Teaching and Learning in the Age of Generative Artificial Intelligence

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Using Generative AI for assignments and other learning activities

Generative AI tools are evolving rapidly, and our understanding of their impact, benefits, and limitations is changing constantly. This is a working document that will be updated as we learn new things, experiment with the tools, and discuss and collaborate with each other. 

What is Generative Artificial Intelligence?

Important: These pages discuss Generative AI and its use in an educational environment only.

Generative Artificial Intelligence (Generative AI or GenAI) is a type of Artificial Intelligence that generates new content based on content it was trained on. The process of training involves feeding the AI system with content (such as text, video, audio, or images), on which it then creates a statistical model. 

Generative AI should not be confused with Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which represents a theoretical approach to AI development for the foreseeable future. Achieving Strong AI implies creating a machine with intelligence on par with humans, possessing self-awareness and the capability to problem-solve, learn, and strategize for the future. Although some researchers claim AGI will be achievable in a few decades, others maintain the impossibility of such type of AI. 

Unlike AGI, a generative AI system uses a prompt given by users, and using its statistical model predicts what the expected response should look like. For this reason, it generates new content based on previous content it’s been trained on.

Important: Depending on the quality of the training content (also called dataset) the result could show bias in the interpretation of the prompt (which is corrected by programmers) and the response given (the output). These outputs are prone to perpetuate biases and discrimination and provide false information.

Uses in educational settings

Generative AI tools can help teachers and learners with cognitive offloading, routine and administrative tasks. These tools can also support the creation of learning or instructional materials: for example, creating sample questions for a quiz based on the content provided, drafting sample reading or incorrect instructional materials that students are tasked to review and edit, and creating presentations and videos. Generative AI tools have also been integrated into software to deploy chatbots that can work as personal tutors or study buddies. However, it is critical to remember that Generative AI tools cannot reason. These tools can supplement but can't replace personalized connections. Also, these tools can produce incorrect, biased, discriminatory, and harmful content and shouldn’t be used for decision-making or taken as truthful information. 

In many jobs and professions, working effectively with AI has already become or will become an essential part of daily activities and responsibilities. Supporting our students as they learn to engage ethically, critically, and responsibly with AI will better prepare them for the rapidly changing demands of the future. As educators, we are also required to engage ethically, critically, and responsibly with AI as it is transforming education and many other aspects of our lives.

The relevance and application of Generative Artificial Intelligence tools will vary from discipline to discipline and from course to course. Reviewing the learning outcomes of your course may help clarify if and how the incorporation of AI tools can support meaningful learning and the development of skills that learners will need in their professions. 

Generative AI offers new opportunities for both faculty and students. It can: 

  • Provide instant access to vast amounts of information. 
  • Aid diverse learners with different learning abilities, linguistic backgrounds or accessibility needs. 
  • Offer a starting point when we get stuck. 
  • Accelerate exploration and creativity, spark curiosity, and suggest new ideas and ways of thinking.

Uses for faculty 

Faculty might explore using Generative AI to: 

  • Act like a virtual teaching assistant that helps with answering student questions, provides clarification, or offers guidance when not in class. 
  • Generate content and course materials including lesson plans, quiz questions, sample problems, or writing scenarios. 
  • Assist in research tasks including analyzing large datasets, identifying patterns, and generating insights and research directions. 
  • Assist with writing learning objectives, course descriptions, syllabi statements, or course policies. 

Uses for students 

Students might explore using Generative AI to: 

  • Be more efficient with coursework and tasks. 
  • Help with studying. 
  • Generate ideas for brainstorming. 
  • Get further explanation of a topic a teacher is covering for class. 
  • Improve their writing. 
  • Get instant feedback. 
  • Practice language skills in a safe environment. 

Key job markets affected by AI

Key job markets that will change or are already changing:

  • Retail: Self‐checkout kiosks and online shopping are reducing the need for human cashiers and salespeople.
  • Transportation: Self‐driving cars and trucks could assist and eventually replace human drivers.
  • Manufacturing: Robots are being used to automate many tasks, such as welding, painting, and assembly; more advanced AI systems will reduce the need for human intervention and quality control.
  • Data entry: AI‐powered tools can automate many tasks performed by data entry clerks, such as extracting data from documents and entering it into databases.
  • Customer service: AI‐powered chatbots can answer customer questions and resolve issues by using company documentation and information.
  • Copywriting: AI‐powered writing tools can edit, draft, and publish content, from press releases and social media posts to news articles and white papers.
  • Accounting: AI‐powered software can automate many tasks, such as preparing financial statements, auditing financial records, categorising information, and transactions, and helping explain financial statements.
  • Legal: AI‐powered tools can automate tasks, such as legal research and document review. They could prepare drafts of legal documents, file paperwork, and review work before it is submitted.
  • Medical: AI‐powered tools can diagnose diseases, recommend treatments, and perform surgery. They can also interface directly with patients to gather basic information, collect medical history, and explain results and diagnoses, even in multiple languages.
  • Financial: AI‐powered tools can be used to make investment decisions, manage risk, and detect fraud.

Source: Shah, P. (2023). AI and the future of education: Teaching in the age of Artificial Intelligence. Jossey Bass Inc.

Critical skills that will be essential for students

  • Technical skills: At least a basic understanding of AI and machine learning concepts, programming languages, data analysis, and cybersecurity will be crucial no matter which industry students enter.
  • Problem‐solving: With AI taking care of repetitive tasks, human workers will be needed to tackle complex problems that require critical thinking and innovative solutions.
  • Creativity: The ability to think creatively and develop innovative ideas will be highly valued. Being able to make aesthetic judgments, come up with radically new ideas and designs, and respond to human needs will set apart creatives who solely rely on AI to produce versus creatives who use AI as a tool.
  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to understand and navigate human emotions will be crucial, especially in fields like education, healthcare, and social services.
  • Lifelong learning: Continuous learning and adapting will be essential as technology evolves. The most important skill students need to learn is how to keep learning.

Source: Shah, P. (2023). AI and the future of education: Teaching in the age of Artificial Intelligence. Jossey Bass Inc.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who can I contact if I have questions about AI?

For questions about AI you can contact:

Gian Michele Pileri gianmichele.pileri@georgebrown.ca

Rocio Conde rocio.conde@georgebrown.ca

What can Generative AI do?

Currently Generative AI can: 

  • Generate content based on a user prompt. 
  • Respond to questions (please note that there’s no reasoning involved)
What kind of content can be generated?

Generative AI tools can create various types of media such as:

  • Text 
  • Images 
  • Presentations 
  • Computer code 
  • Sounds and music 
  • Speech 
  • Video 
  • and more 

What is not possible or not allowed when using Generative AI tools?

Generative AI is limited in its capabilities either by intrinsic limitations or by its designers’ configuration. Currently it cannot:

  • Make decisions 
  • Offer reasoning or critique 
  • Give articulated opinions 
  • Compare and contrast statements or documents 
  • Evaluate if statements are true or false

Sometimes the Generative AI tool might respond with non-sensical or erroneous content in a very confident tone. Such responses are usually called hallucinations.

Can the use of Generative AI be detected?

The short answer is no, not with enough accuracy. Although some companies have claimed their specific tool works, results cannot be considered reliable enough to make decisions which could have negative and lasting consequences for students.

For more information please check the following resources: