Faculty Club / Technology & AI / “Faculty are Hungry for This”: Why One Teacher Embraces AI in Education

“Faculty are Hungry for This”: Why One Teacher Embraces AI in Education

Stephanie Speicher, Digital Fluency Faculty in Residence at Weber State University, explains how AI tools like ChatGPT are leading a necessary shift in how educators teach and learn.

Stephanie Speicher, Digital Fluency Faculty in Residence at Weber State University, explains how AI tools like ChatGPT are leading a necessary shift in how educators teach and learn.

There are few educators in higher education as forward-thinking as Stephanie Speicher. With a career spanning decades and disciplines, Stephanie has witnessed firsthand the evolution of educational technology. From the early days when personal email and computers were groundbreaking, to today’s era of artificial intelligence (AI), she’s been at the forefront of it all. 

As Digital Fluency Faculty in Residence and Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Weber State University, Stephanie has become an advocate for integrating AI into classrooms. 

“My hope is that AI will serve as a challenge to be more creative and innovative with our teaching methods.”

While Stephanie recognizes the fear educators feel of using AI in the classroom, she believes banning AI tools is not the answer. Instead, her solution is vulnerability. She says, “Faculty must be willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is our strength.”

A Shifting Paradigm

Educators have harbored understandable concerns about the academic misconduct AI tools could facilitate. While Stephanie now embraces AI, it took a willingness to explore AI tools to get her here. When discussing her initial reaction to ChatGPT, she admits, “Sure, I was a little nervous, but the reality is students are going to cheat if they want to.” 

Stephanie didn’t shy away from her fear. She instead took time to familiarize herself with AI tools. Because of her innate curiosity, Stephanie now has a refreshing perspective: She believes focusing on the negative aspects of AI would be a disservice to their transformative potential. 

“I’m not scared anymore because it’s shifting the questions we ask. What I put in is what I get out, so it’s upping the game.”

To Stephanie, the advent of AI represents a watershed moment. It’s not just about embracing the latest technological trend; it’s about recognizing the profound possibilities it opens up. “To think about how AI could shift the way we engage with each other and what we’re capable of as humans, that’s what I’m excited about,” she says.

Balancing AI and Critical Thinking

One of the most common criticisms of incorporating AI in education is the fear it may stifle students’ critical thinking and creativity. Critics argue that excessive reliance on AI might lead to a generation of students who rely on shortcuts and lack the ability to think independently.

Stephanie acknowledges these concerns but knows educators can strike a balance between leveraging AI tools and fostering essential skills. 

“It’s easier said than done. We have to be very thoughtful, deliberate, and strategic in the assignments we’re creating and what we’re expecting students to give us in return.”

In Stephanie’s view, ChatGPT and similar AI tools should serve as aids rather than replacements for human thinking. Educators can integrate these tools into assignments to encourage students to delve into deeper levels of thought and analysis. 

“ChatGPT is a tool students might use as part of the assignment to get to a greater complexity of thought,” she suggests.

To achieve this balance, Stephanie advocates for a shift away from traditional assessment methods, such as multiple-choice exams, that primarily test memorization. She also emphasizes the importance of ethical considerations in using AI tools. Educators must teach students not only how to use AI ethically but also how to evaluate the information AI provides.

The Creativity Concern of AI

There’s a common belief that AI’s ability to generate content quickly will render human creativity obsolete. Instead of seeing AI as a threat to creativity, Stephanie sees it as a facilitator. In her view, AI should enhance the creative process, not be a substitute for it.

“I know my students can go into ChatGPT and say, ‘write me a lesson plan.’ Even before ChatGPT, students could download lesson plans online. But it’s all about the teaching before the assignment. How can we utilize what we get from AI to bolster our ideas? That’s where the teacher comes in.”

Stephanie acknowledges there are challenges associated with AI use in the classroom. She recounts an incident with a Master’s student who submitted a paper that was clearly not their own work. But this instance highlighted a crucial need: educators must focus on teaching process, not product. 

“It’s the process, the brainstorming. How do we help students feel confident in the space first?” she asks.

