By David E. Kirkland, PhD
For millions of students across the U.S., the 2023-24 school year started weeks or even days ago. This year, however, there was a noticeable buzz in the air surrounding the presence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While this may appear to be a novel development, the truth is that it’s been a long time coming. Still, the current moment brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend, an engineer shaping the future of autonomous vehicles. Amidst her intriguing insights about her work, one particular anecdote stood out, not because it was about AI or her profession, but because it highlighted a broader issue about the persistence of the future.
She recounted her journey as one of her team's few Black women engineers. She spoke of her relentless pursuit of mathematical proficiency, so much so that she could mentally calculate complex equations—a human computer of sorts, extraordinary in her abilities.
"When I first started studying math," she shared, "I was told not to rely on calculators. So, I dedicated myself to mastering math, believing it would set me apart."
Then, I entered the workforce, and to my surprise, no one was performing mental math or scribbling equations on chalkboards. They were using calculators and computers to expedite their work. Initially, I felt cheated because I believed my mathematical prowess was unrivaled. However, they consistently arrived at solutions faster than I could. They had adapted to the technology of the times—calculators and computers—the very tools I was discouraged from using. It struck me that schools excel at preparing children for the past, often forgetting that our children inherit the future.
As we stand on the precipice of the AI revolution, my friend’s story echoes in my mind. Education is undergoing a transformative shift, and we must ask ourselves crucial questions: Are we ready for this moment? Or are we so entrenched in the past that we risk failing our children by not equipping them for the future?
Indeed, the future is coming.
With AI offering unprecedented capabilities, it’s imperative to incorporate these advancements into our educational landscape today with the promise that they will pay off tomorrow. New generative technologies will be essential in the world our children will inherit. How can we adopt this new tech as an investment in our children with a commitment to equity? That is, how do we harness AI as a tool for both learning and social justice—how do we teach critical AI literacies?
To harness AI’s full potential—that is, to teach critical AI literacies—we must shift our perspective. We shouldn’t view AI merely as a tool for performing tasks; rather, it should be seen as an instrument for driving change. Consider calculators—few jobs today that require mathematical computations exist without them. In this era of advanced technology, we must understand the technologies that enable us to solve complex problems more efficiently, even issues of social design.
Schools must equip students to thrive in a world shaped by emerging technologies, enabling them to tackle tasks more efficiently, thus freeing up time for creativity and innovation. Imagine social justice lessons using AI, such as
Analyzing datasets to unveil systemic societal biases.
Creating AI-driven projects that shed light on historical social justice movements.
Using predictive AI to model the positive impacts of environmental policies on vulnerable communities.
The possibilities are boundless.
Over the last year or so, we have been researching literacy and ChatGPT. Our research has revealed how students can harness AI for powerful learning purposes. Some students use AI, like ChatGPT, to tackle challenging and convoluted texts, seeking immediate feedback on confusing passages to enhance fluency and comprehension. Rather than reading less, they read more and understand better.
Others employ ChatGPT to refine their language skills. They input their writing and receive edited and revised language, incorporating it into their communicative repertoire.
Then there are those who rely on ChatGPT as a search engine, a writing partner, and a teacher. They use it to find information, overcome writer's block, draft initial ideas, and facilitate their own learning.
The point is clear: constructive learning can thrive when students engage with AI. However, when educators shun these technologies, we limit our students’ learning potential because using any media technology requires a critical engagement that empowers users.
But as we move forward with AI, we should educate students about power structures and oppression through critical interactions with AI tech. We should teach them how AI works and contributes to the construction of knowledge. We should impart lessons about the appeal to authority in argumentation, fact-checking, evidence use, and other essential composition competencies. But we should also give them space to use AI to read and write their words and worlds. AI provides a fertile context for such discovery and creation.
As AI becomes increasingly ingrained in education, concepts like plagiarism must be reevaluated, too. Students using AI are, in fact, outsmarting algorithms, comprehending them from various angles and incorporating multiple perspectives into the system. While AI mirrors our present world, it holds the potential to shape a future molded by a collective vision, which must include our constructive input in dialogue with our students.
Engaging with AI also means confronting its shortcomings, including biases and discrimination. Rather than shying away from these challenges, our engagement must ensure that we work to rectify them. By disengaging, we risk perpetuating a one-sided AI world. It would be catastrophic for AI to move forward without the input and involvement of a broad spectrum of our society and the powerful positive viewpoints that people have of themselves. AI essentially mirrors us, and if we are not present, AI’s image of us will get projected through our absence, which is oppressive in itself.
As we venture into the uncharted territory of AI in the classroom, remember these five points:
1. Embrace the Journey: Integrating AI into education comes with challenges and uncertainties. It’s a collective learning experience requiring patience and openness.
2. Strength in Numbers: You’re not alone. A global community of educators and parents is tackling similar challenges. Collaborate, share, and learn together.
3. Empower Yourself and Your Students: Educators possess the fundamental skills needed for this transformation. While vigilance regarding issues like plagiarism is crucial, it’s equally crucial to seize AI’s potential to revolutionize education and our responsibility to both better shape and prepare our children for the world they will inherit. Critical AI literacies are essential skills for surviving the worlds they will live in.
