#158 GenAI in Higher Education

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on Mon Sep 11 2023 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

with Laura Newey, Darren W Pulsipher,

In this podcast episode, Darren Pulsipher, chief solution architect of public sector at Intel, interviews Laura Torres Newey, a New York Times best-selling author and university professor, about the impact of generative AI in higher education. This episode delves into the challenges and opportunities presented by the integration of generative AI in the classroom, highlighting the need for critical thinking skills, the concerns of bias, and ensuring the preservation of unique voices.


#addressingbiasesingenerativeai #preservingauthenticityandindividuality #balancingaiintegrationineducation #lauratorresnewey #criticalthinkingskills #educationaltechnology #highereducation #aiineducation #aibias #diversityandinclusion #authenticvoices #uniqueperspectives #genai #generativeai #embracingdigital #edt158

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The Rise of Generative AI in Education

In a recent episode of the podcast “Embracing Digital Transformation,” host Darren Pulsipher interviews Laura Torres Newey, a New York Times bestselling author and English professor, about the impact of generative AI in higher education. The discussion revolves around the integration of AI in the classroom, its effects on teaching methods, concerns about bias, and the preservation of unique voices. Laura shares her insights and experiences as an educator, offering valuable perspectives on navigating the evolving landscape of education in the era of artificial intelligence.

The Influence of Generative AI in Education

Generative AI has started to become a notable presence in education, from automated essay grading to providing writing assistance to students. While this technology offers convenience and efficiency, it raises concerns about the potential loss of unique voices. Laura emphasizes the importance of valuing and nurturing students’ individual perspectives and creativity in their writing. Instead of outright banning the use of generative AI, Laura believes in teaching students how to use these tools effectively and harness their potential without compromising their own voices.

The integration of generative AI prompts a shift in the focus of teaching. Rather than solely evaluating the final product, educators should place more emphasis on the learning process. With AI-driven tools like Grammarly available to students, teachers can redirect their attention towards developing critical thinking skills, research abilities, and the discernment to identify reliable sources. By incorporating assignments that involve comparing AI-generated content with traditionally written work, students can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, fostering a deeper understanding of their writing and refining their critical thinking skills.

The Role of Educators in the Era of AI

Educators have an essential role in preparing students for the ever-evolving technological landscape. Laura emphasizes that adapting to and effectively utilizing generative AI is crucial for educators at all levels of education. With AI becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace, students who can navigate and leverage this technology will be better equipped for future job opportunities. To ensure students are well-prepared, educators must not only familiarize themselves with AI applications but also teach students how to use AI effectively and ethically.

The shift towards integrating generative AI in education aligns with the U.S. Department of Education’s stance on AI. They acknowledge the potential benefits but emphasize the need for users to remain in control, comparing AI’s role to that of an electric bike, where the technology lessens the burden but the user ultimately retains control. This approach emphasizes the importance of striking a balance between harnessing the benefits of AI and preserving the unique voices and perspectives of students.


The integration of generative AI in education presents both opportunities and challenges. While AI can enhance learning and assist students with their assignments, it is crucial for educators to prioritize critical thinking and address bias concerns to develop well-rounded and independent thinkers. Teachers should embrace AI technology, understanding its applications and teaching students how to navigate and utilize it effectively. By striking a balance between the efficiency of AI-generated content and the preservation of authentic and diverse voices, educators can prepare students for the digital future while ensuring the cultivation of their individuality and creativity.

Podcast Transcript


Hello, this is Darren

Pulsipher, chief solution,architect of public sector at Intel.

And welcome to Embracing

Digital Transformation,where we investigate effective change,leveragingpeople, process and technology.

On today's episode, Jenny

AI in Higher Educationwith special guest New York Timesbest selling author

Laura Torres Newey.

Laura, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Darren.

Hey, Laura, you gotyou got a really incredible background.

Your friend of mine and my wife and.

The most incredible thing right. There.

Oh, they are. Thank you. Thank you.

But your bestselling New York Timesbest sellingauthor,you're teaching in the universities.

And you and I were talking the otherother day, probably a month ago.

And I asked you a simple questionwhich spurredthis really great conversation.

I said,

Where's my mike? I need my Mike Frey.

And that was,

What areyou going to do about generative AIin the classroom and in college level?

Because you teach English and criticalthinkingat at university level.

So what are you going to do about it?

Because at the time you're going,

I you know, there's lots of different.

But now I class,

I probably just put my head in my handsand screamed at that facebecause it's a it's a it's a big question.

And I think,you know, a while back, Elon

Musk said in an interview about A.I.,he said, things are getting weirdand they're getting weird fast.

