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AI in the Classroom: A Year in Reflection and Anticipation

As the world marked ChatGPT’s one year anniversary in November 2023, the Media Education Lab’s AI in the Classroom series completed our first year of critical exploration. It seems fitting that these anniversaries should be commemorated together - although AI technology is far more developed than it was one year ago, so too is our understanding of this innovation. Over the past year, our webinar series has not only asked basic questions about AI's role in education, but also delved into the how and why behind these technologies, sparking intensive discussions on their transformative or even disruptive potential.

Aspects of critical AI literacy charted: how it works, inequalities, bias, ethics, prompt engineering, when, why, and where AI helps
Maha Bali explored the aspects of critical AI literacy

What began as a more intimate gathering quickly expanded its reach, drawing participants from around the world and diverse professional backgrounds, including educators, nonprofit specialists, and media experts. Our community was enriched by varied perspectives, fostering thought-provoking chat feeds and engaging breakout sessions (and as some attendees will remember, even a constructive debate peppered in now and then). Though we began the series by playing catch up on the then-"new" global phenomenon, ChatGPT, we rapidly progressed to exploring practical approaches to AI literacy - such as a how-to for teaching prompt engineering and lesson material to understand machine learning. Ever more pressing topics cut across sessions as well, including biases within AI systems and copyright issues within the realm of text and visual arts. As the workshops unfolded, our conversations returned time and time again to well-founded concerns around the ethics of AI, its use in knowledge-development, and in its role as a generator of manipulative information. At the same time, many of us saw opportunities and novel pathways for education through these advancements - easing administrative burdens on teachers, customizing learning experiences to ensure educational equity; suddenly these goals seem very much within reach. Needless to say, our community now encompasses profoundly more nuanced perspectives on the subject, with 2023’s sessions igniting more questions, more areas of inquiry, and greater determination to bolster critical thinking skills in ourselves and those we educate.

digital post it board asking How can educators use AI for metacognition, and responses around it including feedback, helping to identify gaps, personalized learning pathways etc.
Brittany Aubin guided us in a discussion on AI as a tool for knowledge building

As I reflect on the privilege of hosting the past year of the AI in the Classroom webinar series, it is evident to me that the journey to define AI literacy and understand this technology’s impact on education is only just beginning. The past year of learning was the first of many. Looking ahead, we can anticipate an only deeper immersion of AI technologies into educational settings. This may look like further refinement of AI tools - possibly for the better with a focus on personalized learning experiences, as well as improved curriculum development, or enhanced knowledge-growth measurement. AI may also be strategically positioned to play a valuable role in the recovery of our institutions and students post-pandemic, and in an era where external factors or conflicts have an immediate and severe impact on learning. Ethical considerations, privacy safeguards, and similar concerns are also likely to take center stage, and for good reason, particularly when it comes to young learners. 

In contemplating this, I am reminded of one of the consistent themes in our webinar discussions - AI is still evolving and so too should our thinking. While our 2023 series is coming to a close, the Media Education Lab is far from finished learning about this subject. I cannot wait to continue the exploration with all of you.

By Jocelyn Young,