UW holds panel on using AI technology responsibly to enhance student learning

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SEATTLE — The University of Washington held a panel discussion on artificial intelligence technology and education on Wednesday.

The panel, named “Demystifying ChatGPT for Academics,” included UW experts in natural language processing and academics thinking about how to use AI technology responsibly to enhance student learning.

Local educators have voiced their concerns about students using artificial intelligence to cheat. Everett Public Schools blocked Chat GPT on all district devices, including those students take home.

“Our goal today is to have a conversation between these communities. Not to tell you what to do, but rather help you understand and make an informed decision about how to responsibly use this type of AI technology or not,” Mari Ostendor, an Electoral and Computer Engineering professor, said on Wednesday.

Penelope Adams Moon, the director of the UW Center for Teaching and Learning, said the conversation should focus on why students feel compelled to even use artificial intelligence.

“Everything about the college prep process focuses on winning admissions, not intellectual inquiry and curiosity. Everything about that works against intellectual risk-taking. Failure becomes too risky, and yet failure is the basis of learning,” she said. “When failure becomes really risky, we amplify the stakes. And the research shows that when the stakes go up, the motivation for cheating goes up. So we have to tackle the systems.”

The panel also discussed how artificial intelligence programs, like ChatGPT, could enhance learning in certain circumstances. A general consensus among educators was instructors must understand the capabilities and shortfalls of programs like ChatGPT, then decide where/if it falls into their own curriculum.

“You have to think about what your learning outcomes are, right? Just turning students loose and letting them do whatever they want - then why are they in class? Hopefully, you have a vision for where you want them to go, and you’re guiding them toward that vision. If ChatGPT helps in that process, then yay. Use it, but with kind-of guard rails,” Moon said.

The use of artificial intelligence in UW classes can vary, according to the university.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) content generators, such as ChatGPT, present opportunities that can contribute to your learning and academic work. However, using these technologies may also violate academic standards of the University,” UW stated. “It is your responsibility to read the syllabus for each course you take so that you understand the particular expectations of each of your instructors.”

UW also provides several strategies for instructors navigating through the rapid development of language models, like ChatGPT:

  • Set expectations
  • Communication the importance of college learning
  • Acknowledge that struggle is part of learning
  • Assess process as much as (or more than) product
  • Design assignments that ask students to connect course content, class conversations, and lived experience
  • Consider teaching through AI-based tools