Automation has been on the horizon for a long time and, since the get go, creativity and critical thinking remain the key players for what skills will best serve kids in the future. Humanism in the Renaissance was a reaction to the machine age. Embracing what human looks like (reads like, feels like) is the best response.
Ai is a making machine that does not give us the knowledge of making. Sure, we can have Ai write a poem, a song, an essay or create a painting – but it is still ideation and then what we do with the thing created that is important. If you were gifted a sentence (let’s start small), wouldn’t you want to pepper in some of your own style? Where is your personal voice and musings? This needs to be added to make it yours. Otherwise it’s like regifting without a card and with an empty bank account. ‘Here is the thing I was given that I am giving to you but I dont want to sign the card’ (and I can’t afford another gift) vs ‘here is a personalised thing that I stand behind with a meaningful card’. Its kind of like Hallmark – the cards never took away the need to write something personalised just because the message inside came ‘done’. Kids still need to know how to choose, make, wrap and sign a gift for more occasions in the future. Taking things as they come is not future proofing. We need to embrace making notes not taking notes.
If you are into algorithms ai generated art and text is a fantastic opportunity to debug, skim, scan, fact check and decipher. What are the language patterns? What are the structures? Where can we see the rules being used? What sources were used to create this artefact? How might we re-order, debug, re-jig and fine tune? How can we use the lightning creation speed of ai to form a foundation we can build our own deeper research and voice upon? Through playing with randomisers and ai generated texts for a while now, I can tell you that the rules and patterns are fun to explore. Like google translator was for languages, ai does not make you fluent- your fluency has to come through your own understanding of the ‘how’ to apply to new contexts. And notice how I included an I. This is my experience, my thinking, my lens on it bringing my own education/experience/Art-English- Digi Tech teaching lens to it. This is not an algorithm that can be stolen.
Ai will bring a swifter death to regurgitating notes. This is a good thing for teachers to begin positing learning opportunities for applying knowledge, for creating understanding and for sculpting facts into new form. Regurgitation is just collecting and spitting out. What about questioning? Weighing? Analyzing? Philosophising? Creating something new that shows your understanding is not something that can be easily taken away. Tasks can be designed to ask for more explicitly human, personal and connected response. The human centre, the student at the centre – this is worth celebrating. A task I designed recently was to draw a diagram of a leaf to anchor the learning to. The content was not about leaves. The creative ‘random thing’ and connection-making creativity is the uniquely human thing we can target.
I remember thinking, ‘Oh no I’m out of a job’ when the first ai art-making tools came out. Writing is no different, but am I? Will the commodity of pop/instant noodle outputs hold? Do you want an ai generated image on your wall or is part of the reason people buy my paintings because they like the story, the local places, the artist’s hand, the messy drips of real paint? Will the typo become something to celebrate? Humans, we make mistakes, but we also learn from them. Typos can be fun like paint splatters just like deliberately mashing up text and breaking the rules on purpose can also lead to surprising results.
Relevant anecdotes are another layer to make your content human. Yesterday I wrote a poem on PicCollage for my insta poetry account (writers gonna write, right?) but my phone somehow didn’t save the full text. It came out blank without the original poem. But this was an opportunity for humour and a unique twist. So I titled it ‘ghost poem’. I think it is hilarious. It is up there with when I told boys at a high school I worked at that we had a guest speaker coming in so they had better be on their best behaviour that week. On the day of the event I brought in a speaker on a tray and welcomed ‘our guest’. Pun queen! The groans were so loud. Funny-not-funny? Embracing the personal wit, silliness, geekiness, you-ness of writing, teaching, art-making (all of it) is the human response we need to nurture and retain.
Chat Gpt is worth getting your head around. It writes in pirate, it takes feedback, it writes lesson plans, it writes blogs, it collates information fast. It uses first person but is not a person. “My primary function is to assist users like you by providing information and answering questions to the best of my ability. I have been designed to have a conversational style and can understand and respond to natural language input. I do not have personal experiences or feelings, and my responses are based solely on the information and knowledge that has been programmed into me.” (Quote from chat gpt output). It has a multitude of interesting uses that all need a human tweak.
The growth of AI and machine learning is potentially scary. It has huge copyright, infringement and ethical issues but it also brings about some good things: It may bring to the fore more paper-based freewriting and brain dumping activities as warm ups and cool downs and retention strategies. It may challenge us to consider what human responses need to look like and feel like. It may force us to work through the writing process alongside students and teach crafting rather than ‘one and done’ artifacts. It may make us more process over product focused. (Yes!) It may make us collaborate more. It may make us look to more authentic sources of knowledge. It may make us more aware of our own style and personal voice…
It may make us more human. Being human and knowing how to embrace what it looks like in text is the response we need.
For more on ai in the classroom and teacher-tips this article is worth a read: https://ditchthattextbook.com/ai/
More on ai, tech and ‘youness’ stuff by me: