Adding to the AI Conversation, Critically and Creatively

Futuristic 3D Render of a brain and computer circuits. Image created by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.

For the past few months, AI has dominated the conversation in education circles, and oftentimes with only minimal attention to a critical nor creative perspective on how these tools will affect our students — and us — as readers, writers, and designers.

As I’ve interacted with hundreds of educators in webinars, workshops, and conference presentations — as well as through media mentions here, here, and here, a presentation to CMU’s Board of Trustees, and by writing an openly-available co-authored book chapter and collaboratively composed article — and I have been reassured that the initial feelings of moral panic are subsiding, at least a little bit, and we are now moving into conversations that are more focused on critical and creative approaches to AI.

Tonight, I will be presenting on the topic to CEL colleagues:

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In the past few months, I’ve continued to follow blog posts from The Civics of Technology group, especially this recent one on “Here are “101 Creative Uses of AI in Education.” Are They Truly Creative?” Also, I was invited to provide feedback on the MLA-CCCC Joint Task Force on Writing and AI report. In it, they contend that we must “[c]enter the continued teaching and learning of writing on writers and the inherent value that writing has as a mode of learning, exploration, and literacy development for all writers” (p. 10), and I agree.

My colleague, Daniel Ernst, and I also got a strong response to our survey from last winter, and conducted focus groups from writing instructors and program administrators later in the spring. We continue to work on that, and plan to present some of our findings at CCCC in April 2024.

At a recent conference, I was able to meet three teachers who are integrating AI in intentional ways including Irina McGrath and Michelle Shory, who have written about AI for ELLs, and host the website ELL2.0, as well as Eva Mireles, host of The Reading Teacher’s Playbook podcast. There were many thoughtful ideas, comments, and questions that emerged from this panel discussion, especially as it related to bringing equitable practices with AI to ELLs.

Recently, I was able to talk to my long-time NWP colleagues, Paul Allison (who is working to integrate AI into both Youth Voices and Now Comment) as well as Kristen Turner (who is hosting a symposium on AI). I am also working with colleagues from the Media Education Lab, Renee Hobbs and Yonty Friesem, to plan for a fully online, mid-winter professional learning opportunity, and I am sure that AI will be a key theme.

Finally, this past week, I joined a CMU Faculty Learning Community focused on equity in AI, and we began asking our own technoskeptical questions, in the spirit of The Civics of Technology’s curriculum, including:

  • Given the existing concerns about the racial, gender, and other biases that exist in large language models and other generative AI related to art, video, music, and more, is there a way to ethically code AI in a way that it will not hurt individuals, communities, and cultures?
  • What is the “ethic” that any AI bot, built by any particular organization or business, will bring to a task? What are the underlying perspectives, intended or embedded, that will guide the development and use of that AI?
  • When, how, and why do we want to bring AI into our classrooms for our students as it reflects the growing use of AI in our disciplines? What does it look like to “grow alongside” AI? How do we help students feel powerful with one another, and with AI?
  • What are the additional skills that we need to teach students so they can use AI in flexible, dynamic ways? What do they need to understand about “prompt engineering,” as well as the affordances and limitations of particular AI tools?
  • Historically, when we have these new technologies like AI, what happens to them, over time? What are the intended and unintended consequences that they bring, and how might we plan for (and even work to mitigate) those consequences?

As I continue my own work on AI, especially in writing instruction, and collaborate with K-12 and higher education colleagues, I look forward to a productive fall semester and many more conversations at NCTE and LRA in November.

In what ways are you integrating AI into your instructional practice as you prepare lessons, model for students during instruction, and provide feedback?

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