New library guide offers support for navigating AI in the classroom

By Molly Minturn | January 17, 2024

An illustration of a human brain overlaid by computer chips
Pixabay/Creative Commons

Earlier this week, Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar spoke out about a deepfake video surging on social media in which Tendulkar appeared to be promoting a gaming app as an easy way to make money. “It is disturbing to see rampant misuse of technology," Tendulkar stated on X (formerly Twitter). Tendulkar is just the latest victim in the rise of deepfakes. According to The Guardian, more than 100 deepfake videos impersonating United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared on Facebook in the last month, raising widespread concern about the damage artificial intelligence (AI) is causing before the country’s general election.

“Deepfake generators are tools that can edit videos to make it look like someone has done or said something they haven’t,” said Josh Thorud, a Multimedia Teaching and Learning Librarian at the University of Virginia Library. “As you can see, this technology is both exciting and frightening in its possible uses — everything from creative exploration to fake news, scams, false criminal evidence, and bullying or blackmail through impersonation.”

Thorud is part of a UVA Library team that offers resources to navigate the increasingly complicated landscape of AI in higher education. The group created a free guide for students and faculty, “Generative AI at UVA,” which features links and information about AI, including ethical use, citations, considerations for use, and more. The guide is one of nearly 600 online guides created by Library staff.

Novices to AI can start with the guide’s “What is Generative AI” section, which explains how programs like ChatGPT use artificial intelligence to create and produce new content through algorithms. Instructors who are teaching about the effects of AI on society or who are concerned about the use of AI in scholarship may want to explore the guide’s “Cautions and Considerations” section, which discusses how to use AI critically, taking into account knowledge gaps; risks of plagiarism and perpetuating misinformation; and complex concepts of bias, privacy, and equity. Students who are using permissible AI-generated content in their academic writing should check out the “Citations” section.

Thorud designed the guide’s “Images and Media” section, which examines how AI can produce artwork, music, and videos — including deepfakes — and all of the concerns that come with that. “By engaging with deepfakes in the classroom, students can critically examine the implications of this technology and develop media literacy skills by looking at misuse and getting hands-on experience of their own,” Thorud said. “And when it is so easy to create fakes, the only barrier is ethics, empathy, and integrity. This calls for an imperative in our classrooms to embed ethical decision-making and critical analysis as core components of media literacy.”

The guide also provides helpful links to wider work on AI going on at UVA, including a generative AI teaching hub through UVA’s Center for Teaching Excellence, which, in addition to a section by Thorud on AI media and non-textual tools, features recommendations from UVA librarians Meridith Wolnick and Maggie Nunley on ethically integrating AI into courses. Wolnick and Nunley worked with Thorud and others to build the Library’s Generative AI guide last fall and urge users to check it frequently for updates and new guidance as AI continues to evolve. “We built this guide at a breakneck speed to get it up,” Nunley said. “Because things are changing and we’re learning so much so quickly, this is going to be a guide that gets updated and changes a lot.”

For instructors who are curious about exploring AI in their classrooms, Thorud recommends striking a balance between technological exploration and critical thinking. “Encourage students to not only learn how to use AI tools, but also to critically analyze their impact on media, society, and ethics through using them,” he said. “This will not only equip students with valuable skills but also prepare them to responsibly shape the future.”