Artificial Intelligence is new and different, but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary. That was a major theme at this year’s Faculty Technology Day, which was hosted by Fordham Information Technology on May 22 at the Lincoln Center campus.

“[We are] mostly focused on pedagogy, and how we can actually take advantage of…artificial intelligence in education,” said Fleur Eshghi, associate vice president of education technology and research at Fordham and one of the organizers of the event. “[We are] also examining the areas [to figure out]where we can be more creative with artificial intelligence.” 

Faculty Technology Day is a full-day conference that is open to all interested faculty and administrators. 

“This event started actually 24 years ago, with a very small group of faculty getting together in one classroom, and gradually grew to become a major conference,” explained Eshghi, “During the pandemic, we had to stop it, and this is the first year we are reviving this again.” 

Every year, the event organizers pick a topic that they think is most relevant to the cross-section of technology and education. This year, it was AI. 

A major theme throughout the day was that faculty need to be open to change. No one is quite sure yet how AI will change the way things are done, but the speakers emphasized that being flexible, unafraid of the future, and willing to adapt will set every professor up for success no matter what happens.

Poetry, Cybersecurity, and Robots

The event included several notable AI-focused keynote speakers, as well as breakout sessions that were more participatory. These sessions ranged from “Hands-on AI Play Sesh and Poetry Slam,” “Immersing Students in Virtual Reality,” and “Developing an Inclusive Augmented Reality (AR) Project Template” to “AI in Cybersecurity,” “3D Printing and AI,” and, maybe surprisingly, “How Can I Get the Robot to Do My Research?”  

Many of the sessions focused on the AI world’s new darling, ChatGPT.  Faculty members and administrators learned how to ask the chatbot specific questions, and heard about possible uses that they may have for this technology: Maybe you only have three things in the fridge and you need to know what you could make for dinner without buying anything new. Maybe you are going on vacation and would like a list of notable places you should visit. Or maybe you are researching something very niche and would like to know which articles feature your topic. 

A ‘More Efficient Version of What We Have Today’

“It’s just a more efficient version of what we have today,” said Daniel Susskind, Ph.D., a Research Professor in Economics at King’s College London, Senior Research Associate at Institute for Ethics in AI at Oxford University, and the morning’s keynote speaker. 

In her opening remarks, Fordham President Tania Tetlow said we may not have all the answers where AI is concerned, but it’s a good thing we’re asking the questions. 

“This is one of the most promising things about Fordham– that you have chosen to come [to this conference]– because we have so much to learn at this moment in humanity’s history,” Tetlow said to the conference participants. “That you are embracing the challenge, and showing up today to leap in with both feet, is an extraordinary thing.”

–by Rebecca Rosen