Students Weigh in on AI

Posted by GVT Admin on Jun 19, 2024 11:00:00 AM

AI and Social Work

We heard from a group of social work students after we published the blog, The Use of AI in Social Work, two weeks ago. They were enthusiastic about the use of artificial intelligence in their studies and concerned that their professors were limiting their use of AI. To advance the discussion of this new technology further we have summarized the students' point-of-view below.

Presumed Guilty

Social work students from three different universities responded to our recent blog on the use of AI in social work. They wanted to be heard in support of using AI as a revolutionary resource in their studies to become social workers. They fear that by the prima facie prohibition of the students' use of AI when preparing written assignments, the professors are assuming that the students are, in effect, "cheating". (In regard to honesty and integrity, students should not surreptitiously submit work produced by AI when their professor’s instructions or course syllabi instruct them not to do so.)

The students contend that this is a misunderstanding on the part of their professors of the power of AI in its present form. They say that large language models like chatbots are remarkable research and drafting tools that save students an enormous amount of time reading hundreds of pages of copy surrounding topics they have been assigned. The students say that the AI output at this point is unable to analyze summarized information and evaluate its efficacy. This is the job of the student and the purpose of the assignments in the first place in their view.

Until Proven Innocent

The students argue further that AI is simply a tool that they should learn how to use, just as they have learned how to use computers for writing papers, online search engines for identifying relevant scholarly articles and research, and stats programs for analyzing quantitative research data. Can you imagine if research professors asked students to calculate all their stats without the aid of computers, or if students were required to submit all their essays in handwritten cursive? When educators are considering whether to allow, encourage, discourage, or prohibit the use of various forms of technology, the students argue that they should at least consider the learning objectives for each assignment.

The Professors Caution

On the other hand, some professors take a slightly different point-of-view. Even though AI can be used to perform a literature review, students still need to learn this competency without the aid of AI. AI is far from perfect in constructing literature reviews. AI may gather and rely on research and other information that is not valid and reliable. It may be programmed in a manner that has biases against certain individuals or groups. For instance, its algorithms may focus on research related to some cultural groups and neglect research related to others.

We Weigh In

Although questions about the use of AI and other technology may be framed as either/or questions, these questions propose a false choice. It is certainly possible for professors to integrate the use of AI with other types of learning, as it is possible for social workers to integrate the use of AI with more manual forms of practice with clients. For example, a professor might ask students to use AI to write an initial draft of an assignment and then critique the essay that AI produced.

A Discussion

Permit us to point out that not all students we talked to take this position and not all professors are hesitant to use AI in their teaching. The opinions above are only a summary of the two sides in the discussion of how to properly utilize this latest revolutionary technology.

Throughout history, youth have championed change and the established have advised caution. This initial debate around AI is nothing new. Sincere and earnest debate eventually guides society down the most effective path. Let's keep at it.


Topics: Technology Speak

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