Jun 6, 2023
As practitioners in this space, our number one
goal should always be what's in the best interest of the student,
what's the best and right thing to do? And that's usually not the
easiest thing. So, notice I didn't say the easiest thing, because
the best and right is very rarely the easiest thing to do.
And like any tool, use it to its maximum
capacity for good. And then make sure we're not hurting anybody in
The workforce landscape is rapidly changing,
and educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing
students before they enter the workforce to make our communities
and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.
But we need to understand how to change and
adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed
before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the
Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of
Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College and
host of this podcast.
And I'm Christina Barsi, producer and co-host
of this podcast.
And we are starting the conversation about the
future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner
with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of
our highest goals: more internships, and PCC students in the
We at Pasadena City College want to lead the
charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning
and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This
is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the employers, the
policymakers, the educational institutions, and the community as a
We believe change happens when we work
together, and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm
And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the
Future of Work.
Welcome back, this is your host, Salvatrice,
and I am joined today by my friend and colleague in the division of
Economic and Workforce Development, Ms. Leslie Thompson, our
Director of Operations. Welcome to the show again, Leslie.
Good morning, good morning.
How are you?
Pretty good. Pretty good on this Wednesday, I
think we are today. I'm not quite sure what day it is.
It's a Wednesday. Yeah, at the beautiful
Pasadena City College campus.
That's right, that's right. I got to tell you,
we've done this twice now of these chats. And these chats are
really kind of geared around what we've been thinking about, what
we've been engaged with, conversations we've been a part of. And
you and I have had an opportunity to really be a part of
conversations around AI.
And there's a lot to unpack there, a lot. And
we're certainly not the first ones to talk about it. We're
certainly not the first ones to have some feelings and thoughts
around it. But I thought what we would do today is really kind of
hit upon just broadly about us being clear with each other and with
our community and with our audience about defining AI, how AI has
affected or is affecting the education, the classroom, how we
conduct our work in education.
And then really, thinking about embracing AI
and what does that look like, and what do we have to overcome to
embrace AI in this fourth industrial revolution. And I just thought
like that's a good topic for us to kind of lean into a little bit
today. What do you think?
I think it's a great topic, actually. I'm very
excited about the topic. As you know, I kind of nerd out on things
like that. I'm going to try to contain myself right now and not go
too far off topic. So, yeah, let's do it. Let's talk about it. I
think it's really exciting.
What do you define as AI? Like what do we
define AI as?
So, it stands for artificial intelligence. We
know that refers to the development of computer systems and
machines that can perform tasks typically that require human
intelligence. I think that's a bare bones definition.
I found in reading through stuff, just out of
curiosity, I found two other kind of like more distinct
definitions. There was one that they referred to as narrow AI which
is also known as weak AI. And that's things like voice assistance,
like Siri and Alexa. Those are considered narrow AI or weak AI.
The other one, which is more interesting and
to me, is the general AI, also known as strong AI. And it refers to
systems with human level or higher intelligence. And these systems
possess the ability to understand, learn, and perform any
intellectual task that a human being can do.
And while the development of a true general AI
is a long-term goal, it still remains an active area of research,
and it's yet to be fully realized. So, I think that's where kind of
the fear comes in from people, kind of where the opportunity comes
in. That's just where the meat and potatoes of it is, and that's
super exciting to me.
Yeah. Let's maybe unpack a little bit of the
conversations we've been a part of as it relates to education,
because AI is too big to talk about in 30 minutes, and I know that
we'll have other opportunities to do deeper dives in this
But as it relates to education, I feel like
(and I could be wrong) the education sector has been a little, dare
I say, slow coming around to AI and its effects on our work,
specifically within instruction, but also within our workforce in
Gosh, we've been talking about AI for the last
decade. It's heightened and it's amplified now because of ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is not the only AI source, however, it has been incredibly
disruptive, both positively and negatively. And so, I think that we
need to kind of sit there for a minute and really talk about how
this is informing our work as educators and what should we be
really looking at, and embracing and how are we embracing.
So, that said, I've read and I've heard a lot
about instruction supplementing some of their curricula with AI.
