Published September 5, 2023
That is the question that the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education’s faculty had in mind while recently planning and launching Blackstone LaunchPad’s new AI in Education Summer Design Challenge for students.
Sam Abramovich, associate professor of learning and instruction and information science, and Julie Gorlewski, professor and senior associate dean for academic affairs and teacher education, collaborated with faculty and staff from across campus to develop this extensive event.
Held virtually from June 12-29, this new competition allowed students to explore the ethical concerns about platforms like ChatGPT while also aiming to spark creativity and ideas for innovative AI solutions.
Throughout the design challenge, 92 students from five decanal units came together to explore ideas that have the potential to revolutionize the classroom setting with AI technology. Despite the physical distance between students, platforms such as Slack and Flip allowed for real-time collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Asynchronous learning sessions, workshops, coaching and final pitch presentations allowed students to examine the potential of Generative AI-based Large Language Models—such as Open AI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Facebook’s LlaMA—to create student success platforms, apps and devices that will fundamentally improve college students’ classroom experiences.
Over the course of the event, students gained experience and knowledge in entrepreneurial thinking from faculty experts and obtained skills in design and technical communications. Learning sessions—organized into 15–20-minute TED Talk-style presentations—were presented by industry and faculty experts.
Gorlewski was initially drawn to the challenge because of her interest in seeing how students use AI to transform classrooms in ways that humanize education and focus on equity and justice. “As technology continues to increase in influence, it is critical for youth to reimagine futures that are inclusive and sustainable, and this challenge does that,” she said.
She served as a principal collaborator for the challenge, working with colleagues to shape the call, identify and coordinate sessions for competitors, and provide feedback to participants.
“The entire experience was engaging and inspirational, highlighting UB’s role as a leader in ethical educational entrepreneurship and the commitment of colleagues and students to assuring that technological advances serve the needs of humans in a range of social contexts,” said Gorlewski.
Her efforts were appreciated by students, faculty and the Blackstone LaunchPad team.
“Julie was invaluable in connecting me with potential presenters and helping me make connections within the Graduate School of Education and beyond. In addition, Julie dedicated extra time to brainstorming with me the ways we could present the various learning sessions, helping to draw connections between various proposed topics and helping to ultimately streamline and focus the offerings presented to the students,” said Andrew Lavoie, coordinator for the challenge.
“She became an unexpected academic champion for the program, for which I am immensely grateful,” Lavoie added. “I can confidently say that Julie was a main contributor for the overall success of the challenge.”