AI in the context of cultural heritage

The recent AI boom has permeated various aspects of our lives and thus revolutionized the way we work and live. An important area where AI is making an enormous impact is the area of cultural heritage preservation and promotion.  

The benefits of AI in the context of cultural heritage 

A wide variety of AI-powered tools are used to preserve various aspects of cultural heritage and create precise digital replicas of historical sites or artifacts so that future generations can learn from them and appreciate them. This creation of digital replicas also allows researchers to access and study a wide range of cultural heritage items. Furthermore, AI-powered technologies have made cultural heritage more accessible to the public. Through the usage of AI-powered translation software many documents, manuscripts and texts are more accessible to speakers of different languages. Also, AI enables museum visitors to engage with exhibits in individualized and immersive ways. What is more, AI enables people around the world to get to know diverse cultures through the creation of virtual exhibitions, online platforms or educational tools that enhance this cultural heritage experience. 

Ethical considerations 

While AI offers a lot of advantages, it also poses many challenges in the context of cultural heritage. There are a lot of concerns regarding copyright issues and infringements due to the usage of generative AI tools and platforms. When somebody creates a piece of work using generative AI, who does this piece of work belong to? Who should it be attributed to? Who was creative here- a human or AI? Also, since AI uses huge existing databases to create new content it can also use items that are in copyright. That way, we get a new piece of work that is similar to the original work. Again, the same question comes up- is this fair, is this copyright infringement? To fight against it a new tool called Nightshade has been developed. It is a kind of ‘data poison’ which allows artists to add invisible changes into their works so that when a new piece of work is created through the usage of AI-generative tools this new item will be messed up with and will not resemble the original. Anyway, AI and copyright issues will be one of the hot topics in the future. 

Implementation of AI in the educational context 

Education is one of the areas where AI has a brilliant potential. However, new tools are emerging daily and many teachers feel overwhelmed by them. On the one hand, they are afraid that students might rely too much on AI in the future and thus not develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. On the other hand, they are aware they must keep up with technology and the development of AI because students will make use of AI. Whether we want it or not and AI is here to stay. 

Many teachers have realised the benefits of AI for education and are implementing it in a thoughtful way. AI offers teachers a lot of possibilities- it can serve as a teachers’ virtual assistant. It is a big time-saver since it can create lesson plans, rubrics, various forms of assessment, quizzes, engaging activities and the like, in just one click. 

For example, we can use texts from Europeana platform and create lessons around them in a minute. Let us take the recent Europeana blog post ‘The apple of my eye and other famous apple sayings’. Using the AI tool called Diffit you can create a lesson based on this text in one click. It creates several types of comprehension questions, vocabulary tasks, open-ended prompts to be discussed etc. You can find an example here: ‘The apple of my eye’ and other famous apple sayings- by Diffit (printable) – Google Docs

You can then export these tasks and share them with your students in various forms, as interactive slides, an analysis workbook, a graphic organiser, bubble map interactive slides etc.  

Diffit export and share possibilities

Another activity using Europeana in an English lesson could be to choose one picture or painting on Europeana and tell students to describe it in as much detail as possible to practice descriptive language. After they have done that, they can enter this text as a prompt into one of the text to image AI art generators (e.g. Fotor or NightCafe). When they get this new image, they can compare it to the original and see how good their description/prompt was. 

The possibilities of using AI in the classroom are limitless. We as educators should use it to enhance both teaching and learning. We can try to help our students to use it in a way that enhances and not hinders their learning and prepare them for their future. 

To learn more about this topic you can watch the video about building key competences with Europeana to tackle AI and digital technologies in education. You can also try to implement the learning scenario from Teaching with Europeana blog in your classroom.

CC0 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Institutul Național Al Patrimoniului.

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