And it's been terrifying for peopleat the universities.

Not so much AI itself, but just whatwhat do we do about it?

Because it it changes everything. It does.

Well, that's what that's what I thought.

Yeah. It changes a lot. A lot of things.

How do you how do you teach?

How do you grade? Right.

Because I,

I, my kids already know how to use it.

My, my teenagers,they're going to get A's inall their English class, I have no doubt.

Right. Because they're going to.

They know how to do all this stuff.

And so.

So it's it's a major change.

But before we get in there,

I want people to hear your backgroundbecause you got a great background.

So let's hear a little bitabout about Laura.

It sounds like I've donea lot of different things,but really it's all been in booksand publication and writing.

So when I was 14 years old, I got a jobas a library where I was shelving booksand I checked out more than I shelvedand I didn't have to pay late feesto come more than I shelf.

But anyway, from then on out, I was alwaysinvolved in books and publishing andthat kind of thing for,you know, in one way or another.

But I started out in children's publishingand I worked at several differentchildren's publishing housesas a senior editor and aa writer and American Girl magazineas an editor.

And mostly I wrote books on my ownas a freelancerand and did well with that.

It was then nonfiction, magazinearticles, couple novels.

I worked as a newspaper reporterat one point, which wasn't a good fitbecause I don't like

I love the immediacy of it,but I don't like bothering people,especially onesthat are in a crisis situation.

But then in my I, I got married.

I moved to Sacramento, which is not knownfor its children's publishingscene, and I was kind of burnt outon the freelance stuff.

And so I went back to schooland got my master's deciding

I was going to teach creative writingbecause I had just come offof the two novelsand ended up teaching compositioninsteadbecause I had to go back and take severalundergrad composition coursesand I saw how it was done poorlyand I thought I,

I need to do it better herebecause I thought I was going to dieof boredom in those classes.

And that's my down. So I just

I started that.

And ever since then

I've been teaching English quite well.

Critical thinking, readingand writing at the most basic level.

And a lot of times for studentswho are not quite up to college levelwriting yet. Well, you recently.

Yeah, you recentlydid something really interesting.


Yeah. Interesting is one way to put it.

So I teach at a prisonhere in

California,and it's a it's a high security prisonand it's old schoolbecause they have no technology.

They're supposed to get laptops soon,but no technology.

So pencil, paper,that's completely old school. Wow.

What a big changebecause you did that this year.

So far, you've done that.

So you're going to move from teachingthese inmates with paper and pencil.

No Internet access to now kidshaving a pretty,pretty incredible new technologygenerative A.I.that has the knowledge of the worldat their fingertips.

Yeah,and it's a completely different thing.

The classes aren't even goingthey're not even going to go look alike.

Because what you know,what it comes down to for meat its most basic form, as far as greatwell care so much about grading as I doabout learning, but the end productdoesn't matter as much to me anymorebecause I the.

Way that the teacher just say that the endproduct doesn't matter as much anymore.

I did because anybody can come upwith a polished end productbetween Grammarly and I knowthat's simplistic because of courseyou've got to have the good argumentationand the critical thinkingskills and right, you know, the research,solid thesis, all of that kind of stuff.

But what I'm going to be doing isteaching and grading on the processand not so muchon the end productin order to that to circumventcheating or trying to get,you know, nail studentsthat are going to use a I.

But my job is to teach critical thinking.

It's not to teach where the commas go.

And so the only way I can really see to dothat is to focus on the process.

Show me your sources.

Why are these sources good?

You know,

But can you identify misinformation?

Can you get to the reading level tounderstand the peer reviewed literature?

Now give me an outline.

Now, what are you going to argue?

And the most important thing,one of the most importantthings to me is the counter argumentsand the counter points,because we'll get to this in a minute.

One of my biggest fears for generative

AI in the classroom is bias.

Oh yeah, absolutely. Weare putting inprompts and they get one point of viewonly.

There goes the critical thinkingand I have a real concern.

And colleges lean one wayas far as ideology.

Especially inespecially in the liberal arts colleges.


Right. Correct.

There's and there's no roomfor a certain voices already.

And the kids who have a different voiceand buck againstthat system are quickly silenced.

But at least,you know, at least they're thinkingat least they're expressing themselves.

If generative.

AI really has the kind of biasthat I'm thinking it does at this point.

Not only are they not going to need

I don't quite know how to express it.

What's going to be put outis only going to be sort of 11.of view.

I'm really concerned about that.

I hope it evolves on that.