AI in Action: Stephanie’s Classroom

To truly understand the impact of AI on education, it’s essential to explore how educators like Stephanie are actively integrating it into their teaching methods. Stephanie’s enthusiasm for AI in education is palpable as she shares her personal experiences.

“I have the Course Hero teaching grant to help students create podcasts,” Stephanie explains. In the past, her assignments would involve students interviewing someone or researching a current event in education. However, she now challenges them to take it a step further by turning their research into a podcast. 

“Students may go to ChatGPT to help them write the script for the podcast. Awesome, I can even teach them how. But the student is the one who’s going to interpret the questions, interview the teacher, analyze the results, and create something AI won’t be able to give me. That’s what I mean by an authentic assignment.”

Stephanie’s podcast project, aptly named “Seeking Solutions,” reflects her commitment to pushing the boundaries of education. Instead of dwelling on the challenges and negativity often surrounding educational discourse, she encourages her students to explore alternatives.

AI Academy: A Learning Opportunity

Stephanie’s dedication to AI in education is not limited to her classroom; it extends to her role as Facilitator for Course Hero’s AI Academy. Course Hero holds a special place in her heart, because the educational technology company embraces AI and its potential to enhance teaching practices.

“AI Academy is easy for faculty to digest,” Stephanie says. The program offers weekly modules that are carefully scaffolded to meet the needs of educators. It starts by addressing the fundamental questions: How does AI impact educators? From there, it delves into the ethical considerations of AI usage and how to teach students AI literacy.

Stephanie says an exciting part of AI Academy is that, “Faculty are hungry for this. It provides a focused, four-week curriculum in manageable bites.” Educators participate in a series of interactive modules, expert-led discussions, and reflection activities that will kick-start their journey into AI. Completing the program and earning the certificate also signals to one’s university a commitment to embracing AI in pedagogy.

But AI Academy is not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s a community-driven environment that fosters a sense of global collaboration among educators.

“AI Academy includes people from all over the world who want to have these conversations. The best part of this is it gets us out of our university nucleus where we spend our time. We’re educating global citizens, and the more we acknowledge that, the more we can work together.”

As Stephanie and her colleagues at AI Academy continue to advocate for AI’s role in education, one overarching message becomes clear: AI is not here to replace teachers but to empower them. It’s a tool that, when embraced with thoughtfulness, can reshape the way we teach and learn, ultimately opening doors to a brighter and more innovative future.

The Future of AI in Education

As we ponder the future of AI in education, Stephanie offers a hopeful vision. She sees AI as a catalyst for creativity that will force educators to break free from low-level thinking. 

“It’s changing our paradigm as educators and what it means to be a faculty member in the 21st century in higher education. It’s not what it was in 1980. We don’t need you to lecture for 50 minutes. We probably didn’t need it then.”

Stephanie is also acutely aware of the developing nature of work and the workplace. She believes AI can help bridge the gap between traditional education and the demands of the modern workforce. 

“In an ideal space as teachers, AI can enable us to create authentic assessments that measure real-world applicability and problem-solving skills,” she envisions.

There is, however, a challenge in envisioning this future fully. The transformative potential of AI in education is so vast, it exceeds our current imagination. 

“It’s hard for us to envision it because we’ve never seen it. And it’s going to push us all. I hope these new technologies help us in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. It’s really shifting our mentality about what it means to teach effectively.”

Stephanie’s embrace of AI in education is a testament to the possibilities ahead. As she advocates for the thoughtful integration of AI, she inspires educators to adopt the role of lifelong learner by remaining vulnerable and adapting quickly. 

In a world where change is the only constant, it is educators like Stephanie who pave the way for a future where AI and humans work in harmony to unlock the full potential of education.

Join the Next AI Academy

Course Hero’s AI Academy for Fall ’23 is full. Register your interest for the Spring ’24 cohort to receive a $50 discount. In the meantime, peruse the collection of AI teaching resources below.

Resources for Educators

About the Author

Morgan Westling is an Associate Content Specialist at Course Hero. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Portland and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from The University of the South. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has been writing for over 7 years. Find more of her work at http://www.morganwestling.com.

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