On September 6, 2023, 18 faculty members convened in the Monsignor Stephen P. Happel Room in Caldwell Hall to attend an event titled, "Introduction: What is ChatGPT for and what is Catholic Education for?" This session inaugurated a series of four workshops facilitated by CTE Faculty Fellows Dr. Jonathan Askonas and Dr. Justin Litke from the Department of Politics. Attendees represented diverse academic departments, encompassing Architecture, Business, Education, English, Greek and Latin, History, Library and Information Sciences, Music, Nursing, Politics, and Mullen Library.
The workshop started with a discussion of two thought-provoking pieces by Berry (1987) and Dawson (1961), which raised questions about the human relationship to technology and its relationship to true education.
Next, Dr. Askonas and Dr. Litke defined important terms, demonstrated the basic capabilities of large language models, and discussed the models’ weaknesses and strengths.
- Large language models (LLM): An LLM is a type of “transformer model” that has dramatically advanced in recent years due to advances in neural network architecture. An LLM produces unique and original text based on patterns from its vast proprietary training data, encompassing billions of pages.
- Prompt: An instruction given to an AI model like ChatGPT to elicit a specific response. The quality and context of the prompt predominantly influence the AI's response. For instance, prompts like "What happened on 9/11?" versus "What really happened on 9/11?" can significantly alter the AI's output.
- Prompt Engineering: The art and science of designing prompts to achieve goals.
- Hallucination: Instances when AI deviates unexpectedly from factual information, resulting from its extrapolation. While some hallucinations might remain unresolved, others, such as fake citations, could be addressed by incorporating comprehensive databases.
- Context Window: Defines the extent of data the model considers for its response. For example, you can feed in your old papers to produce a new paper in the same style.
- AI-Assisted Plagiarism: Despite the emergence of AI detectors, the advantage might still tilt towards students who introduce unpredictability and intentional errors to outsmart them.
During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to interact directly with ChatGPT. They challenged the model by posing the most unusual prompts related to their fields of expertise, leading to shared moments of amusement and some unexpected insights.
What Does It Mean to Be Human?
One of the topics we explored was the essence of being human. After the workshop, Dr. Cabrini Pak, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Theology at The Busch School of Business, shared her insights on the matter:
"Rather than focus too narrowly on disruption or disruptiveness of a technology, it may be more helpful to aim at human flourishing and situate the tech that way. If we focus on human flourishing in the context of technology, we need to contemplate what makes a human human. In the Catholic tradition, Imago Dei is the essence of human nature, which takes its roots from Genesis. This nature can be observed in many ways, from our need for love, relationships, and community to our desire to surpass the limitations of our existence, or to transcend ourselves. If we consider these factors, there are both virtuous and vicious ways of using generative AI."
With AI technologies permeating various facets of life, educators must recalibrate their teaching methodologies. This requires integrating knowledge across disciplines, a profound understanding of education's essence, sharpening judgment and prudence to ask the right questions, and a keen sense of AI's limitations.
This academic gathering served as a platform for collective introspection on the implications, potential, and boundaries of merging AI technologies with educational paradigms. Faculty members interested in continuing this exploration have upcoming sessions to look forward to, ensuring the dialogue remains active and insightful.
Berry, W. (1987). Why I am not going to buy a computer. New England Review and Bread Loaf Quarterly, 10(1), 112-113. (CUA Library Permalink)
Dawson, C. (1961). Western man and the technological order. In The Crisis of Western Education (The Works of Christopher Dawson) (pp. 145-158). Catholic University of America Press. (CUA Library Permalink)
Dr. Diego A. Boada is an instructional designer at CTE. He specializes in finding scalable solutions for learning and performance problems in multicultural environments. Dr. Boada has designed online learning experiences for universities, startups, and organizations globally; consulted for the Inter-American Development Bank; and collaborated with Silicon Valley leaders.