The younger generation is catching onto the potential benefits Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have on their academic success.
While teachers grapple with whether to embrace or reject its use in the classroom, according to a 2023 study, over half of Canadian students are using generative AI to assist them in their schoolwork despite 60 per cent feeling it constitutes cheating.
With conflicting opinions running rampant on the topic – it’s time Canadians take AI literacy into their own hands.
To help, TELUS Wise has launched its TELUS Wise Responsible Act online workshop, in partnership with industry leader Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).
Offered free of charge, the workshop aims to help Canadians of all ages better understand the AI landscape, including responsible use, ethics and critical thinking skills.
Techtalent.ca sat down with TELUS’ Nimmi Kanji to learn more about the initiative.
As Director of Social Purpose Programs at TELUS, Nimmi was instrumental in the development of the AI program and has delivered programs to students and teachers in the classroom.
Why is digital literacy so important for Canadians now more than ever?
NK: With rapidly increasing adoption of connected technologies, digital literacy has never been more important than it is today. Take for instance ChatGPT – it surpassed an incredible 1 million users in just five days since its launch last November. The digital world no doubt offers many benefits from added convenience, fuelling connections and efficiencies in day-to-day life, and often cost savings.
However, as the world becomes increasingly digital, cases of digital misuse, fraud and overall safety issues are becoming more common. Whether it’s identity theft, the spread of misinformation, excessive use of social media and the implications on mental health, or even cyberbullying, these are just some of the challenges associated with our digital world and these concerns are becoming increasingly prominent in the lives of Canadians.
As we increasingly adopt digital technologies, it’s important that we invest in ensuring digital literacy – at the individual and organizational level – so that Canadians are empowered to participate safely in the digital world.
In your opinion, what are the most important considerations when it comes to using AI for work, school or general day-to-day tasks?
NK: AI has become an integral part of our daily lives, from voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, to personalized recommendations on streaming platforms and travel planning advice from Chat GPT. As we take advantage of the benefits of AI, it’s just as important that we take time to better understand it, including not only what it is and how it helps us, but also what it isn’t, and the privacy and ethical considerations surrounding it.
As we continue to leverage AI tools to add ease and convenience to our lives, there are some important considerations Canadians need to keep in mind as follows:
- Data privacy and security: Ensure you understand how your data will be stored and used – for instance, will your data be used for market research or advertising purposes? Will it be shared or sold to others? In general, refrain from sharing personal or sensitive information to protect your privacy..
- Ethical use of AI: Be aware of potential biases in AI algorithms and work to minimize them. It starts with being aware that AI tools can only be as accurate as the data that fuels them – if there is bias in the data, there will be bias in the AI-generated outputs.
- Accuracy and reliability: Always identify the facts being presented to you and cross check information. Are there potential biases? Is there room for misinformation? Do other sources say the same thing?
With the recent news topics of schools struggling to agree on how to handle AI in the classroom, how do you recommend students approach its use?
NK: Like all tools, AI is meant to enhance daily practices – it should not replace it. It’s important for students to know that like any form of plagiarism, passing off AI-generated content as their own is unethical, can land them in hot water, and limits their own education potential.
That said, it’s important the next generation becomes well versed with AI tools, especially given their prominence in day-to-day life will only continue to increase. According to a recent survey by KPMG, more than half of Canadian students over 18 regularly use AI and 81 per cent believe it will be a critical skill for the future, making it an opportune time to introduce education resources on the topic to support Canadian youth.
Some of the ways that AI can help us in the classroom and in the workplace, include:
- Research: AI language models can offer a great place to start with research assignments.
- Brainstorming: AI can be a great springboard for inspiration and ideas by giving you prompts and topics to dive into.
- Tutoring: AI can be leveraged to help create customized lesson plans and tutoring sessions based on your unique learning objectives.
One great ressource I recommend is a new TELUS Wise AI video series: Exploring AI with TELUS Wise, where Jake Mossop, Content Creator and TELUS Wise advocate sat down with Sarah Habibi, STEM Content Creator and Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) to chat about all things artificial intelligence and ways you can safely and effectively incorporate AI tools in your daily life.
How can Canadian families safely navigate the world of AI?
NK: Parents play a crucial role in guiding their children when it comes to building safe and positive relationships with AI tools. While it can feel tough to navigate – especially given the landscape continues to evolve day by day – there are some easy steps you can employ in your household:
- Educate yourself and have conversations with your kids about AI: Stay informed about the types of AI technologies your children are exposed to while understanding the potential benefits and risks. Generative AI has great potential to help kids learn and express themselves. If your kids are using generative AI or are interested in it, find out what they like about and what they do with it. Talk to them about privacy and ethics. By exploring the technology together and talking about it often, you can bring awareness to the risks without diminishing their passion and excitement for the possibilities.
- Encourage Digital Literacy: Teach your children about digital literacy and responsible online behaviour while helping them develop critical thinking skills to enable them to evaluate information online effectively. It only takes a little extra time, but it’s so important to make sure the information you are using is true and accurate. We all play a part in stopping the spread of misinformation!
- Set boundaries: There have been stories of children developing ‘friendships’ with AI chatbots; they confide in them and appreciate the digital companionship. To ensure healthy use, establish clear rules and guidelines regarding the use of AI, monitor screen time and encourage a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
Can you share more about the Responsible AI workshop that TELUS Wise just launched? Who can benefit from it?
NK: Coinciding with the celebration of the 10-year anniversary of TELUS Wise, the Responsible AI workshop underscores the program’s decade-long leadership in providing digital literacy education to Canadians, coast-to-coast.
Offered free of charge, the new, online workshop was created in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), and helps teens better understand the AI landscape, including what it is, what it’s capable of – and importantly, what it’s not. The uniquely tailored AI workshop for teens is available online in English and French and can be completed individually at home in about 60 minutes. Teachers can also share the workshop with students as a group in a classroom setting.
What is TELUS Wise? Does the program cover anything other than AI?
NK: TELUS Wise is a free digital literacy education program available to Canadians of all ages, offering online resources such as articles, videos, guides, and self-directed learning that you can find on telus.com/wise as well as bookable workshops led by TELUS Wise certified ambassadors. Much of the content has been gamified using the Kahoot! platform, making learning about digital literacy and citizenship more engaging and fun.
These workshops and resources cover an exhaustive range of digital literacy topics including managing your online reputation, rising above cyberbullying, digital well-being, internet and social media safety and privacy among a range of other topics.
To learn more or access the free TELUS Wise workshops and resources, visit telus.com/wise.