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English department explores positive side of AI’s impact on education

English+department+explores+positive+side+of+AIs+impact+on+education

Artificial intelligence has risen in visibility at Colorado State University, impacting the creative voices of students and staff alike. However, the English department has been working to bring more awareness to this technological advancement, incorporating AI into the classroom in more productive, ethical and humanizing ways.

Colorado State University has been actively acknowledging the use of AI on campus through the College of Liberal Arts task force and The Institute for Learning and Teaching. Even with the initial fear-based response toward AI and its risks, the task force is advocating for a more positive implementation of AI in student conversations and engaging activities.

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Maurice Irvin is a senior instructor in the English department and has been working at CSU since 2011. He spoke on how students must learn to use AI accurately and not utilize it to construct pieces that are not truly theirs. If students use AI with more negative intentions, it would harm the classroom rather than help it.

“My experience is to think about how we can treat this as an opportunity to think a little differently and not be trying to end or having a response that’s trying to stop it. We can either figure out how it can be useful to use and be critical users of information — or we can pretend it doesn’t exist, and that’s not helpful.” – Tobi Jacobi, University Composition Program Director

“I take no issue with students using AI to assist them with their writing so long as it helps them express their original thoughts more clearly,” Irvin said. “If they are using AI to do their critical thinking for them — that’s when I start getting concerned.”

Timothy Amidon is an associate professor of digital rhetoric and has been a part of several projects and initial conversations revolving around components of AI and what can be learned from those algorithms.

Amidon recalled some of the biggest contextual reasons for plagiarism through AI: Students feel this lingering fear of “complex assignments with high stakes” that can lead to them unethically resorting to using an AI-generated piece of writing, Amidon said.

However, Amidon said he believes this task force is a relevant stepping stone to humanize the use of technology and be an ethical part of the communication process.

“Moving away from the policing approach towards plagiarism and towards more constructive stances to students is what my hope is in the classroom space,” Amidon said. “(We can learn) how we can use AI to help learners.”

Amidon has already experimented with AI, asking his graduate students to use it with complex data sets and different texts to see its computational interpretation on the inputted information. He did not shy away from the topic of AI, encouraging his students to ask critical questions and integrating it into his teaching style.

“My stance is less about the fear-based approach and more about what (it means) for these technologies to be around us (because) they’re going to be here anyway,” Amidon said. “How do we work with them in ways that are more productive and ethical? How do we teach students and understand the ways that those technologies can be used in workplaces?”

Tobi Jacobi is currently the director of the University Composition Program and has been meeting with the TILT group to discuss what this community needs when teaching AI in writing classes.

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Jacobi said she found in past Community of Practice meetings, which are organized within TILT, discussing AI as a tool can be helpful in understanding the positive outcomes of this technological advancement in student learning and opportunities.

Last fall, Jacobi helped train new teachers and spent a couple of days talking about AI in relation to teaching writing. She said that she hopes the conversations about the risks and benefits of AI can highlight how AI can evolve to be a part of the writing process.

“My experience is to think about how we can treat this as an opportunity to think a little differently and not be trying to end or having a response that’s trying to stop it,” Jacobi said. “We can either figure out how it can be useful to use and be critical users of information — or we can pretend it doesn’t exist, and that’s not helpful.”

Reach Sananda Chandy at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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