U of T prof to offer experimental course taught with AI tools like ChatGPT

Paolo Granata

Paolo Granata, associate professor and program coordinator in the Book & Media Studies program at St. Michael's College, has developed a new course that explores the ethics and impact of AI tools (supplied image)

A new experimental University of Toronto course will be taught with artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The advanced fourth-year seminar, AI as a Classroom, will be offered in fall 2023 by the Faculty of Arts & Science as part of the book and media studies program at St. Michael’s College.

The seminar will address a variety of issues concerning artificial intelligence and its growing influence on society, including the ethics of AI and its impact on culture and media.

The course is the brainchild of Paolo Granata, an associate professor and program coordinator in the book and media studies program who has a history of engaging in experimental pedagogy.

During the pandemic, Granata – who is also the founder of the Media Ethics Lab and leads the Toronto School Initiative and the 3D Gutenberg Lab – used virtual reality technologies to foster experiential learning. He sees the new AI course as a way of expanding these explorations of new media and the learning space.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students to explore the cutting edge of AI and its potential for education,” Granata said. 

The seminar will also engage with provocative questions about the role of the professor in the creation and curation of the learning experience – and in the potential of AI to enhance learning and promote proactive thought.

Using the most advanced technologies in the field, including generative AI and large language models – an AI system that uses a vast amount of training data to process and generate human-like language – the course will feature a customized version of ChatGPT that has been expressly trained on course research questions.

Throughout the course, students will develop skills in the use of artificial intelligence in order to develop cutting-edge critical analyses of AI from a variety of ethical, practical and philosophical perspectives. 

Based on the late philosopher and U of T professor Marshall McLuhan’s adage “the medium is the message,” the course will provide an innovative context through which to investigate the potential for AI to enhance human agency in previously unimaginable ways, Granata said.

“By experimenting with AI tools in the classroom, we hope to provide our students with a unique and enriching learning experience that will prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century, where AI literacy is key.”

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