In the midst of the rapid emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies—also known as GenAI—like many educators, I find myself both excited and nervous as I gear up for a new academic year.
In this initial post of the Digital Pedagogy Toolbox Blog Series, I share some key insights into GenAI that educators should be aware of. Whether or not you choose to incorporate these technologies into your teaching practice, I believe we all need to become GenAI literate and consider pedagogical approaches to integrating GenAI in teaching and learning in higher education.
Post by Gwen Nguyen, Advisor, Learning + Teaching
GenAI is a technology that creates content in response to written prompts. It produces text, images, videos, music, software code, and more (UNESCO, 2023). Like other educational technologies, the use of generative AI in teaching or learning does not imply a disregard for academic integrity or the promotion of academic misconduct (Eaton & Anselmo, 2023). Whether you choose to incorporate these technologies into your courses or not, it is essential to remain engaged and well-informed about them and consider how your students might interact with them.
As an educator, you are expected to develop and cultivate your literacy in GenAI in this digital age (Ng et al., 2021b). But what exactly does GenAI literacy mean? While the term GenAI literacy is loosely used in some papers, no final definition exists yet (Ng et al., 2021a). I propose that AI literacy includes a set of essential abilities that enables individuals to use those tools ethically and efficiently to work, learn, and thrive within higher education settings. I am drawing from the B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework’s eight competencies and how they relate to GenAI literacy.
1. Ethical and Legal Considerations
According to the framework, it is important to understand and follow the principles of privacy protection, inclusion, and accessibility when engaging with GenAI. In essence, this means adhering to academic integrity guidelines, which include using generated content responsibly, considering its sources, and avoiding plagiarism in your academic work. It is also essential to be mindful about content when inputting data into generative technologies, refraining from using real names or any other sensitive information.
It’s important to be aware of the worldviews embedded in GenAI, which may include biases that can perpetuate inequalities in digital spaces. From both ethical and legal perspectives, it is important not to rush into implementation without thorough research, teaching, or providing support to students on how to use these technologies. Instead, you should strive to enhance your understanding of both the capabilities and risks associated with these technologies; this will ultimately contribute to the creation of more equitable and safer digital environments.
2. Technology Supports
Instead of banning or dismissing these technologies outright, begin with an open, curious, confident, and intentional mindset. Experiment with them and learn how to use them without causing harm or negatively impacting others. After your initial experimentation, if you choose to integrate generative AIs in your courses, you will be better prepared and more confident to provide learners with the necessary support or know how to connect them to the resources they require.
In one of BCcampus’s workshops related to GenAI, a few participants initially hesitated to learn and experiment with ChatGPT. To me, the important thing is not whether you will ultimately use this tool in your teaching, but rather that you try it out and experiment with it first. You can then make an informed decision about its use and communicate this choice with your students.
3. Information Literacy
We need to apply critical thinking skills when engaging with information generated and prioritized by AI technologies, as well as when assessing discussions surrounding AI in education. Not all information provided by GenAI is entirely accurate, and not all responses are suitable for direct copying and pasting into your work.
For instance, if you intend to use these technologies to aid in creating a course outline, first critically assess the generated content to identify inaccuracies, fabricated sources, or potential plagiarism. For further exploration of the risks and challenges associated with information provided by GenAI, see “Controversies Around GenAI and Their Implications for Education” (pp. 14–17) in UNESCO’s Guidance for Generative AI in education and research.
4. Communication and Collaboration
Being GenAI literate means knowing how to use generative AIs for effective communication and collaboration with others. Explore whether GenAI can serve as a means to connect with learners who have accessibility needs. Consider how GenAI can contribute to enhancing collaboration and fostering a sense of community within your courses.
I vividly recall an experience during my teaching tenure in Japan when some students approached me during office hours armed with Google Translate. I couldn’t help but smile as they stood outside my office saying, “Hi. Dear sensei. Good afternoon.” It was obvious that they were using Google Translate and it wasn’t providing the best translation. Since then, GenAI translation tools like Bing and ChatGPT have emerged, and they also can help us find precise words or phrases when communicating in other languages. In certain respects, GenAI has indeed facilitated more efficient communication and collaboration with others.
5. Creation and Curation
It is crucial to develop the skills necessary for crafting and curating accessible materials tailored to various audiences and platforms. In other words, it is important to cultivate the ability to think creatively and effectively leverage GenAI to achieve your content creation and curation goals
For instance, if you intend to use ChatGPT to help compose an email to your students, it’s a good idea to delve into the art of formulating prompts. While there is no magic formula for creating effective prompts, certain structures are recommended. These typically include specifying the role (acting as…), defining the task (providing a summary of what the AI can accomplish), outlining requirements (clarifying what should be included or contained), and offering instructions (explaining how the AI should respond to the prompt) (Liu, 2023).
6. Digital Scholarship
If used purposefully, GenAI can enhance digital scholarship skills, such as effective research, critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis, and decision-making. This doesn’t mean you should solely rely on ChatGPT or Bing or Google Bard or Elicit as a research assistant to conduct a comprehensive literature review. Instead, use GenAI to boost productivity. Several AI-based systems excel in automating document organization, retrieval, and categorization. These capabilities, in turn, enable you to save time, efficiently locate essential information, and analyze data more quickly.