But there's a challenge there. Much like any new piece of
technology that comes in and is disruptive, dare I say, the
internet; we had to learn how to embrace it. We had to learn how to
use it, we had to learn how to ask it very specific questions to
retrieve the accurate information. We have to teach ourselves how
to do that with AI. What are you hearing about that?
I hear those things as well. And I think it's
important to remember that AI is just a tool like all of the other
tools that we've adapted and have come to rely on.
I read somewhere where they were likening AI
to like the steam engine or the wheel in terms of that kind of
advancement and that kind of impact. And I think in education
specifically, like with the internet, but even more than with the
internet, what's education about? It's the pursuit of higher
thinking. It's the mind, it's intellect, it's all of these
And now, you're saying there exists technology
that can do that for you. And so, how is that not a threat to
education? Like what do you need to go to school for if you're not
developing your intellect? If you don't need to develop the
capacity for critical thinking because a machine can do it for you,
how do we harness that?
How do we put a positive spin on that? How do
we manage that opportunity and threat in such a way and integrate
it into our curriculum with understanding information technology,
understanding teaching information literacy, educating students how
to harness this tool and use it for good instead of evil.
And also, putting a heavy emphasis on the
critical thinking part. Because we should know by now, one of the
things when you're teaching information literacy is that you don't
believe everything you read on the internet. We know that. I will
say if it's on TikTok, it must be true.
But you have to get people to think critically
and move beyond, like just passively receiving information. And
that's where the real opportunity of education is. You still need
to be able to vet your sources. Just because your source happens to
put something out that is very real sounding and sounds very
credible, and it's well-written maybe, and you really think, "Oh,
I've got this great."
Source now and I'm going to use it, there's a
lot of other implications. Like how do you cite it, how do you vet
it? How do you think critically on your own about the information
you're receiving? It's just another opportunity for humans in
general, but students in particular to kind of hone those critical
I'm really happy that you used or that you've
brought to light the skill of critical thinking. I've read, and I
can't remember where I read it, but they were talking about the
evolution of technology, starting from what you were talking about
earlier, the combustion engine.
And they were talking about you can't replace
the critical thinking skill that humans can do. A machine can't do
that. A machine cannot produce the skill of critical thinking. So,
what we do have to do simultaneously reimagine instruction with
this new piece of technology, but we also have to reimagine and
adjust to the workforce.
Because now, just as an example, I'm an
educator and I'm an educator in history. Well, there might be
students that will leverage AI to extract content, but you still
need a domain expert to validate the content. So, it's like we also
have to rethink, or we have to pay attention to how are we training
in professions and specific professions.
Today, we're talking about education, AI and
education, but how are we now training the up and coming educators
in this technology revolution?
So, we know that there's obviously the need to
kind of instill this idea for critical thinking. When you say that
AI can't do critical thinking, that we still need a human, I'm not
sure, I don't know. I'm going to say maybe AI doesn't have a heart
and then we'll talk about that later. I think that it's pretty
But there are other ways that AI's impact, can
positively impact education. And that comes in like personalized
learning. Leveraging these personalized learning experiences by
analyzing individual student data and tailoring instruction to fit
student needs in a way that maybe at a next level, we know in
education that you have to address different learning modalities,
you kind of have to meet students where they are, and that's the
challenge for educators.
So, you've got 25, 30 people in front of you,
you have to get your content to those students and there might be
10 different ways to do that. And your job is to figure out what
those 10 ways are. So, that's a good way to use AI. It can enhance
administrative tasks, it can help with grading, scheduling, data
analysis, all of that, saving time, again for faculty, tutoring
So, they can provide personalized feedback,
adaptive learning pathways, real-time assistance to students.
Again, that could be leveraged at scale and easily. Imagine what
that would do for our success centers or our tutoring centers or
even just one-on-one tutoring.
Again, data analysis for insights, it can
analyze a vast amount of educational data. So, including student
performance, and then just access to education in general. It has
the potential to increase access to education, particularly in
under suit areas or for students with special needs. So, online
learning platforms leverage it.
There's just a lot of opportunity that I think
it's important to focus on because we have this idea that there's a
challenge to the critical thinking component. Like they're just
getting all this stuff, how do we know it's really their original
thoughts? Well, that's been the problem with the internet
We use tools like Turnitin to see when
students put in a paper to check and see if there's a hit anywhere
else - it has been good. I used it a few years ago, I don't know
what they're using now, but that was the tool I had at the
But I think that there are opportunities here
beyond that, and to catch those kind of - I'm going to say those
opportunities again. I'm going to say the word opportunity one more
time - to catch those opportunities for discussion if you find that
there's a match somewhere.
