ChatGPT. Midjourney. DALL-E. The power of generative artificial intelligence – systems capable of creating text, images, video, audio, code and other media in response to human input using natural language – has become ubiquitous and accessible. This paradigm-shifting technology is transforming nearly every field, from business to art to education. Rather than being viewed as a shortcut or a "cheat," generative AI could help teachers equip students with the skills to flourish in a society defined by constant technological change and growth.
The University of Michigan-Flint will explore the profound impact of these tools, March 7, during the "Frances Willson Thompson Critical Issues Conference: Generative AI in Education." The event will bring together K-12 and postsecondary educators and students to critically consider the profound impact of generative AI on education and society.
"The implications of generative AI are of increasing interest to educators, administrators and policymakers, who are dealing with tough questions regarding the proper use of such tools in learning, teaching and student support," said Sapna Thwaite, UM-Flint vice provost for academic affairs. "Rather than blanket bans against GAI, there is a pressing need for all stakeholders to explore the transformative potential of GAI in preparing the next generation for the realities of the world in which they will live, work and learn."
The conference will begin with breakfast and opening remarks before moving on to panel discussions with UM-Flint and high school students and breakout sessions covering topics ranging from the ethics of AI usage in education, utilizing AI in grading assignments, the increasing importance of information literacy, and more. The full list of breakout sessions is available online.
Proceedings will culminate with dinner and a keynote presentation from Punya Mishra, associate dean of scholarship & innovation and professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Mishra is internationally recognized for his work in educational technology, the role of creativity and aesthetics in learning, and the application of design-based approaches to educational innovation.
UM-Flint is a leading center of inquiry in this emerging field, having introduced a free, online Generative AI Prompt Literacy course that empowers anyone to effectively utilize generative AI in their lives. Throughout the 2023-24 academic year, UM-Flint faculty have engaged in five workshops, collaboratively exploring AI issues before the conference.
Laura McLeman is the director of UM-Flint's Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching and co-leader of the workshop series.
"It has been very exciting to see faculty from various disciplines explore and discuss the role of generative AI within teaching. As part of the workshop series, faculty are exploring their own questions and working together to find answers which they will present at the Critical Issues conference," McLeman said. "I think this focus on inquiry has helped deepen the participants' interest and commitment to exploring AI, helping them push their limits of what they had previously thought possible."
McLeman conducts the sessions with Nick Gaspar, director of the university's Office of Online & Digital Education. Gaspar was a central figure in the development of the prompt literacy course and has been featured as a prominent voice for AI in education by media outlets.
"In every session, someone seems to have their 'AI moment' based on our demonstrations. These moments are particularly meaningful to me because the participants see firsthand how this technology can enhance their workflows. I also find the discussions with faculty around the wider implications of generative AI in various academic disciplines to be inspiring and thoughtful," said Gaspar.
To highlight student needs and experience as items of the utmost importance, the conference will also feature two student panels, amplifying the voices of both area high schoolers and UM-Flint learners. Eddie Kindle, associate superintendent for the Genesee Intermediate School District, will lead a panel of five local high school students. The panelists, with future plans ranging from attending college to serving in the military, will share their perspectives on how generative artificial intelligence will shape their lives.
"The future of education and work is undoubtedly linked with AI," Kindle said. "The people most impacted by this paradigm-shifting technology are today's students, who will shortly enter into a new market of labor and ideas. I am greatly looking forward to hearing their perspectives on this transformative change to their world."
Registration for the conference is open now and available until Feb. 29. For more information and to register, visit the Critical Issues Conference website.
Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.