Starting the 2023–2024 School Year

there's an app for that

Posted: 2023-09-09
Stats: 808 words / ~4 minutes

It will (again) come as no surprise that we will (predictably) work on finding a way to use GPT-4/LLM/ChatGPT/whatever to create content for classes and find ways to allow students to use it in class.

me, 3 months ago

It might be worse than I thought. Not only are we going to be looking into using generative AI, but all staff and faculty must attend obligatory training camps.

Have I been living in an echo chamber of my own design? Perhaps too much time on the Fediverse? Maybe I’ve become that crotchety middle-aged employee who lives to disagree with everything, or my millennial nature is preventing me from doing something that wasn’t laid out in my contract years ago.

I love teaching, and I want to keep doing it, but I cannot wrap my head around how generative AI fits into the scheme. The ultimate goal of a learner it to be able to create something, to express themselves—at least in my discipline.

You see, I like to keep things simple:

  1. memorize
  2. understand
  3. solve problems
  4. express creativity

For the past year, my students have been eschewing steps (counts on fingers) 1 through 4. Studying and memorizing is out the window, understanding, solving problems, and expressing creativity have been replaced by ChatGPT.

So, why not use it in class anyway, just to show the students how bad it is?

That is a fine idea, but there are always a few students who won’t pay attention and continue to use it, and guess what? They will graduate! I teach in France, and lots of students are happy to get the average (10/20). There are absolutely go-getters trying to be top of the class, but I have never heard, in my 16 years teaching here, a single student talking about their GPA. So, why wouldn’t a student give it a try?

Would you want to write a 25-page report during your exchange year, or would you want to enjoy your time abroad?

Innovation calling

Back in my day (am I old enough to say that yet?) we learned about instructional design and formative assessment. Neither are particularly innovative nor novel ideas. That is, unless we rebrand them?

Now we must foster engagement and be student-centric while using varied pedagogical materials in class. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it is all instructional design, but with apps and AI. So many f u c k i n g apps. And do these apps give us any useful metrics? Not really. Most of them are third-party and require teachers and students to fork over names, dates of birth, email addresses, and whatever crap the app wants on your phone, all in order to take a quiz and see some virtual confetti on your screen. As a teacher, I receive neither difficulty index nor discrimination index (except from Moodle)1.

Not everything needs to be an app or a third-party service with AI.

Speaking of innovation, if everyone is jumping on the generative AI bandwagon—like, literally everyone—is it innovative to do the same thing?

A hill to die on

I don’t think we should even entertain the idea of a battle over this. Alluding to hills I am willing to die on would be far too overdramatic, but I am not opposed to quoting Picard:

The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact

You will say I have been reading too much hard sci-fi, and that might be true, but what will the class of 2027 be like if we are training them to cop out of learning? Why would employers pay you to be a manager or a head of marketing when they can pay you less to be a ChatGPT prompt-writer? How can schools pat themselves on the back for handicapping students and making them pay for it as well?

Do you want my answers?

In short, I believe we will very soon be entering the find out phase of the fuck around and find out process.

  1. the former determines if a question is too easy or difficult, the latter determines if a question is effective at sorting out the stronger students from the weaker students ↩︎

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