Well, I think that's important to share and
unpack those opportunities at some point, because I'm going to call
it like it is, there is a fear. There is a fear, and I'm going to
use that word because it's real and it resonates with humans. But
what you just shared, the opportunities, like we combat that fear
We always combat fear with an understanding.
And so, we have to just be very creative and open-minded about how
this integrates into our work, how this integrates into our life,
and how it integrates into the future of work in developing new
talent pipelines. Because again, the training and the skillsets are
going to be very different.
And so, I haven't heard too much ... I mean,
what's your sense on the pulse anecdotally. Like in random
conversations, you'll hear things, but has there any conversations
that you've been a part of that have been alarming to you? Like,
"Oh boy, like we really need to bring this home. We really need to
unpack this, and figure out how we make it work." We can't ignore
it. So, it is what it is.
I haven't heard any kind of alarming
conversations. I haven't been a part of any alarming conversations.
It's all been pretty much like, "Oh, did you hear what's going on
with the ChatGPT, and did you hear what's going on with this ..."
And all those kind of conversations that we all had, those hallway
conversations like, "What's going on? Did you hear the news?"
But for me, I'm not going to say alarming, but
I think important for us to acknowledge are the ethical concerns
for AI in education. Like I think that's super important. And while
I'm not hearing those conversations casually yet, I think they're
there. I think that certainly, different areas of the college are
already aware of it. And particularly with like data privacy and
So, the AI systems in education, they rely on
collecting and analyzing vast amounts of student data. So,
safeguarding this data is like crucial. So , that's a major ethical
concern. Algorithmic bias and fairness. So, if we're using this
information to make decisions about services and things that we're
going to deliver to students, we need to make sure that the
algorithms haven't inadvertently perpetuated any kind of bias, so
I hadn't thought about that.
See, this is where your argument that we are
still smarter than robots, we need to think about that. And that's
when we apply our equity lenses to the work that we do as
gatekeepers of this work. Like it's our responsibility to apply our
equity lenses, to look at things and check our own biases. We want
to make sure that data's not skewing in our bias favor.
Like all of these things that we learned like
outside of this topic in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion and
all of that, it comes to play here. That's important for us. That's
where we come in. We need to make sure that there's no algorithmic
bias, that we're not keeping aware of.
Transparency and explainability; so, AI
algorithms using education should be transparent and provide
explanations for their decisions. We can't just take it at face
value. We're saying students can't just get data for their history
project and we can't just get information and take it blindly. We
also have to apply critical thought to what we're getting if we're
going to leverage it in education.
And then informed consent and opt out.
Students and their parents should have the right to be informed
that this data is being collected and what it's being used for. So,
those are kind of, I don't know, in my mind, kind of four big
ethical concerns. There's others, but those are kind of some big
ones that I think we should worry about.
Others that I won't go into detail, but like
there's human oversight and responsibility; what our roles are,
emotional and social considerations. And then again, bringing it
back to my favorite topic - impact on equity and accessibility.
Like that's important.
So, those are kind of more ethical concerns
that we should be worried about, because I think it's an excellent
tool and I think that we'll learn to leverage it just like we've
learned to leverage all the other tools. It's not going anywhere,
students are going to use it, faculty are going to use it. The best
that we can hope for is to identify the threats and opportunities,
and then mind our ethical responsibilities.
The best we can do is mind our ethical
Be mindful of that. We should always be
mindful of that. As practitioners in this space, our number one
goal should always be what's in the best interest of the student.
What's the best and right thing to do? And that's usually not the
So, notice I didn't say the easiest thing,
because the best and right is very rarely the easiest thing to do.
So, we should be focusing on what the best and right thing to do
is. And like any tool, use it to its maximum capacity for good, and
then make sure we're not hurting anybody in the process. I think
it's a great tool personally, in case you couldn't tell.
