Webinar Series Illuminates How Artificial Intelligence Informs Reading Research

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The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) hosted a three-part webinar series aimed at illuminating the symbiotic relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and reading, showcasing the potential of AI and data analytics to drive innovation and advance knowledge in the interdisciplinary field of reading research. The series hosted by FCRR’s Innovation Committee featured inspired lectures by Nathan Crock, Ph.D., Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Scientific Computing, Dina Vyortkina, Ph.D., Assistant Dean, Innovation and Instructional Technology Enhancement at the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, and Ashley Edward, Ph.D., Research Faculty at the FCRR. The series highlighted how AI technologies are revolutionizing traditional approaches to language understanding, educational practices, and research methodologies. 

Dr. Crock

The first webinar in the series, Reading and AI: How AI is Learning to Understand Language, presented by Dr. Crock explored the evolution of AI in understanding language, particularly focusing on its parallels with human reading processes. He emphasized AI's ability to interpret language by breaking it down into manageable segments, mirroring human comprehension methods. He also delved into a collaborative project between FCRR and the Department of Scientific Computing aimed at developing an AI model for reading. The model will not only interpret the visual aspect of words but also their phonetic characteristics, much like how humans process written and spoken language simultaneously.

 

Dr. Vyortkinya

As the series continued, Dr. Vyortkina provided an insightful exploration of the challenges and opportunities that AI presents in education. Her presentation, AI in Education: Challenges and Opportunities, explored the transformative impact of generative AI on K-12 and higher education. She highlighted the potential of AI to enhance learning experiences and discussed its applications in educational settings. She shared her personally curated list of AI resources and tools (which can be found here) and facilitated an in-depth discussion about both the opportunities and challenges to integrating AI technologies into pedagogical practices. The discussion also underscored the need to consider the ethical implications and societal impacts of deploying AI in in classrooms and schools, emphasizing a balanced approach to innovation and responsibility.

 

Dr. Crock

Finally, the third session led by Dr. Edwards offered a unique perspective on the utilization of Shinyapps in educational research, albeit not inherently AI-centric. In her webinar, R for Educational Research: Using Shiny Apps for Data Collection and Dissemination, Dr. Edwards skillfully integrated the development of Shinyapps into the broader conversation about AI's transformative impact on research methodologies and practices. She facilitated a thoughtful discussion on the role of AI in enhancing Shinyapps, exploring the advantages of this integration while also addressing potential issues and the critical importance of understanding the underlying functions in the R code. Dr. Edwards also provided practical demonstrations and tutorials, introducing attendees to the use of Shinyapps for various tasks such as data collection, visualization, and dissemination. Attendees left with the knowledge needed to build basic Shinyapps and the tools for building more complex apps, empowering researchers to utilize advanced data analytics techniques in their own research. 

“These sessions have provided us with valuable insights into what happens 'behind the scenes' of these Large Language Models (LLMs). They have clarified some of the learning mechanisms behind LLMs, while also providing hands-on experience with some of the latest AI tools available to researchers and educators,” stated FCRR Innovation Committee Chair, Dr. Nuria Gutiérrez. “A key takeaway from the presentations was the importance of 'prompt engineering'—the art of crafting effective prompts. The Innovation Committee is considering launching a new series next semester focused specifically on this skill. And, of course, these gatherings offered us the chance to come together, learn, and enjoy some pizza!” 

The FCRR Innovation Committee AI Webinar Series highlighted the burgeoning convergence of cutting-edge technologies, notably AI and data analytics, within the realms of education and research, particularly in reading and language. It illuminates how these technological advancements are reshaping conventional methodologies for language comprehension, educational strategies, and research approaches. Ultimately, the series underscored the transformative potential of AI and data analytics to catalyze innovation and propel progress in reading-related research endeavors. 

The Florida Center for Reading Research is a multidisciplinary research center at Florida State University that explores all aspects of reading research — basic research into literacy-related skills for typically developing readers and those who struggle, studies of effective prevention and intervention, and psychometric work on formative assessment. For more information, please contact Jon Mason at jomason@fcrr.org.