You know, I just talked

I just talked to an expert in generative

AI about the bias thing and he goes, It'sreally interesting what you can dowith the generative AI now in thatyou can give it different personas.

You can say, I want youto write a conservative article.

I want you to write a more progressivearticle, a more liberal article.

I want you to pretend like you'refrom a different country.

You can have it do those sorts of thingsand get alternateegos and alternate personalitiescoming out of the generative.

They I.

I thought that that press thatit would give a genuineconservative viewpoint.

Well, I don't know.

That's a. Good that's a good question in.

Here that I'm an end user only

I have no understandingof how the technology works.

Well, yeah.

And how the technology works isis real simple.

If we put if we simplify it downdata in, data out.


So a I will giveopinions based off the type of datathat's been put in.

One of the biggest examples ofthat was an AIthat was let loose onon the Internet by Microsoft years ago.

And all the trolls came outand within 24 hoursthey had to shut it down the

AI because it became somisogynistic and cursingand it was in a racistand all these things because peoplewere feeding it, that type of stuff.

It wasn't gathering informationfrom all over.

In fact, chat GPTtwo had extreme bias andt to the point where it was unusablebecause they just gathereda bunch of stuff off the internet.

So there's a lot ofvulgarity and crudeness and all that.

So what they didwas they had people curating the data.

So in essence chat GPT is theis curated data,which means it's biased by nature.


And you know what goes rightalong with that.

So, so I'm afraid of the bias.

I'm afraid of the loss of criticalthinking skills.

But I think that we can learn to redirectand teach in a different way.

And honestly, my biggest fearthat I haven't heard discussed a lotis that we're going to lose unique voicesbecause you said, well,you can put on different personas,ask it to do things, butit is going to come out in a generic wayfor that persona and often it's horrible.

I dunno,

I did some generative AI for my studentsin the prisonand I had it do a certain topicand I was testing out the different voicesand I asked it to do it in rap.

I was reading it to the studentsand one of them nearly had a heart attackand he said, No one has studiedyo in a rap since the nineties.

So it wasn'tit wasn't an authentic voice.

And it's like, are our students of colorour black students going to have toto maintain their voice,put something in the generative

AI that says speak in black English.

And what is that going to come out like?

You know, because A.I. right nowa standardized English.

So I'm I'm terrified of peoplelosing unique voices.

As a writing teacher, I don't care aboutyour commas or whatever, necessarily.

I mean, that'sjust such a tiny part of it.

We just don't want itto impede understanding.

What I'm interested in is your voice,your argumentation.

I always tell my students,if you guys all wrote papers,left your names offby the end of the semester with 90%certainty, I could get whose paper iswhose just from your your book.

Because everybody has a distinct voice.

And I can tell a generative air essaybecause the voice is very bland,very, very generative.


So so that's that'sreally interesting, Laura, becausewe came up with the terma couple episodes ago called

I Washedrightwhere things have been fed into an airso much and we were talkingspecifically about email.

I can send an email that I run through an

I to make it better.

I send it to my boss who uses an A.I.to read it and give him the highlights.

He responds with an air back to me.

And what do we have?

We have an air washed conversationand we lose our voice. I love it.

No one's ever said said that.

And I think that's that's really cool.

The thing that's really superinteresting about this is there'sbeen a huge movement the last couple yearscalled Linguistic Justice.

And it's about it's a movementto not squash different voices.

It's a movement awayfrom your standardized academic English.

We've long been accused in academiaof squashing voicesto conform to an academic voicewhere, you know, our blackvoices, our Spanish voices, thewhat have you are just as legitimate.

So why are we adhering to the standardwhen those are alsolegitimate dialects, legitimate accents,

And there's a huge movementto preserve and encourage these voices?

And how does that squarewith the generative A.I.?

There's two movements that to methey seem they seem opposite.

They are diametrically opposed.

Yeah, yeah.


So, so on one hand, most teachersare on board with preserving uniquevoices, and on the other hand, we'reall going to be using generative A.I..

Talk about the wash thing.

So I'm on this website.

I've been selling one thing

I left out of my little bios.

I've been writing and sellingcurriculum for a decade now,and there's a websitethat's huge that a lot of teachersand this is K throughmostly grade school stuffwhere teachers create curriculumfor other teachers.

And they these curriculum creatorsare some of the first peoplethat I knew that jumped on generative AI.

And I think I.

Can do two tons a day.

I can produce tons of stuff quick.

Instead of sitting there for 8 hoursand writing a fourth grade reading passageabout whether animals should be kept inzoos and getting the reading level right,doing all the research, you just put it inair and it comes out pretty good.

So here's the thing.

