Reminder Call for papers: Higher Education Futures at the intersection of justice, hope, and educational technology

A reminder that our call for papers focused on Higher Education Futures at the intersection of justice, hope, and educational technology is open, and will be closing on Oct 31, 2023. If you have a paper that you feel may fit the aims of this call, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or one of my co-editors.

High school senior: Why aren’t more teachers embracing AI?

One of my joys in life is reading student op-eds. Here is a wonderful example, by a high school senior who asks: why aren’t more teachers using AI?

The student describes how they use it, how they find it beneficial, and how their teachers are suspicious of it.

I believe that the student, and many others, parents included, are truly curious. In other words, I don’t think the question is rhetorical. Why not use a technology which seems to offer so many benefits? So, I thought I’d take a few moments to answer it. A point of clarification before we turn to a list of possible reasons:

  • It’s not quite clear what is the prevalence of AI use in K-12. In the US, one survey suggests that around 10% of teachers use it, while another puts that number at ~50%. Even with the high number, we need to clarify what “AI use” means because teachers’ AI use might be invisible to students (e.g., using it to create/refine rubrics, produce examples, etc). In other words, teachers might be using AI, just not in the pedagogical ways described in the op ed.

Here’s a list of possible reasons

  • Lack of familiarity and knowledge about how to use AI in the classroom.
  • Concerns about AI (e.g., about its biases, ethics, and implications for equity and access).
  • Lack of support and guidance (e.g., at the administrator or school district level) as to whether and how teachers ought to use it.
  • For decades, edtech promises to revolutionize education. AI comes with similar promises. Teachers are tired and weary of these unmet promises.
  • Inconsistencies between the technology and the school/testing environment that teachers operate under.
  • It takes time for technology to spread into education settings, and for good reasons (e.g., devising ways to integrate a technology with an uncertain future takes more time and effort that people realize, and, if one thing is certain, teachers lack time).

There’s likely other reasons, and these can be grouped into individual reasons (e.g., why aren’t individual teachers using AI?), community and organizational reasons (e.g., why aren’t schools supporting teachers in using AI?), and societal reasons (e.g., why did our  society structure schools in ways which limit rapid adoption of AI?).

Importantly: A lot of it relates to context, such as the content area or the particular school. And so, if you’re interested in why your particular teachers at your particular school in your particular part of the country aren’t using a technology (or a pedagogical strategy even), it’s important to identify local reasons for use/non-use.

And to be clear: This isn’t to say that teachers should or shouldn’t use a particular technology in education.

Participate in the Fall 2023 Pan-Canadian Digital Learning Survey 

Do you work at a post-secondary institution in Canada? Please participate in the 2023 Pan-Canadian Digital Learning Survey available at: 

The purpose of the Fall 2023 survey is to explore critical issues in digital learning and to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital learning at publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Canada. The survey asks you to share your personal perspective and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. The primary objective of the research is to provide institutional leaders and key interest groups in Canadian higher education with valuable information as they develop institutional strategies.

Online, Hybrid, and Multi-Access Learning and Teaching in British Columbia: Post-Pandemic Trends and Intentions (report)

In a new report funded by the British Columbia Council on Admissions & Transfer (pdf) Valerie Irvine, Nicole Johnson, and I examined the evolving nature of online, hybrid, and multi-access learning within the British Columbia (BC) post-secondary education system. Our objectives included assessing potential changes in the scope and nature of online learning in BC, understanding stakeholder insights on learner preferences towards online and hybrid learning, and identifying areas that require further exploration and discussion.

Recent pan-Canadian research indicates that higher education institutions anticipate a future with more online and hybrid options. This aligns with the growing demand for such learning modalities and changing learner preferences, as corroborated by studies in the USA and UK. Understanding these trends in the BC context is crucial since returning to in-person education while simultaneously catering to the growing demand for online learning presents considerable challenges for BC institutions primarily built around traditional, in-person instruction.

To develop a greater understanding of the changing nature and volume of digital learning modes and learner preferences toward them we conducted interviews with twenty-five individuals comprising administrators, faculty members, and staff from the BC Ministry of PSEFS or system support organizations.

Major findings suggest that while in-person education in the province is predominant, participants (a) reported the learners demand more online and hybrid options, and (b) expect that online, hybrid, and multi-access learning in the BC post-secondary system will become more prevalent. We also identified that shifts in learner preferences are shaped by a variety of factors and vary by learner subpopulations, that modality is messy and masks variability, and that the “right mix” of modalities is unknown. Finally, we noted that online and hybrid learning enable access, and provide opportunities for equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization.

Recommendations for BC post-secondary institutions include the following:

  • Develop criteria for determining course and program modality.
  • Collect and analyze disaggregated data on learner preferences, choices, and contexts using consistent definitions of in-person, online, hybrid, and multi-access learning,
  • Support faculty members’ development to teach in online, hybrid, and multi-access contexts.
  • Increasing capacity for research, teaching, and collaboration
  • Approach alternative delivery modes with anticipation and foresight.

