Jan 3, 2024 |

AI Task Force Hosts Webinar on Thinking Christianly About AI in Christian Education

By Sean Riley

A teacher in a medieval classroom teaching students who are engaged in a combination of digital learning and analog learning
A teacher in a medieval classroom teaching students who are engaged in a combination of digital learning and analog learning

The Stony Brook School‘s recent webinar, “Will AI Make the Graduates of Christian Schools Redundant and Replaceable? Thinking Christianly About AI in Christian Education,” showcased the insights of The Stony Brook School’s AI Task Force members on AI’s role in Christian education. This event highlighted how faith-based institutions could embrace technological advancements while maintaining core Christian values.

Joshua Crane, Head of The Stony Brook School, set the stage by emphasizing the school’s mission of integrating faith and learning. He discussed the formation of an AI task force, designed to explore the implications of AI in education from a Christian perspective. Crane established the need for a thoughtful, faith-centered approach to AI.

The Future of Work is Well-Formed Humans Collaborating with Well-Designed Artificially Intelligent Machines

Sean Riley, Executive Director of Gravitas, delved into the significance of Christian education in developing distinctively human capacities. He posited that the future workforce would be a synergy of well-formed human beings and well-designed AI systems. Riley argued that Christian education should focus on moral formation, subjective consciousness, and emotional intelligence, which are uniquely human traits. He cautioned that if education is limited to imparting basic knowledge and skills, AI could outperform humans in these areas. Riley’s presentation highlighted the opportunity for Christian educators to prioritize and cultivate these human qualities, preparing students to contribute meaningfully in an AI-driven future.

Do We Shape Tools Or Do They Shape Us?

Luke Trouwborst, Assistant Academic Dean, argued from the work of Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman that the tools we use are not, as is commonly held, “neutral.” Instead, he argued, every educational tool subtly shapes the character, values, and assumptions of teachers and students. Trouwborst emphasized the importance of considering the medium of education, not just the content or “message.” To the man with a hammer, all he sees is a nail – so what does the world look like to a student with a GPT? Given the ways that our tools shape us, schools should make decisions based on their broadest educational goals rather than carelessly adopting powerful new tools. He closed by advocating for dual fluency, stressing the need for students to be proficient in both digital and analog skills, and for educators to recognize that these categories of skill require very different processes and educational activity.

Emphasizing Embodiment

Alicia Brummeler, an English faculty member, emphasized the concept of embodiment in Christian education. She explored how understanding our embodiment as image bearers of God enhances education. Brummeler drew connections between physical presence and learning, arguing that acknowledging students as whole persons—body, mind, and soul—is vital. She referenced her own work, Everywhere God: Exploring the Ordinary Places, to illustrate encountering God in everyday life. Brummeler’s discussion included historical perspectives on education, particularly the ideas of British educator Charlotte Mason, who championed the recognition of children as whole persons. This approach, she argued, is crucial in a digital age, especially in understanding the incarnation of Jesus Christ and its affirmation of physical embodiment. Brummeler’s insights provided a counterpoint to the disembodied nature of AI, highlighting the importance of physical presence, personal engagement, and the recognition of human limits and needs in education.

Thoughtful Integration of AI in the Christian School Classroom

Stony Brook Academic Dean, Jeffrey Smith, focused on practical steps for integrating AI in Christian education. He emphasizes the necessity to acknowledge AI’s presence, adapt to changing job markets, and rethink assessments. Smith discusses leveraging AI to enhance learning and teaching effectiveness, such as using AI for engaging historical simulations and facilitating essay feedback. He highlights the importance of writing skills and prompt engineering in an AI-driven world, underscoring the irreplaceable value of passionate and skilled teachers in cultivating virtue and wisdom.

Together, these presentations from The Stony Brook School’s AI Task Force painted a comprehensive picture of how Christian education can navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI. This event underscores the proactive stance of Christian educational institutions in the face of technological advancement and provides valuable guidance for other schools and educators looking to integrate AI into their curricula thoughtfully. 

The Stony Brook School’s initiative is an exemplar of how faith-based education can effectively respond to the AI revolution, preparing students for a future where technology and human values coexist in harmony.

Watch the Full Webinar

Check out the full webinar below, and be sure to subscribe to the Gravitas YouTube channel for future videos! 

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Summary of talks written with help from ChatGPT.

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