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What answers can Digital Humanism provide for AI in teaching and education?

  • 2024-06-25
  • AI
  • Public Outreach
  • Education Outreach
  • Social Responsibility

Technology profoundly shapes the world we live in, and the stakes are high. Can Digital Humanism help us address questions for AI in teaching and education?

What answers can Digital Humanism provide for AI in teaching and education?
Picture: DALL E / openai.com

Hannes Werthner doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to AI in education - but he shows us how Digital Humanism can help address critical questions.

On June 10, former Dean Hannes Werthner gave a keynote on Digital Humanism at the Gymnasium Stubenbastei, where he talked about how Digital Humanism can help us address critical questions when it comes to Artifical Intelligence (AI) in teaching and education. To foster collaboration and to initiate a dialogue, his lecture was held for teachers from across different high schools, parents, and students, and was followed by a panel discussion.

After giving a brief overview of the history and foundations of AI, Hannes Werthner dove into the relevance of AI in today’s interconnected world, where the boundaries between the digital and physical realms are increasingly blurred, making digital participation nearly unavoidable. This digital transformation has profound social, cultural, and economic implications, and Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, highlight these rapid advancements.

Digital Humanism advocates for a human-centered approach to technology, stressing the importance of considering ethical, cultural, and social dimensions in the development and deployment of digital technologies. This approach seeks to align technological progress with human values, promoting societal well-being and responsible development of AI technologies. By fostering interdisciplinary research and dialogue, Digital Humanism aims to navigate the complexities of the digital age and ensure that advancements in AI and other technologies contribute positively to the global community.

The pillars of Digital Humanism are also and especially relevant when it comes to teaching and education, and it can help us address questions like how students, teachers and parents can learn about and teach a responsible use of AI applications like ChatGPT. It also touches on how AI changes existing ways and methods of learning and teaching; do students still need to learn how to read and write texts on their own when tehy have powerful tools like ChatGPT at their fingertips? And how can teachers ensure that their students acquire the skills necessary to participate in a learning experience that is vastly different than that of earlier generations?

Following Hannes Wethner’s keynote was a discussion panel of high school teachers and Peter Knees, who holds the UNESCO Chair on Digital Humanism. The discussion highlighted that the rapid acceleration of AI, particularly ChatGPT, brings new challenges to teaching and education. Generative AI has the potential to transform learning and teaching methods, necessitating a learning environment that allows for experimentation and exploration of these new technologies. However, teachers often struggle with limited time, as they are primarily focused on covering the curriculum. Beyond time constraints, there is also the challenge of pedagogy: effective and engaging methods of conveying information are crucial for successful education and training, yet resources in this area are still scarce.

Despite the limited materials currently available, initiatives like eduLAB are developing new ways of learning about computer science and AI. The Digital Humanism initiative also addresses this gap by offering an open access workbook about Digital Humanism with teaching materials and age-appropriate content for students. Digital Humanism may not provide all the answers, but it offers a framework for considering how technologies like AI shape our world and how we, in turn, shape these technologies. For schools, Digital Humanism underscores the importance of interdisciplinary research, encouraging responses to the digital transformation that go beyond technical aspects to include societal, cultural and economic concerns.

About Digital Humanism

The Digital Humanism Initiative is an international collaboration seeking to build a community of scholars, policymakers, and industrial players who are focused on ensuring that technology development remains centered on human interests. It emphasizes the need for collaboration and interdisciplinarity to address the ethical, cultural, and social dimensions of the digital transformation. The core principle of Digital Humanism is to ensure that technological advancements align with human values and promote human flourishing. This field raises important questions about privacy, digital rights, and the societal impact of algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI). By promoting digital literacy and critical thinking, Digital Humanism aims to empower us to navigate and shape the digital landscape responsibly, ensuring that technological progress benefits society and upholds human dignity.

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