4. Resources Abound: Many educators are eager to share their experiences and solutions. Numerous online platforms offer valuable insights and ideas.
5. Embrace Generative AI: Tools like ChatGPT are not just technological solutions; they’re platforms for creativity, engagement, interactive learning, and social justice. Approach them with an open mind to unlock their full potential.
In contrast to some contemporary perspectives, we invite you to embrace AI as an assistive learning technology that enhances the student learning experience but also critical work that educators see as core to the mission of education. We believe that our nation, indeed our world, teeters on the edge of a profound societal shift driven by generative technology. We must ensure that this technology's benefits are equitably distributed to prevent further widening of gaps. Further, we don’t believe that the future is something we should run away from, for the human mind is always present; the future, always coming. It is only those who are stuck in the past who fear the current moment. We say to them: If you don’t want generic answers, let us stop asking generic questions. As AI shapes the future of education, our responsibility is to integrate it with equity at its core. By approaching AI with a sense of purpose and social justice, we can create an educational system that truly prepares students for the challenges and opportunities they will face tomorrow.
Below are 12 AI tools that highlight how innovation and technology can be designed in the classroom.
Engineering Innovation: The Critical Use of AI in the Classroom
ChatGPT is an advanced language model developed by OpenAI. It uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like responses to text-based inputs. It can engage in conversational interactions, provide information, and assist users in various tasks, drawing on its vast knowledge base and understanding of natural language.
DALL-E is an AI model developed by OpenAI that specializes in generating images from textual descriptions. It is based on the GPT-3 architecture and combines concepts from both language models and generative adversarial networks (GANs). DALL-E can understand natural language prompts that describe an image and produce highly detailed and imaginative images that align with the given descriptions. The model has been trained on a large dataset of text and image pairs, enabling it to generate unique and novel visual outputs based on user input.
Synthesia is an AI-driven video synthesis technology that allows users to create and customize videos by manipulating text and voice inputs. It uses deep learning algorithms to generate realistic, human-like videos where the content can be dynamically changed without reshooting the entire video. Synthesia's technology has applications in marketing, e-learning, entertainment, and more industries, enabling efficient and cost-effective video production and personalization.
Murf is a tool that allows users to turn typed text into speech. It offers a selection of 100% natural-sounding AI voices in 20 languages to make professional voiceovers for your videos and presentations. Users can easily toggle the different voices to select a voice appropriate for the content.
Jasper AI is an AI-powered conversational platform developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like text responses based on given prompts or queries. Using advanced language models and natural language understanding capabilities, Jasper AI can engage in meaningful and interactive conversations, provide information, and assist users in various tasks.
Chatbot Live is a customer service chatbot platform that allows businesses to engage with their customers in real time. It leverages artificial intelligence and natural language processing to provide automated and personalized responses to customer inquiries. With features like live chat integration and chat routing, Chatbot Live aims to enhance customer support experiences and streamline communication between businesses and their clients.
Repurpose.io is a platform that helps repurpose and distribute content across multiple social media platforms. It allows users to automatically convert their videos, live streams, and podcasts into various formats optimized for different platforms. By simplifying the process of repurposing content, Repurpose.io enables users to reach a wider audience and maximize their content's impact across different channels.
Fireflies AI is an AI-powered transcription and collaboration platform. It uses automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to transcribe audio and video recordings into written text. The platform offers features such as real-time transcription, note-taking, and team collaboration, making it useful for meetings, interviews, and other situations where accurate and easily searchable transcripts are needed.
Jenni AI is a powerful artificial intelligence writing system that speeds up the creation of material of all types, from academic essays and fan fiction to top-ranked blog posts. Moreover, it is powered by the revolutionary GPT-4, which is used now on ChatGPT.
Tome is a presentation app that allows users to create and deliver interactive and engaging presentations. It offers slide creation, multimedia integration, audience engagement tools, and real-time collaboration. With Tome, users can design visually appealing presentations, incorporate interactive elements like quizzes and polls, and share their presentations with others for seamless collaboration.
Deep Nostalgia is a video reenactment tool developed by MyHeritage, an online genealogy platform. It uses deep learning algorithms to animate still photos and create lifelike movements in the images. By applying facial animation techniques, Deep Nostalgia can make historical figures or deceased loved ones appear to come to life in short video clips, adding a new dimension of emotion and connection to old photographs.
Canva is a popular graphic design platform that allows users to create a wide range of visual content, such as social media graphics, presentations, posters, flyers, and more. It offers a user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionality, a vast library of templates, stock photos, design elements, and customizable tools and features. Individuals, businesses, and organizations widely use Canva for creating professional-looking designs without requiring extensive design skills.
Suggested citation: Kirkland, D.E. (2023). Toward a Practice of Critical AI Literacies: Guidance for Shaping a More Equitable Future in Education and Beyond. In forwardED Perspectives, https://www.forward-ed.com/post/the-persistence-of-future-guidance-for-the-equitable-use-of-ai-in-education.