So we have teachersgenerating the curriculumand these kind of teacher createdresources are huge, and I expect thattextbook education companies will be usinggenerative A.I. too.

So the curriculum is generated by AI.

The students use generative

AI to do the curriculum,the assignments and the exercises.

And we've got machinestalking to machines.

Maybe I'm not smart enough to understandhow that's not going to be the case,but it sure feels like.

Yeah, I think it is going to be.

So what role do humans have in this overexactly?

Just looking at it, making sure it's okay?

I don't know.

I know. Knowyou bring upan interesting pointand and and that's education.

You're not caring about the outcomeas much as.

You. Are.

You are is is the student learning?

Are they are they progressing?

Are they learning how to use these tools?

Because whether we like it or not,these tools are going to be around.


And so I think the worst mistakethat a teacher could make atthis point is to ban generative A.I.and to say, you can't use it.

It's cheating if you use it. I'mnot going to do that at all.

In fact, in my syllabus,one of the first things that I said forthis semester is really excitedto integrate generative

AI technology into our classroom,along with traditional writing skillsso that they know right off the bat,

Hey, this isn't a sneaky cheating thing.

We're using this and inall the assignments I would say all that.

I'm doing a lot of in-class writing.

I learned a lotfrom teaching in the prison and that brainto handwritten connection,there's something to it.

So I'm going to be doinga lot of handwritten exercises in class.

But back to the point,which I forgot what it was.

Was I type?

Oh, just, you know, how are you goingto leverage in generative AI?

That's how we're going to use itin the classroom.

Okay, let's do a pauseso that you can edit that part.


So the way that I'vedeveloped my assignments for this semesteris, for example, an example assignment isthey'll be doing all the steps to writea paper using research, addressingthe opposition and all of that stuff.

I'll tell themwhen and where they can use AI,but they have to show me the process.

What sources are you going to use?

Are they valid sources?

So we're going to do the whole processall along, some of it in class.

They're going to create the end productand then when they're done with that,they're going to generate the AI versionand we're going to talk abouthow we approach this.

Yeah, how will youhow will you write the course?

Here's part of critical thinking Usinggenerative AI is how do I write the promptto get what I'm after,to express my views,to get the thesis, I want to getthe opposing viewpoints that I want.

So I'm going to have them do that.

They're going to havethe essays side by side.

And then the big assignment,the assignment to worth the most pointsis they're going to compare and contrast

What did I do better?

What did I do better?

What are some of the shortfalls here?

Is thereyou know, I just like I want to seewhat they come up with and that way.

So it serves two purposes.

I think it's practical.

So here's what's going to happenwhen you're out in the work worldand you're allowed to use generative AI,you're going to have to look at it.

It's got hallucinationsand it didn't use sources properly.

It didn't it cited sources.

They're going to find outall of this stuff.

And there's going to.

Be those councilsand they're going to see thatthey do some things betterand that their voice isimportant. So we'll see if it works.

Man, I wish I had you as an Englishteacher.

Well, I heard another teacherhad a really good example.

Assignment two is they watcheda show.

I don't know if it's a documentaryor whatever it was.

I watched the show in class togetherand then on the spotshe generated an essayfrom I.

She did it right in the classroom,pass it out to the class,and then they all had to revise it andthen share their revisions with groups.

Compare contrast.

And I thoughtthat was a really good way to do it too.

You know, here's what's generated.

But how are you now going to write?

See what Yeah, what what's, what's valid?

I love this because you're teachingpractical skillsthat people needwhen they're in the workplace.

You're teaching critical thinkingwithout worrying about as muchwhat we get tied into.

It's a problem I personally havewith a lot of the way people teach. It's

I don't care how you get to the answerof the answers,what I'm looking for. Yeah.

And that was that was me.

Because I figured if you end upwith a really good end product,that means that all the criticalthinking skills went into it.

While I don't think that's thereany, that's not anymore. Hum.

Yeah, I had a colleague yesterday. He saidthe essays see if I get this right.

The essays they write don't get themthe job, the criticalthinking skills,the hard work is what gets them the job.

So I would say or keep the jobbecause I might have written the resume.

Right? So that's point.

So it's a complete shiftfor me to focus more heavily on processrather than end product.

But that's just well in as.

And in the in the in the shift,you're helping these kids understandhow the process works.

And they're learningthey're learning how to leverage A.I.to be more effective in theirin their jobs.

I'm learning how to use generative A.I.rightnow, highly effective in some things.

Other things.

I'm like, Ooh, that fell rightflat on its face.

I can't leverage that anymore.

So I know,

I know. It's an important skill.