Please read and share the report. The question of the role of online and blended learning in BC is by no means a settled question, so we’d love to hear you input, questions, and insights!

Talk in Greek: AI in education / H τεχνητή νοημοσύνη στην εκπαίδευση

It’s been more than a moment since I gave a talk in Greek. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to challenge myself to present to a group of 70 or so educators when invited to do so by CARDET recently. Preparing to present in Greek so took a little more time than usual, not only because Greek isn’t a language I use for academic work, but because my use of the Greek language is mostly centered on the Cypriot dialect (a dialect that not everyone who speaks Geek understands). But, I appreciated the experience, and the talk seemed to go well. The most fulfilling aspect of this was that even though I’ve given hundreds of talks around the world over the years, this was the first time that my parents could come to one of my talks and follow along in our native language. 

The talk was on the use of generative AI in education. It was a very basic introduction to the topic and some of it’s implications, and it ended with 4  basic recommendations:

  • The need for AI literacies for educators, administrators, learners, parents, and politicians
  • AI tools aren’t search engines
  • Familiarize ourselves with the positives and negatives of AI 
  • Revising assessment approaches

A short description appears below:

H τεχνητή νοημοσύνη στην εκπαίδευση 

Στο πλαίσιο του σεμιναρίου, ο Δρ Γιώργος Βελετσιάνος, Καθηγητής στο Πανεπιστήμιο Royal Roads και Επικεφαλής Ερευνητής του Καναδά στην Καινοτόμο Μάθηση και Τεχνολογία θα παρουσιάσει τα δεδομένα και εξελίξεις στο πεδίο της Τεχνητής Νοημοσύνης καθώς και τις προοπτικές που δημιουργούνται μέσω των εργαλείων και εφαρμογών της στην εκπαίδευση. Θα αναλύσει επίσης τις αλλαγές που η Τεχνητή Νοημοσύνη μπορεί να επιφέρει στον τομέα της εκπαίδευσης, στον τρόπο που επιτελούν το έργο τους οι εκπαιδευτικοί αλλά και τα οφέλη που μπορούν να αποκομίσουν μέσω της χρήσης των δυνατοτήτων και εργαλείων που προσφέρει. 

On Vanderbilt’s disabling of Turnitin’s AI detection feature, and faculty guidance

Last week, Vanderbilt University decided to disable Turnitin’s AI detection tool. Congratulations are in order!

To date, there’s little evidence as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of such tools (also see: their unintended consequences). Equally importantly, Vanderbilt’s decision lends credence and support to recommendations that numerous working groups put forward to their institutions, and paves the way for others to feel confident in taking similar actions. Earlier this year for example, I led a generative AI taskforce at Royal Roads University. The relevant recommendation we put forward in early June is this:

Recommendation 5: Investigate, and potentially revise, assessment practices.

We recommend that faculty examine their current assessment practices and question them through the lens of AI tools. For instance, faculty could try their discussion prompts or reflection questions with AI tools to explore the role and limits of this technology. Regardless of the outcome of such efforts we recommend that faculty do not rely on AI detection tools to determine whether learners used AI in their work. A service that asserts to detect AI generated text does not provide transparency on how that assertion is made and encourages a culture of suspicion and mistrust. Emerging research also highlights challenges with reliably detecting AI-generated text (Sadasivan et al., 2023). Instead, we recommend that faculty engage with learners in conversations at the beginning of the course as to the appropriate and ethical use of AI. We further encourage faculty to continue their efforts towards experiential and authentic learning– including work integrated learning, live cases, active learning opportunities, field trips, service learning, iterative writing assignments, project-based learning, and others. These are not necessarily failsafe approaches to deter cheating, and it may even be possible to leverage AI in support of experiential learning. Ultimately, we recommend that faculty question their assignments at a time and age when generative AI is widely available.

Ithaka S+R report on virtual meetings/conferences

A new report from Ithaka S+R explores the future of in-person vis-a-vis virtual annual meetings/events/conferences. Below is a summary, but it’s worth the time to read it in full!

For the past several years, the decision to hold hybrid or virtual meetings was dictated by outside forces. Now, it is a matter of choice. Overall, the virtual meetings of 2020-22 were much more successful than anticipated. If they mostly failed to provide the rich social and networking experiences that in-conference meetings provide, virtual and hybrid conferences were more accessible to a much wider, and more diverse, community of scholars. As the public health situation improves, societies will need to make difficult decisions about the future of one of their most important activities.

This week, Ithaka S+R and JSTOR labs released findings from a research project on the future of annual meetings, conducted in partnership with 17 scholarly societies and with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Our report emphasizes the importance of aligning conference formats with a society’s goals and values. The complex logistics and finances of organizing annual meetings, the competing needs of members, and the weight of legacy formats make committing to reimagining annual meetings difficult for most societies. Even so, our findings suggest that new conference modalities provide substantial opportunities to increase the impact and accessibility of scholars, build and empower diverse research communities, and improve the sustainability of societies.

We hope our report, which provides recommendations for societies, scholars, and funders as well as an overview of innovative conference models, will help secure the future vitality of annual meetings and other academic conferences.

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