Debating the Ethics of Generative AI

Facilitate a debate between students about the potential harms and benefits of using generative AI tools in the classroom.

Assignment Details

AI Theme




Learning Objectives

Create strategic approaches towards the adoption and use of Generative AI in educational settings


In this assignment, students consider approaches towards the adoption of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, Gemini, and DALL-E, in educational settings. The students then develop a class contract to serve as a guide for the use of generative AI. This assignment is primarily geared towards writing-intensive or programming oriented courses, where students are most likely to use these tools. It can also be used in a course for other educators to think about how they might deal with generative AI in their own classrooms.

  1. Start by conducting a 10-minute reflective discussion on this question: What impact do you think generative AI might have in educational settings and the way people learn?
  2. Introduce the following three approaches towards generative AI use in the classroom:
    • Approach 1: Students should be banned from using generative AI. Teachers may use the following strategies to enforce this policy:
      1. Input student essays into AI detection programs and penalize students who use generative AI to complete assignments.
      2. Create assignments that generative AI programs can’t complete, for example, by asking students to include personal connections in their writing or artwork.
      3. Ask students to complete all writing or creative assignments under supervision during class time.
    • Approach 2: Students should be allowed to use generative AI for specific purposes, but not to complete entire assignments. Teachers should specify acceptable uses (e.g., writing an email or brainstorming ideas for an assignment), as well as unacceptable uses (e.g., using text generated by an AI program in an essay). Teachers could use strategies listed in the first approach to prevent students from using generative AI when it is not allowed.
    • Approach 3: Students should be allowed to use generative AI as they choose, as long as they disclose when they use it and take responsibility for the content it creates, including verifying all information.
  3. Divide the students into three groups, assigning one of the above approaches to each group. Ask students to engage with the implications of their approach, specifically focusing on these questions:
    • What are the potential benefits of this approach?
    • What are the potential downsides?
    • Who will this approach impact the most? 
  4. After the groups present their critical reflection, ask students to create a sample class contract (a series of norms) that could guide the use of generative AI in a school that allows some use of AI tools. Allow the groups to use Generative AI tools to help develop this contract, encouraging them to keep in mind the implications of such use. The following questions may help them brainstorm:
    • How could we extend our existing class norms or policies to the use of generative AI?
    • When could using generative AI disrupt the trust between teachers and students?
    • When could generative AI be a useful tool for learning?
    • When could it undermine learning a skill or concept?
    • When and how should students acknowledge their use of generative AI in their work?
  5. One representative from each group should share their ideas with the class.
  6. Reflect as a whole class on the following questions:
    • What themes did you notice? Were any of these norms harmonious, or conversely, clearly in tension with one another? 
    • What norms should we include in the final contract?
    • Should different kinds of classes adopt different approaches to the use of generative AI? 


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