A new mandate: “Critical AI Literacy” for all

Happy Spring. …New ideas are sprouting.

These past few weeks of our class time have been very meaningful to me. Our class discussions have indeed been impactful as we continue to consider the influence of artificial intelligence on society. We are no doubt covering critical ground – and more recently we have discussed the ways in which AI is shifting the very ground that teachers “stand on”. The enterprise of both teaching and learning is, by nature, a shifting and dynamic terrain. But now more than ever, we must rethink our approach to how we do this work together. In response to this, I have recently formulated a new “policy statement” (for future syllabi), that explicitly addresses the role that AI might play in my own courses:

You may use AI programs e.g. ChatGPT to help generate ideas and brainstorm. Think of natural language processing tools as an always-available brainstorming partner. However, you should note that the material generated by these programs may be inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise problematic. Beware that use may also stifle your own independent thinking and creativity. As most of us have had a chance to explore new AI tools like ChatGPT, they can be an amazing assist (much like a calculator is for math classes). When/if you use Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms in your assignments, please write a note to clarify where in your process you used AI and which platform(s) you used. If you include material generated by an AI program, it should be cited like any other reference material. You are encouraged to reflect on this in your writing as well. Let’s leverage the tools as an extension of ourselves with a base of knowledge to make them powerful, and deepen our collective knowledge of what “meaning” in writing truly is. And remember, writing-to-learn is an intellectual activity that is crucial to the cognitive and social development of learners and writers. This vital activity cannot be replaced by AI language generators. **Please note, you may not submit any work generated by an AI program as your own.  

-Mia Zamora, Ph.D. Spring 2023

I think of this policy statement as a “work in progress”, and I continue to seek feedback from all of you. I see our class as an experimental ground (and our in-class discussions as food-for-thought) as I continue to refine the above approach. As we have discussed together the ways in which teachers are challenged a new, and the ways in which educational institutions are called to address the issue, it is imperative that we keep the dialogue between teachers and students open, yielding new insight from both perspectives. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms might be able to provide more direct support for students, and they have the potential to empower educators to be more adaptive to learner needs. AI might allow teachers to be able to do things that have never been done before. But it is also clear that there are great risks.  As we discussed in class, AI algorithms can be biased. They run the risk of “baking in” problematic/skewed/distorted data. Race and technology has the potential to hide, speed up, or deepen discrimination (while appearing neutral or even benevolent) when compared to the racism of a previous era. Ethical programming is a must moving forward, but who is tasked to ensure this? Who is doing the coding, and for whom? What profit is to be made in preparing data for global algorithmic consumption, and at what cost, to whom? This question has lead us to last week’s deeper discussion involving inequity and ghost economies that are part of the foundation of the AI industry. The harm inflicted on low wage workers in the name “data cleaning” and the hidden labor economies that sustain technology’s promise of “progress” must be apprehended by the general public. We discussed how much is dismissed (how we look the other way) in the name of our “convenience”.

Ultimately, all of these issues must result in a call for a new kind of literacy – for every informed citizen, and for every educated person in the 21st century. As a class, I propose we consider apprehending a new dimension of “digital literacy” – a “Critical AI Literacy” . I hope to discuss this concept further with all of you as we move forward for the remainder of the semester.

Your “to-do” list

This week pathfinder Erik will share his thoughts regarding the art of poetry. In thinking about this topic, I remember what Robert Frost once said: “I have never started a poem whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.” In addition, pathfinder Giselle will lead us in a discussion of visual aesthetics and artificial intelligence. I am looking forward to this!

Please choose 1 article from Erik:

Please choose 1 article from Giselle:

Blog 9 is due – your reflections on the 2 readings from above (one from Erik, one from Giselle).

See you soon!

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