and critical thinking. Students are given a role sheet for their character that they can also upload to ChatGPT using a PDF-reader add-on in order to suggest what the student should write about, what characters might make good allies, and brainstorm ideas on how to accomplish their goals.
Students in this class are required to incorporate AI brainstorming sessions into their weekly paper submissions. At the end of each week, the student uploads their assignment which includes a link to their ChatGPT transcript from the brainstorming session for that paper. These transcripts are read by the graders to verify that the student used AI in an ethical manner. Ethical use of AI for their papers may consist of brainstorming ideas, using it as a proofreader to check their grammar, or ensuring that their main points are clearly conveyed to the reader.
AI is used not just by the students, but by the teaching team as well, including the creation of the three primary rubrics used for public speeches, writing assignments, and class participation. Additionally, one Course Assistant who worked with the Data Science Institute over the summer uses AI to create letters from historic characters. Students in the course have the option of writing to non-playable characters, such as George Washington, the Pope, and the King of Prussia in order to garner their support in their endeavors. The response letter is generated based on a series of outcome probabilities. Given four or five prompted topics of responses, the AI randomly selects one of the outcomes and generates a letter based off of it in the voice of the historic character. With such diverse and innovative applications of AI in the academic setting, it’s clear that its potential extends far beyond mere homework assistance, setting the stage for a broader discussion on its ethical and transformative role in education.
AI in academics is inevitable. The question isn’t whether we should use it, but how we can use it ethically and effectively. While AI may initially evoke fear due to its novelty, its potential as a brainstorming tool for students, a rubric generator for educators, and an enhancer of the learning environment cannot be overlooked. The ethical use of AI in academics remains a valid concern. Going forward, we should work to establish clear AI guidelines while embracing the possibilities it offers in the classroom setting.
*Disclaimer: AI was used as a brainstorming tool to write this article
*Disclaimer: the author of this article is a course assistant for EUS 2230W
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