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Why I’m not Worried about the New AI Tools

For many years now, students who are so inclined have been able to grab a paper off the internet.

I remember the paranoia I felt after learning that the students at a new school where I was teaching a decade ago had actually created their own website for sharing work. To hear other teachers tell it, the answers to EVERYTHING any teacher had taught in the past were just waiting to be picked from the digital tree branches over there. Students could grab quiz answers, homework, exam responses, essays, you name it.

I actually looked out the windows during an exam once to see if anyone was dangling answers down on strings from the roof. That’s how much people prepped me to expect cheating.

But that year my students held poetry slams, created a live radio show, performed original one-act plays, and put on an independent reading festival.

It wasn’t easy to cheat on any of it.

And little by little, I stopped worrying so much that they would.

While the internet today, and the new AI tools, make it easier than ever for students to cheat on extended writing questions sent home for completion, it’s really just a slight level up on what was already available. We’ve known kids could cheat on extended take-home writing for a very long time, and whether they’re doing it by copying and pasting or engaging AI, we know they have the option to engage help they shouldn’t.

But there are so many ways to design assignments that call for creative work in modern mediums that AI can’t do for them.

So today I want to share why I’m not worried about the new AI, and why I don’t think you need to be either.

You can listen in to episode 168 below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Today’s episode is going to be short. Partly because I’m sick, and I’ve been sick for two weeks, and it’s hard to keep my voice going.

But mostly because what I really want to do is respond to the fears I’m seeing bubble up all over the teachernet. Because the way many media outlets are describing GPT-3, it feels kind of like the English teacher apocalypse. Headlines like “The College Essay Is Dead” from The Atlantic could easily cause anyone to panic.

But let’s pause on that panic and talk about the many, many ways we engage our students in reading, writing, and speaking that GPT-3 CAN’T do.

Can AI create a hexagonal thinking web about Dragon Hoops, connecting key artistic choices, literary moves, and personal experiences in a network of carefully constructed critical thinking?

Can AI research representation of Indigenous Peoples in the film industry today, and then create an Insta-style research carousel with a teen audience in mind?

Can AI create a podcast to help language learners master complex vocabulary in English, three words at a time?

Can AI launch a literary food truck? Design an app for Elizabeth Bennet? Read All American Boys and create a book trailer for it?

I don’t think so.

But what it might do is send a ripple out to remind us of the power of in-class writing and the importance of creative work in modern mediums beyond the five paragraph essay.

This is a great time to reach out to colleagues and share those creative projects and prompts you’ve been honing of late.

To offer to host a PD workshop for your department, share a new video project with your grade level team, or open up your door and invite others in to visit your next hexagonal thinking conversation.

If those around you are feeling stressed about AI, make it a springboard to something new in your community. You’re perfectly positioned to help lead the way.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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