Polk State faculty and staff collaborate on ethical use of artificial intelligence

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance, it inevitably raises questions, concerns, and even fears among individuals. At Polk State College, faculty and staff are proactively addressing these emerging realities through collaborative efforts. Utilizing research, fostering open dialogue, and providing professional development opportunities, they are united in a shared goal: to enrich the educational experience for students while navigating the complexities of AI.

Dr. Amy Bratten, Provost for Academic Affairs and Workforce Education, explained how the accessibility of AI presents both challenges and opportunities within higher education.

“Faculty and staff are exploring how to allow or disallow AI in the classroom. We are looking at the ethical use of AI, how to teach our students to recognize and use AI responsibly, and how we can use AI to enhance the learning-teaching experience,” Bratten said.

In her ESOL Issues: Principles and Practice II course, Bratten encourages aspiring teachers to utilize ChatGPT as a tool to create lesson plans.

“The important thing is that it is a tool; it’s not there to do all the work for you,” she said. “ChatGPT is good for a first draft and to get your creativity going. It’s a warmup for the brain. AI allows you to get students into critical thinking faster, provides feedback on how to make something you have created better, and can serve as a source of inspiration and creativity.”

Professional development

“We are looking at the ethical use of AI, how to teach our students to recognize and use AI responsibly, and how we can use AI to enhance the learning-teaching experience.”

Dr. Amy Bratten
Provost, Academic Affairs and Workforce Education

The College’s Learning Technology Team has hosted several AI forums and developed training for faculty to learn about the essentials, ethical dilemmas, and how to incorporate transparent use of AI into their courses if they choose. Training can be accessed through the online Learning Technology Support resource center in Canvas.

“An institution that embraces AI will be more competitive,” Instructional Designer Katie Ragsdale said. “AI is most effective in the classroom when faculty use it to encourage critical thinking and there is a focus on the process of using AI.”

Sha’Kia Riggins, Program Director for the Computer Systems and Business Analysis Program, was naturally an early adopter of AI and has completed training through Intel to become an AI for Workforce lead facilitator. This qualifies her to train other faculty on the inclusion of AI in their courses. She is also a member of the College’s Professional Development Day Committee, which curated this year’s PDD to include several AI-learning opportunities for faculty and staff.

“I have met with countless faculty and what I hear is ‘we’re scared,’ but it is because we are still figuring out what it is,” Riggins explained. “Additionally, many faculty members are being introduced to AI because their students are using it to cheat. This is an opportunity for us to grow professionally as it requires us to be more diverse and creative in the development of our content, and it requires us to get to know our students better so that we can differentiate between their work and AI-generated content.”

Riggins is working with the Criminal Justice Program, for example, to create or reconfigure existing assignments to combat the use of AI for cheating.

Adapting to changes

Sgt. Chris Shea, Director for the Criminal Justice Program, which is predominately taught online, shared that AI became a topic of discussion when ChatGPT was released in November 2022.

“It became apparent that students were utilizing AI in discussion posts in courses online,” she said. “We looked at our assignments and assessments and began brainstorming to determine how we could modify them to be more critical thinking based versus textbook regurgitation.”

“This is an opportunity for us to grow professionally as it requires us to be more diverse and creative in the development of our content.”

Sha’Kia Riggins
Program Director, Computer Systems and Business Analysis

One way to do this is through video, Shea explained.

“Many of our assignments have been changed from written to video. While a student could still use AI to develop a response that they may read, we are including requirements such as references to specific cases or passages from a textbook to combat that as well,” she added. “This also responds to concerns from our advisory board that recent hires lack communication skills. Having them speak, show their faces, and present – even in the online environment – is helping them develop those skills.”

Shea is exploring the incorporation of ChatGPT and its ethical use into future Criminal Justice courses.

“We are developing some exercises where we would ask students to go into ChatGPT, put in a prompt, and then evaluate its response to determine whether the information is accurate and, if so, what resources back that up,” she said. “We are also exploring the possibility of having students put their own work into ChatGPT so that it gives them feedback and they can see where they may strengthen their assignments and reflect on what they’ve learned from that.”

“We want to train students on the ethical use of AI.”

Professor of Education Beverly Woolery is already incorporating such exercises into her online Introduction to Technology for Educators course. One of her assignments is for students to create lesson plans using ChatGPT.

“It can generate a 30-minute lesson plan for a specific grade level on the life cycle of a frog, complete with technological components, objectives, collaborative learning, rubric, and accompanied by a multiple-choice quiz with answers all within 20 seconds,” Woolery said. “It’s truly mind-blowing.”

She also highlighted that the tool offers teachers an additional resource to tailor plans for diverse learners in their classrooms, who may be of lower or higher proficiency levels.

Woolery elaborated on how her students proceed to personalize the plans generated by ChatGPT through ongoing dialogue in the prompt section. She highlighted the time-saving aspect of using an Al tool, emphasizing its benefits for both educators and their students.

“By delegating routine tasks to ChatGPT, teachers can redirect their efforts towards more meaningful learning activities. They gain more quality time to engage with their students,” Woolery explained, adding that she encourages students to view ChatGPT as an assistant, not a replacement, stressing its role in fostering higher-order thinking and providing inspiration during instruction.

Drawing from her own experience in developing course materials for Polk State, she describes how incorporating ChatGPT has not only freed up valuable time for more interactions with students but how it has also enhanced the efficiency of her teaching process by fostering a more engaging and effective online learning environment.

Embracing possibilities

Dr. Gregory Johnson, Program Director for Digital Media Technology, shares Woolery’s excitement about AI.

“The tool is unbelievable,” he said of ChatGPT. “I instantly saw the potential and set out to learn how to get the most from it.”

Johnson acknowledged the fears that surround AI and its increased accessibility through the introduction of ChatGPT.

“It should be explored, demonstrated, and learned because its capabilities for pedagogy, learning, and teaching are immense.”

Dr. Gregory Johnson
Program Director, Digital Media Technology

“I don’t think it is wise to put significant restrictions on it,” Johnson said. “It should be explored, demonstrated, and learned because its capabilities for pedagogy, learning, and teaching are immense.”

“It won’t replace creativity,” he added. “It will jumpstart creativity and magnify it significantly. We no longer have to start from a blank slate. Instead, you can tell it what you want to do, and it will scope the world’s knowledge. It is able to access, analyze, and reuse the world’s information in a way that a single human cannot.”

As Woolery described ChatGPT as a teacher assistant, Johnson considers it “a co-pilot, a tutor, a tool that is always available in your pocket.”

Like minimizing the time a teacher spends on lesson planning, AI is also assisting designers in working more efficiently through generative programs in image searching and editing, audio and visual creation, coding and copywriting, and more.

“These tools allow designers to save on workload significantly,” Johnson exclaimed. “The people who learn to use AI well are likely to outperform those who don’t. Notice how I didn’t say replace. It is important to learn AI, understand how it works, and integrate it in a way that makes sense for you.”

Polk State’s Learning Technology Team says that’s the goal.

“We want students, faculty, and staff to know what AI is and how to use it responsibly,” former Instructional Designer Carleigh Okwali said. “If we view it as an opportunity instead of a threat, and embrace AI as part of the learning process, we will enhance the Polk State experience for everyone.”

Faculty are not required to use AI in their courses, but the Learning Technology Team wants to ensure support for those who are motivated to do so.

Polk State faculty can access Learning Technology Support here: canvas.polk.edu/courses/15901.

ChatGPT was used in the writing process of this article.