AI in classrooms proves to be controversial

Artificial intelligence has several uses. Graphic by Elizabeth Hein. 


Irwin Library and the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) are now hosting workshops and seminars, as well as a stipend opportunity after receiving a $12,000 Library Innovation Grant from the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI). The goal — to promote generative artificial intelligence (AI) to faculty. 

While Irwin Library is one of three PALNI school libraries to receive this grant in July of 2023, the presentations can be attended by faculty members from all 24 PALNI institutions. The presentations are led by Butler’s Academic Technology Specialist Kristen Palmer, Scholarly Communication Librarian Jennifer Coronado and Instructional System Designer Carla Harper. Faculty have been learning about AI chatbots and how to create classroom activities that use or teach generative AI skills. Faculty can then submit an AI-based activity to include in an open repository to become eligible for a stipend that is funded through the grant. 

“With this grant, our goal is to create an open repository and have [the AI] activities be peer reviewed so that we’re putting out some really good, high quality content for our community,” Palmer said. “Generative AI is the area of AI that we think of when we think of ChatGPT, where the tool can automatically generate something based on the language that we are giving it.” 

Butler professors are forming their own ideas about AI and its place in the classroom. Mark Donner, a professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Applied Business Technology, and Cody Sasek, the program director for the Doctor of Medical Sciences Bridge Program, both believe in the importance of teaching about the uses and role of AI in our society, despite cases of plagiarism and scamming. 

“This isn’t the sort of thing which we, both as educators and just people living in the world, can bury our heads in the sand and act like it doesn’t exist because it’s going to exist,” Sasek said. “It’s going to be impactful, so we need to learn how to work with it.” 

As a business professor, Donner uses generative AI programs in his classes as a tool for brainstorming. He plans on having his students do an activity where they generate a business using AI in under an hour. He recognizes that there is a lot more to setting up and running a business, but hopes it will show his students a new resource. 

“[Generative AI] will come up with different styles for a logo, and it’ll ask you, ‘Do you want it to be emotional?’, ‘Do you want it to be technical?’” Donner said. “You pick some more words, and it’ll draw some more graphics zeroing in on a logo that you want. Then from there, you could hire a professional artist and say, ‘Hey, I scoped it down to what I want the logo to be.’” 

Sasek wants to use generative AI programs in the classroom as preparation for what the future might hold in terms of technology. The activity he has planned for the PALNI open repository involves showing students examples of ways AI might show up in healthcare and then having them analyze the benefits, ethics, limitations and pitfalls of the tool. 

“For instance, there are applications looking at using AI to read X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs, rather than the radiologists themselves,” Sasek said. “So in that context, our goal is that we’re preparing students for what that might look like.” 

While Donner and Sasek have ideas on how to embrace coming change, Jeana Jorgensen, a professor in the Department of History, Anthropology and Classics, feels strongly about generative AI programs being unethical and a danger to jobs. Jorgensen is a writer, so she sees the downsides of AI in her field in terms of both published writing and essay plagiarism inside the classroom. 

“What’s happening is people are using ChatGPT to whip up books real quick, then they whip up crummy covers with a blurb and put them on Amazon,” Jorgensen said. “Then they have people click on it so that it’ll get more reads on Kindle Unlimited, so real authors drop down in the ranks on Amazon.” 

Jorgensen also does not appreciate AI in the classroom setting. She feels it is still too new and has ethical concerns, like possibly recycling human authors’ work. Additionally, she feels that a big part of her job is to teach and guide her students, and she does not want to guide them into something that could be dangerous to their privacy. Another qualm she has with generative AI is the fact that it could advance far enough to replace jobs — specifically — educators. 

“I don’t use ChatGPT in my classroom, or in my lesson planning or anything, because I feel pretty strongly that anything we put into [ChatGPT] is training [AI] to do better in the future,” Jorgensen said. “I’ve already seen people generating whole syllabi using ChatGPT, even whole lesson plans. It can make a PowerPoint slide, and it can do voice overs. I don’t want to train my replacement.” 

While the CAT presentations are only for faculty, students preparing to enter the workforce hold their own opinions on the future of AI and AI use in learning settings. For example, Rachel Brown, a junior strategic communication major and a web design and development minor, thinks that ChatGPT can be a good tool to help students brainstorm ideas or access materials. She recognizes that ChatGPT and other generative AI programs could be used to cheat on assignments, as well, but ultimately believes that the positives outweigh the negatives. 

“I typically use AI for images or graphics and things like that,” Brown said. “There’s things that I just can’t get photos of. Online, you have to go through all these usage right tunnels.” 

Brown is not concerned about AI replacing jobs. In fact, she thinks it will create jobs in many disciplinary areas. She does not believe creative fields, like web design, are in danger. While there are already tools like generative fill on Photoshop and liquid layout on InDesign, they will never be able to replicate the vision she has in her head. 

“AI is not creative,” Brown said. “People are creative. So I feel like there’s going to be a lot of jobs that are going to open up for English majors and people who are good with wordage because you have to be very specific with what you want from AI. Also, AI is also not going to generate perfect code every time. You’re gonna have to go in and tweak it, or you can get a base for something and then build off of it.” 

Despite the different viewpoints on AI that Donner, Sasek, Jorgensen and Brown hold, one opinion all four of them share is that AI is something that is new, and everyone will choose to navigate it differently. Only time will tell how important AI actually will be in the future. 

“We’re about to go through a shift in thinking,” Donner said. “ … I don’t know what’s over the horizon, and nobody else really does.”


Related posts