Getting smart about embracing AI

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Generative AI – or Artificial Intelligence – is now embedded in the way many people search, communicate and create digital content. And it is increasingly having an impact on education.

While some at WITT are exploring and adopting it as part of their teaching mahi, it remains an unknown and scary world for others.

Help is on the way. An AI Steering Group was formed in May at WITT.  The group will offer a session at the All Kaimahi Day on July 12 titled: AI and ChatGPT Introduction.

Kaimahi will hear about the findings of survey on staff knowledge and use of AI. Results show 37 per cent of 59 respondents say they have an advanced understanding of AI, while 22 per cent said they use it weekly (with 28 per cent using it rarely and 23 per cent never). Of those who use AI, 43 per cent use ChatGPT.

The group is led by Dr Jan Lockett-Kay, Director of School 1 and comprised of tutors Carl Freeman and Johan Ongchango as well as other academic, learning and development, IT support staff, including Learning and Development Leader Joachim Ogden. Their focus is on three key areas: a professional development plan for kaimahi; adoption of a policy and guideline document; and an assessment review that addresses the use of AI by ākonga.

What is AI?

Generative AI refers to a range of digital tools (such as ChatGPT and Gemini) that can create new content by drawing from massive data sets.

These tools can answer questions, complete written tasks and interact through language in a human-like way. Other generative AI tools can produce audio, video, visual or code outputs, according to the Ministry of Education’s information page on AI.

“Different types of AI tools are already widely used to do things like filter spam emails, make recommendations on websites, or help with navigation apps. The common feature is using data to make predictions,” the Ministry says.

What next?

Joachim’s message to staff is “Embrace AI, because it might allow you to work smarter - not harder. People know that ChatGPT exists, and you can ask it a question about something and get a [rapid] response. That’s making life easier at work.”

According to Information Technology tutor Johan Ongchangco, the adaptive journey with AI is not a new one but “a two thousand year-old tradition. The ancient Greeks like Socrates and Plato debated the use of the revolutionary technology of their times - writing. We both know where that journey went!”

How intelligent?

The National Academic Integrity Network (NAIN) in Ireland says in a document, “GenAI tools such as the ‘Large Language Models’ on which ChatGPT and others are based, are designed to write well in terms of language, style, and syntax, rather than in terms of whether what they write is factually correct or accurate.

It is crucially important to understand how such technologies work and be aware of their limitations as well as their apparent strengths. They are not ‘intelligent’ in any real sense, nor are they experts on topics, but rather largely rely on statistical predictions of word combinations or image features.

As technologies develop, appropriate roles in education may be found, but if they are used to bypass rather than support thinking, or used to acquire academic credit which has not been earned via real, intellectual engagement with the subject of study, then they can undermine the educational enterprise. Part of the current challenge for educators, learners, and institutions is to determine the range of beneficial applications which might be afforded by such tools," NAIN says.

Do I AI?

Disclosure: I’d never used AI before, so took Joachim’s advice and asked ChatGPT what the risks of AI are for students. In two seconds, it provided this comprehensive (honest?) reply:

Understanding the Risks of Using AI for Academic Assignments

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized many aspects of our lives, including education. Increasingly, tertiary students are turning to AI tools to assist with academic assignments. While these tools offer convenience and efficiency, they also come with several risks that both students and educators should be aware of:

  1. Plagiarism Concerns: AI can generate text that closely resembles human writing, making it challenging to detect whether the work is original or copied. This raises significant plagiarism risks, potentially compromising academic integrity.
  2. Quality and Accuracy: Not all AI-generated content meets academic standards. Students may rely on information that is outdated, inaccurate, or lacks proper scholarly rigor, which can affect the quality of their assignments.
  3. Dependency on Technology: Over-reliance on AI tools may hinder students' critical thinking and research skills development. Instead of understanding and engaging with course material, students might prioritize quick fixes provided by AI.
  4. Ethical Issues: Using AI to complete assignments raises ethical questions about fairness and the authenticity of academic achievements. It may also contribute to a culture where shortcuts are valued over genuine learning.
  5. Data Privacy and Security: AI tools often require access to personal data and academic materials, posing potential risks to students' privacy if these platforms are not adequately secure.

Educational Role and Responsibility

As educators, it's essential to guide students on using AI responsibly in their academic work:

  • Educational Context: Emphasize the importance of critical thinking, proper citation practices, and academic honesty.
  • Teach Evaluation Skills: Help students evaluate AI-generated content for accuracy, reliability, and relevance to academic standards.
  • Encourage Originality: Foster an environment where original thought and research are valued over shortcuts provided by technology.
  • Promote Awareness: Raise awareness about the ethical implications of AI use in academia and encourage open discussions among students.

By addressing these risks proactively and integrating AI educationally, we can help students leverage technology responsibly while upholding academic integrity and learning outcomes.”

Note: I did write the rest of this article. It took longer than two seconds. (Panic-face emoji!)

Photo: by Natasha Connell at Unsplash


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