Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not something new. We have been hearing this term for decades now, but somehow it felt distant to us, even though it has been embedded in our daily life for a while already – for example, in our phone’s text prediction, in the advertisements we are shown, in the recommendations Spotify suggest us, or in our online maps applications. Based on the data we have provided to these programmes over time, they can predict our preferences or behaviours through algorithms. However, in November 2022, with OpenAI’s ChatGPT release, AI started to “talk to us” and therefore became more tangible than ever – whether we understand or not its capabilities and challenges. This knowledge is called AI literacy.
AI literacy refers to the skills and competencies needed to interact critically and meaningfully with AI technologies and applications such as tools, to perform sequences of tasks and obtain assistance from them. It includes understanding the embedded principles and limitations of each version of AI programs, as well as being able to critically evaluate – and question, when necessary – their context, design and implementations. Today, having AI literacy means being able to use, communicate and collaborate effectively with AI tools online, at home, and in the workplace, as AI changes the way we interact and how we do our work.
As AI technologies embed deeper into our daily lives, they can extend human capabilities in several ways – but, if we want this to be a human-centric and inclusive process, we must hold AI literacy. The first step to extending this knowledge to the whole society is to foster AI literacy in those who teach digital skills themselves. Through understanding, exploring and experimenting with AI, educators can identify the impact and opportunities it has on their work, such as innovations in learning pathways and teaching practices. If teachers, trainers and educators are well-prepared, trained, and literate on the topic of AI, they can best harness the benefits this technology offers, while also teaching AI literacy to others. Ultimately, educators with AI literacy skills will be prepared to address upcoming AI challenges with confidence.
AI can process big quantities of data by analysing it and finding patterns. Its machine learning processes use statistical techniques and predictions that allow AI to improve performance on a given task. Rapid technological developments such as this one inevitably bring risks and challenges. For example, AI is not entirely accurate, as it uses data coming from human behaviour to make ongoing predictions. Because it is programmed by humans, it can carry human subjectivity and bias. Additionally, when AI technology is asked to complete a task for which it does not have enough data, it will give its best guess in definitive terms, as a conclusive answer, even if the percentage of understanding is significantly low. Therefore, AI developments need to be considered holistically, as they can involve ethical, social, and cultural implications. AI literacy can provide filters to critically assess biased information powered by AI algorithms, as well as assess the validity of AI’s outputs.
By embedding AI literacy in their training and teaching activities (which are increasingly AI technologies), trainers can prepare their students to be responsible and informed users of AI tools. By teaching AI literacy, students will not only learn how to think critically and identify potential AI risks – such as biases or incorrect information – but also how to use these technologies to their advantage.
Examples of how AI literacy can support educators’ and trainers’ work:
- Provide opportunities to optimise their workflow
- Give insightful feedback over the training
- Co-create learning plans and content adapted to students’ learning objectives
- Write student progress reports based on collected data
- AI-based educational technologies such as digital tutors and intelligent virtual reality can enhance educational outcomes and provide engaging interactive learning experiences
Ultimately, the use of AI technologies should aim at empowering everyone. Anticipating potential divisions before they occur – in this case, between those who possess AI literacy and can use AI tools and those who don’t – demands a human-centred approach in AI developments. Through AI literacy, educators can supervise that their application in educational contexts is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity. This way, AI technologies applied to education can accelerate progress and bridge current divides, such as the digital and skills gaps. In time, AI literacy can play a part in social inclusion.
Examples in which AI literacy can be used for social inclusion:
- AI can translate speech to text and interpret sign language to help deaf or hard-of-hearing students during training
- AI can provide services to the elderly – such as voice control of home automation which allows them to reach emergency services in case of a fall
- AI technologies can turn visual data into audio feedback and enable blind people to “listen” to photographs
Through AI literacy, educators can steer the use of AI towards inclusion and equity, ensuring digital opportunities for all. That is the reason why our Collective is starting to include AI literacy in the field of adult education – so that everyone can have the knowledge and confidence necessary to use AI tools in the upcoming years. This way, we can ensure basic digital skills training is aligned with the imminent AI developments while keeping inclusion and equity at the core.