DrewTEACH Hosts AI and Writing Symposium

Gathering educators to learn more about using AI as a tool in the classroom and beyond

November 2023 – Drew University’s DrewTEACH recently hosted an AI and Writing Symposium, welcoming nearly 150 teachers and educators to Drew’s campus.

DrewTEACH brings together teachers who are interested in collaboration and connection through the Drew Writing Project (DWP) and Digital Literacies Collaborative (DLC), a professional network that empowers teachers to become confident writers. In turn, the teachers share their practice with their students.

“When I founded DrewTEACH seven years ago, I wanted to create opportunities for teachers to connect here at Drew, and this is exactly what my vision was,” said Professor of Education and Director of the Drew Writing Project Kristen Hawley Turner, who organized the event. 

The event explored how AI will impact the future of writing and teaching writing through critical conversations, classroom demonstrations, and provocative panel discussion. AI is transforming writing and writing instruction, and educators have much to navigate as this next wave of technology impacts teaching and learning.

Turner has been researching how technology impacts writing for almost two decades. Recently, she published a chapter co-authored with DWP/DLC Teacher Consultant Gary Pankiewicz, “Developing Writers in the New Digital Age: Ethical Stances for Writers and Teachers,” focusing on aspects of teaching ethical practices, particularly with the recent growth of AI.

“Though we have been using AI tools for quite some time in writing (think spell check!), the spread of large language models and generative AI like ChatGPT for widespread public use have created new challenges for teachers at all levels,” said Turner.

She went on to say, “We know that AI is not going away, so we need to address its use in educational contexts. The symposium brought educators together to have critical conversations and to think beyond how we can prevent AI use to how we can develop AI literacy in order to help students use it productively and ethically. This is an exciting moment in writing instruction, and DrewTEACH is proud to connect educators to think together through both opportunities and challenges.”

The event, held on the National Day on Writing, kicked off with a series of Ignite presentations, a fast-paced presentation consisting of 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds. Among the presenters were Turner, Associate Professor of Computer Science Alex Rudniy, Assistant Professor of English Jens Lloyd, and Professor of English Sandra Jamieson.

“Generative AI is something new, reinvigorating this technology we call writing,” said Lloyd. “It seems wild and scary, but it’s actually related to other advancements that have made writing more accessible and powerful.”

Jamieson pointed out that AI is generally well-received in the corporate workplace, proving to provide solutions to increase productivity. “Universities are feeling as if we need to train students for that workplace,” she said. “We need to think about how we can help students move ethically into the workplace.”

She suggested we replace panic with pedagogy when thinking about AI.

The presentations were followed with breakout sessions led by Drew professors and instructional designers, Drew Writing Project Teacher Consultants, and K-12 administrators and educators. Such topics were covered as AI in the ELA classroom, the impact of AI on writing practices, exploring free AI tools for pedagogy, the ethical implications of AI, and much more.

“From the speakers to the breakout sessions, everything was so informative,” said attendee Danielle Guli. “There is a wealth of knowledge out there about AI that I had no idea about. It has inspired me to learn more about it and share what I learned with my teachers.”

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