Generative AI: Useful Tool or Teaching Distraction?

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In this webinar, Nigel Slack, Alistair Brandon-Jones, Nicola Burgess, Dot Powell, and Lukasz Piwek explored the dual nature of Generative AI, debating whether it is a valuable tool or a potential distraction in teaching.

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Nigel Slack, Alistair Brandon-Jones, Nicola Burgess, Dot Powell, Lukasz Piwek,Generative AI webinar (PDF)


Nigel Slack, Warwick Business School, Bath University, 'Honorary Fellow of the European Operations Management Association'  

Alistair Brandon-Jones, University of Bath, School of Management 

Nicola Burgess, School for Business and Society, University of York 

Lukasz Piwek, Associate Professor in Data Science, at the University of Bath 

Dot Powell, Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement, Warwick Business School 


In this webinar, Nigel Slack, Alistair Brandon-Jones, Nicola Burgess, Dot Powell, and Lukasz Piwek explored the dual nature of Generative AI, debating whether it is a valuable tool or a potential distraction in teaching. They acknowledged that Generative AI can be both beneficial when used appropriately, and distracting if not employed thoughtfully. Nigel, Alistair, and Nicola shared their insights into the potential impact of Generative AI on teaching and writing. Nigel provided a glimpse into the extensive scope of Generative AI applications and emphasised the need for careful consideration in its utilisation, quoting, "It's kind of impressive. It's kind of useful, but it's not useful in all circumstances. And one of the big issues we face is, when do we use this?" This quote reflects the webinar's central theme of weighing the benefits and challenges of integrating generative AI into teaching practices, highlighting the need for thoughtful consideration of its applications. 

Lukasz Piwek defined Generative AI as a broad category of technologies capable of producing unique content across various media. He highlighted the learning process's complexity, pointing out the limited training capabilities. Finally, Lukasz underscored the significant breakthrough that generative AI represents in AI evolution, citing its capacity for self-guided learning.  

Nicola Burgess then delved into the pendulum-like journey between enlightenment and despair in exploring AI's implications. She encouraged proactive conversations on AI ethics, biases, and its responsible use within classrooms and highlighted its dual influence on students. Nicola addressed challenges with students submitting AI-generated content, advocating for a shift in perspective, viewing AI as a tool for learning rather than a replacement. As she aptly puts it, "We need to exploit AI for better learning." 

Next, Dot Powell discussed her successful attempt to introduce a capability-based view of AI to foundation year students, focusing on enhancing their capabilities through responsible and ethical AI use. Working with students, she aimed to shift their perspective on AI from a glorified search engine to a tool for reflective learning. She employed a prompt-based approach using a reflective journal, transforming AI into a coach to guide students through critical incidents while emphasising originality in their responses. Dot shared insights into the difficulties faced in aligning AI use with higher order thinking skills, highlighting the importance of students understanding AI fundamentals before engaging in more complex applications. 

Alistair discussed the integration of AI into teaching, showcasing examples from a group assignment where students collaborated with Chat-GPT in Operations Management. He discussed the potential of AI to push students towards higher-order skills.  

Nigel expanded on the model underlying the interaction between problems, AI, and decision-makers, emphasising the shift in focus from evaluating solutions to understanding the relationship between prompts and solutions. Nigel stressed the importance of teaching students critical skills and discussed the collaborative role of educators with AI in writing teaching materials. The quote, "It's not AI that will replace lecturers. It's lecturers working with AI that will be dominant," encapsulates the collaborative approach advocated throughout the webinar. 

The webinar ended with a Q&A session with the participants, which was a wrap-up of the lively discussion during the webinar in the chat area. 


Chat summary 

The chat initially focused on discussions about AI-generated content. Participants expressed amazement, thoughts and concerns about AI capabilities. The conversation shifted to exploring potential applications of AI in education, with some optimism around its enhancement possibilities and others expressing concerns about misuse and ethical considerations. 

Various topics were touched upon, including the trustworthiness of AI translations, the impact of AI on assessments, its use in research, and potential misuse or plagiarism of AI-generated content. The participants explored issues related to prompt engineering, biases in GenAI, and the challenges of assessing learning in subjects requiring specific knowledge. There was an acknowledgment of the need for awareness and critical thinking regarding biases present in GenAI. 

Participants shared experiences and opinions on integrating AI into educational practices. Towards the end, there was a shift to discussing plagiarism detection and ethical use of AI, with questions about students' responsible employment of AI tools. 

The overall tone of the chat reflected a mix of excitement about AI's educational possibilities and concerns regarding potential risks and ethical considerations. Tools and their applications, particularly in language translation and video generation, were central topics of discussion. Participants expressed interest in continuing the conversation beyond the allotted time and in connecting through other platforms. The webinar provided valuable insights into the complexities and implications of integrating Generative AI into education. 

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