And, you know, it's interesting.

So it was in professional developmentyesterday that was cross discipline.

And the math teachers were saying,you know,

I understand your concerns,but it's like when we started using,you know, calculators or the, you know,the more heavy duty calculators.


And I argued I got my bristles upand I said it's not the samebecause writing is of voice.

Writing is about unique voices.

And that's a totally different thing.

And if everybody can just come upwith the answer through generative

AI writing, I think we've lost somethingthat is really, really important.

I'm not just talking novels,you know, you've gotfiction writers, unique voicesthat just what makes art.

But it is, but not creativenonfiction, everything.

Like you said, we don't we don't want it.

We don't want it washed out.

Yeah that's, that's what I most

I that's what I'm terrified about.

And it's interesting becausewhether we like it or not,we all communicate with words,right?

Some people don't like that,whether it's spoken wordor whether it's a written word.

Both can be generated via AI.

In fact, on my other podcast,my weekly news podcast,

I now use my own cloned voice to do that.

In six different languages.

Oh, wow. Yeah, it's so great.

My voicenow can be whitewashed or whitewashed.

AI washedjust as well.

My my vocal voice can be

I wash just as much as my written.

And so I love I love that you saywe still need our own unique voicesin in this worldwhere AI's is going to be used inlots of different things.

And it's valuable. It is valuable.

Oh, it is.

Ask meif I've ever created a lecture using AI.

Heck yes, I have. Yeah, of course.


Well, and, and, and doctors arestarting to use it to writepost operative notes and things likeit's, you know, it's here.

It's great to help usaugment the work that we do.

But I'm glad that you've you've pulled outand I love what you saidyour voice still needs is uniquein who you are.

And part of our job as teachersespecially, well,

I wouldn't say especially at the highereducation level at all levels, is to valueand acknowledge those unique voicesso that generative AI is less seductive.

Oh, I love man.

You should write a book about this, Laura.

Let's write a book.

I should.

And I know nothing.

Talk to me after the semester is overand we'll see.


Well,this is really the first semester, right?

This is the first school yearwhere generative AI has been generallyavailable.

You got students

I generative AI at the end of

I was just like, This is not her voice.

I recognize the voice. I was like,

This is not her voice.

And I can find it in plagiarism.

And then it dawned on metoo late that it was A.I..

But she didn't have any sources citedbecause this was early, right?


And then I was teachingin the prison in the spring.

So this is really the first go at it.

But I've been thinking long and hard andand everybody in education has, in fact.

And the U.S.

Department of Education,you know, government moves slowly.

But I was really glad to see what they hadto say about using AI in education.

They said, I don't have the exact quote,but I mean, to paraphrase,it was something likeit. We're going to use

AI morelike an electric bike than a robot vacuum.

The user is still in control,but the burden is lessened.

Well, I kind of like that. Yeah, I hope.

It's true where I'd like it to be,but I think it's on the right track.

Yeah, I hope it.

I hope it's more true than not.

But I also I also truly believe this.

If you don't understand how to use it,you're going to be left behind.

Yeah, that's true.

That I truly believe that.

It reminds me.

It feels a lotlike it felt in the early 1990s.

I had accessto email,even in even in the late eighties,

I was fortunate to say the least.

No one else in my family did. I did.

But when I got outof school

I was already used to the internet.

No one else around me was in.

It got me jobsthat I, I never would have had beforehand.

And then everyone started.

It started proliferatingthroughout society.

I think the same thing'sgoing to happen with youand those that understandit are going to be more desirablein the workplace,understand how to use it effectively.

And there's so many new use casesthat are popping up all over the place.

So, Laura,thank you for teaching our next generationbecause you're right there, the rightthere at the forefront of all that.

Well,nobody is going to be an effective teacherif they don't embrace it and use it.

If you just forbid it, it'd be like,you know, people who've been teachingforever said they remember the dayswhen teachers were saying no Internet.

You can only use print source,you know, like I.

Yeah, my kids, it was for my kids.

That wasn't that long ago. Laura

So well, Laura, thanks again for coming onthe show.

It's always fun to talk to you.

But now in on the show it's even better.

So we're going to have you back.

We'll have you back at Christmas timeafter the first semesterand we'll see how it goes.

It may be that your hairis this big or pulled out.

I don't know. Well, we'll have to.

Wait and see.

Yeah, well,see how disappointed all my students are.

They thought they were going to, you know,come in and write generative essays and,you know, not find any poems.

And I'll see how they likethe new approach.

Yeah, it'll be fun to see.

You'regoing to learn in spite of yourself.

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