To allow or not to allow AI in schools


At the Bronx EdTech Showcase Friday, May 3, Lehman College provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and student success, Jorge Silva-Puras, delivered a keynote speech on the use of artificial intelligence to increase student engagement.

Silva-Puras framed his speech around whether or not AI should be allowed in classrooms based on its functionality and potential educational uses.

His conclusion: absolutely, it should, he said.

Prompting AI is part of the learning process for students. OpenAI, the software used by most systems like ChatGPT, draws information from the internet to compile the best answer it can find. It studies data to deliver an answer, meaning it also must be asked a deliberate question in order to provide a meaningful response.

“It is important to understand, if we do not intentionally teach our students how to use AI properly, they are going to be at a disadvantage,” Silva-Puras said.

Silva-Puras said there is an extensive academic integrity policy upheld by the City University of New York network, in which cheating is the unauthorized use of material, while the definition of plagiarism is the use of content without acknowledging where it came from. Silva-Puras said he has no problem with students using AI, so long as they are following the academic code, professor decisions, and properly citing sources.

Lehman lecturer Ryan Miller teaches an Introduction to Philosophy course and an interdisciplinary capstone course on the philosophy of AI in which students are encouraged to learn and use intelligence programs as part of the coursework.

Miller said he finds, in both of his classrooms, students can benefit from using AI to check things like grammar and citations. He wants to teach his students to use AI in a manner that is both helpful and productive. In his introductory class, Miller said he finds the occasional misuse of AI, and it’s quite obvious when students have used artificial intelligence to do their homework. Papers turned in that incorporate off-topic literature or different texts from the same author are obvious signs of AI misuse. However, in Miller’s Philosophy of AI course, he is passionate about encouraging students to use AI because he believes it’s a tool that will benefit students in the world beyond college.

Silva-Puras said employers are already including questions about the use of AI in interviews, asking students if they know how to use AI and if they have any expertise in prompting the software.

“If you want to build a tool that uses intelligence, it’s important to know what intelligence is. If you want to use a tool that can be used ethically rather than unethically, you should have some ethical principles in mind,” Miller said, adding there is an overlap between philosophy and artificial intelligence, as philosophy can dictate the ethical portion of creating a program with ethical principles.

Conversely, Silva-Puras is concerned with the ability of the technology, citing AI’s ability to generate entirely fabricated images and videos, and its potential misuse to convey false information.

“It is scary, we don’t have the controls yet and I think this needs to be regulated,” Silva-Puras said.

He also acknowledged that, while AI technology is ever-advancing on its own, it can also be taught.

Silva-Puras built his own virtual teaching assistant with ChatGPT and has been using the tool in his classroom with students. He created the assistant by inputting relevant data he wanted the AI to understand and draw from and he is now testing it within his classroom.

A problem Silva-Puras said he sees in this process though is, in order to create his AI, he had to pay to use the ChatGPT services and anyone who wants to test the tool must also be paying for the service. That causes the dilemma, he said, of whether students should have to pay for the program for his class. While Silva-Puras does not require his students to pay for the platform, he hopes the future holds funding for schools like CUNY to invest in AI software that can become accessible to teaching staff and students at no charge.

Silva-Puras said he believes AI could be a useful tool to enhance student critical thinking. He said he wants he wants to see how the tool can evolve as the students use it.

“If you think AI is powerful today, think about the sheer amount of resources, money and capital that’s been invested,” Silva-Puras said.

He said he hopes to see the further integration of AI as a classroom tool as it advances.



Lehman College Jorge Silva-Puras AI in education student engagement Bronx EdTech Showcase artificial intelligence AI in classrooms academic integrity OpenAI ChatGPT CUNY