Yeah, I think so too. I think so too. And I
think this leaves room for our audience. I mean, I'm really hopeful
that our audience who is listening, if there's an example of how
this is done correctly or if there's ways in which the listener is
leveraging AI in education, I would be delighted to explore
So, listener, if you're out there and this
resonates with you, and you feel that you have a real life example
that you'd like to share with us, we'd really like to hear about it
I agree. Call to action from the listeners if
there's anything related to any of the topics that we've discussed,
but particular, this idea of leveraging the existing tool of AI in
education - I think it's a really interesting topic to see how
other people are dealing with it at different colleges or even K
through 12. I mean, they're dealing with it too.
I wanted to switch to another opportunity in
terms of like AI and workforce development in general because for
us, we're like, "Well, students are on their way to the workforce.
We're trying to get students workforce ready, that's our whole goal
in economic and workforce development.
But there's also opportunities for upskilling
and re-skilling, the skill demands and shifts chain that are
happening because of AI. And so, there's this opportunity to train
and retrain employees around using AI and how it's impacting
There's an opportunity to teach collaboration
between humans and AI, and then there's all kinds of new job
opportunities. So, there's new opportunities emerging that we can't
even imagine yet. And they're happening rapidly. Some already exist
in companies now, and some are showing up.
So, there's a lot of things that we need to
address with workforce stuff too, in the addressing workforce
displacement because that's a real thing too. People are are afraid
of it. And it's not so much a robot took my job, it's that certain,
I don't want to say lower level tasks, but certain kind of tasks
have long been automated.
And then AI is just adding another layer of
like what machines can do and to create efficiencies, and scale
work. And those are all good things for industry. Those are all
good things for productivity, those are all good things for
capitalism. Not always good things for people.
And so, because in economic workforce
development, we're in the people business, we need to think about
that too. So, there is an opportunity to discuss workforce
For sure. And I think it all boils down to
like, as I am hearing you talk about these opportunities and
hearing you talk about our focus, I mean we're in the people
business, and the word that keeps coming up in my mind is adapting,
like adaptation. And it's not so much adaptation because we're
giving in, I look at adaptation as a place for us to do things just
differently and operate differently.
So, I hope that that resonates really with our
listener too, because there's no need to just conform. Adaptation
is not conforming. Adaptation is re-imagining and redesigning ways
in how we operate, not only as educators, not only as an
institution or as an industry leader, or as thought leaders in this
space. It's really about creativity and being creative.
Oh, that was the other thing. So, for a long
time, for the last, I would say five years or so, AI wasn't really
considered as a disruptor in the creatives. So, when think about
creative thinking, we think about creative in anything, but point
in fact, AI is the most disruptive thing in the creative world.
Even in the way we create and design our own
strategies, and our own approach to - we could go down a list of
things; even how we creatively approach leadership, how we
creatively approach economic development, how we creatively
approach planning and design, and there's so many things.
And so, I think that's also another
opportunity. Although it feels very disruptive, I also feel that
that's another opportunity for us to really reimagine and embrace
design thinking with AI. Because typically, design thinking AI was
never considered in design thinking. And there's an opportunity
there for us to kind of leverage that.
But there's so much good, I think there's more
good than we know. You just shared 5 or 10, I wrote down a few
things here. But you've shared a handful of opportunities for us to
really think about. And so, I genuinely feel like next step for us
is to really kind of unpack those opportunities one by one in some
capacity. And we'll certainly keep our listener updated on how we
do that and the outcomes of that.
But this has been lovely. I really appreciate
our talks because you and I are constantly thinking about things
and how we do this work and how we present ourselves in this work,
and the approach to this work. This is really helpful.
The listener gets to hear our brains thinking
and how we kind of come up with some of our own initiatives and our
own solutions to some of this work.
Yeah, I think it's important, not just
educators but workforce development programs to anticipate the
evolving role of AI in the job market. And we have to be proactive
about that. If we're preparing students to enter the workforce, we
need to prepare them for an AI integrated workplace because that's
what's going to be waiting for them.
So, nothing to fear, it's just that we have to
be proactive in understanding, appreciating, and anticipating the
evolving role of AI. So, I think it's great. And I think it was a
Well, thank you very much, and we'll catch you
on the other side of the screen or the other side of this podcast.
I look forward to our next chat.
Me too. Thank you.
Thank you for listening to the Future of Work
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