For further information on co-designing the use of GenAI in research, refer to Table 3 (page 30) in UNESCO’s Guidance for Generative AI in education and research.
7. Digital Well-being
Everyone using generative AI should do so intentionally and responsibly, in ways that support our well-being. We need to be mindful of our own and other’s digital identity when interacting with those tools, and refrain from uses that could negatively affect others. It also involves a heightened awareness of what personal information is input into these systems. We need to learn how to establish boundaries when the use of generative AIs begins to adversely impact our physical, mental, or emotional health. It’s not a bad idea to take a break from those tools and find ways to balance online and offline activities, to deeply reflect on teaching, learning, and transforming.
8. Community-based Learning
From a community-based learning perspective, it is essential to recognize that diverse groups and communities may have different ways of knowing and working in digital spaces. For example, when working with Indigenous communities, cultivate an open-minded and critical stance that centres Indigenous or community leadership for the project.
When undertaking initiatives that involve collecting data from communities and integrating the data into AI, ensure that Indigenous knowledge and cultural practices are not only acknowledged but also respected at all stages. The community should maintain complete ownership of the data and have the authority to veto its usage. (For more information, see An Indigenous Perspective on Generative AI, Tech Policy Press.)
Pedagogical Approaches to GenAI
As you become more competent in GenAI, you can make informed decisions about incorporating these technologies into your teaching practices or pausing to consider your options.
- If you decide to take a step back from these technology innovations, it’s still important to communicate with your students about the why. Engage in discussions with them about considerations related to privacy, security, and ethical and responsible use. As advised by Gray (2023), educators should take reflective steps, avoiding involvement in “an arms race,” especially in applying AI detection tools to police students’ uses of GenAI like ChatGPT. Instead, start from a standpoint of radical transparency rather than fear. (See ChatGPT and Generative AI in the Classroom, University of Toronto.)
- If you choose to move forward, be courageous and consider the following pedagogical tips to embrace the act of preparing and teaching with GenAI as an ethical, transformative, and healing endeavour:
- Embrace a human-centered approach to teaching with GenAI that values human imagination and creativity as well as other core human values (UNESCO Guide in Teaching and Learning with AI 2023). Think of co-creating AI policies with students and revisit, reflect, and make changes as necessary.
- Determine GenAI uses for your course activities and assessment that promote thinking process, creative endeavours, and extracurricular engagement with topics of interest.
- Update your course syllabus to clarify your expectations regarding how GenAI may be used in your course. You can consider adopting or adapting statements for your course or for specific assignments. (For more information, see Generative Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom, Humber College.)
- Design assessments with GenAI in a way that aligns with your course’s learning outcomes and serves their intended purposes (as suggested in AI Tools in Teaching and Learning, Stanford Teaching Commons). Explore further resources on how to adapt assessment to better support learning in an AI-enable world. (See Designing Assessments for an AI-enabled World, University College London).
- Continue to reflect and discuss with peers and students what it would mean to teach and learn about AI tools alongside students. Bring topics for discussion into the classroom, such as whether these tools will flatten inequalities or heighten them.
I don’t expect this post to answer all the questions you may have about GenAI in teaching and learning in post-secondary settings, but I hope it can help clear up some uncertainties as we begin the fall semester. Whether you choose to fully embrace this new digital frontier or take a cautious approach, the key is to make informed choices. The decision-making power is in your hands.
For those excited to explore the possibilities, keep in mind the importance of open dialogue with your students, respecting their privacy and upholding ethical standards. Transparency and empathy are main factors that can guide you on this GenAI adventure.
In the end, our journey into teaching with GenAI is a dynamic one. Let’s keep the conversation alive, share our insights with peers, and work towards a future where we can work and learn harmoniously with GenAI to make a more equitable and accessible education for all.
Eaton, S., & Anselmo, L. (January 2023). Teaching and learning with artificial Intelligence apps. https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/teaching-with-AI-apps
Gray, B. C. (March 15 2023). Speaking Notes: On machine learning and academic integrity to the learning continuity working group. https://blog.brennaclarkegray.ca/2023/03/15/speaking-notes-15-march-2023-to-the-learning-continuity-working-group/
Liu, D. (April 27, 2023). Prompt engineering for educators – Making generative AI work for you. https://educational-innovation.sydney.edu.au/teaching@sydney/prompt-engineering-for-educators-making-generative-ai-work-for-you/
Ng, T. K., Leung, J. K. L., Chu, K. W. S., & Qiao, M. S. (2021a). AI literacy: Definition, teaching, evaluation and ethical issues. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 58(1), 504–509.
Ng, T. K., Leung, J. K. L., Chu, K. W. S., & Qiao, M. S. (2021b). Conceptualizing AI literacy: An exploratory review. Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence, 2, 1–11, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.caeai.2021.100041
UNESCO. (2023). Guidance for generative AI in education and research. https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/guidance-generative-ai-education-and-research