Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 54 seconds
I am an educational developer, so I often need to help people think through how they’re going to respond to the advent of ChatGPT and the like. I myself don’t teach writing, and I think solutions for teaching writing will always be the most difficult, and their context is often quite different from courses in the disciplines. I teach a liberal arts requirement that focuses on digital literacies (including AI literacy – even before chatGPT existsed) and intercultural learning, and has lots of writing, but does not *have* to have everything written.
I know not every “solution” will work for all contexts, all courses, all levels, all learning outcomes, but some of the things I think will work include:
1. Having a lot of the written work be about reflecting on an actual real-life authnetic experience students had (like a community based learning project or interviews they did with people or a reflection on something they tried themselves) rather than be based on material they’ve read (which is easy to feed into AI). I know some students might still ask AI to write reflections for things like that, but it will appear inauthentic, I think? This semester, I’m having my students do community-based learning by teaching digital literacies to students in public schools; I’m having them do some planting of vegetables in a plot on campus (and using tech to help them do the work, AI to help them identify weeds, etc.); and meeting international students via web-based video conferencing dialog called Soliya. AI won’t be there for any of those experiences. We’ll also do a lot of games in class and I’ll ask them to reflect on the game play and connect it to readings.
2. Have some form of oral discussion around important work students have written. Conferences for writing classes, maybe, but for non-writing classes, I’d save time of “presenting” what they’ve written, and replace the “presenting” time to “discussion time” where we ask them questions about what they’ve written. If they can respond to questions about what they’ve written, then they’ve demonstrated learning (whether or not they sought help with AI)
3. To reflect on readings, I do “annotations” via Hypothes.is or similar, instead of written reflections. They select a part of the article (word, sentence, paragraph) and reflect: ask a question, connect it to their lives, connect to something they are learning elsewhere in the course, including class discussions.
4. Giving students loads of choice wherever possible to pick topics that interest them that they really want to learn about. This doesn’t AI-proof, but I think it helps a lot. Sometimes students don’t take this up and still want a shortcut, so I spend time helping them think through what they’re passionate about. Most students are passionate about something or other but don’t realize they could bring that thing into my course!
5. I am also telling my students something I said last semester. That any “generic looking writing” of the kind AI often produces (and which a B- or C student used to produce in the past) will not be acceptable any more. Any written work needs to be very specific and reflective and connected directly to their lives and to the course. Any writing that involves reflecting on written work won’t be graded on how well it summarizes the reading (it never really was, but I used to give partial credit, and now I’d give none!) but how it makes connections. Someone can still cleverly use AI to do this one, but if they manage, they’ve probably done enough reading/thinking and given it as a prompt to the AI
6. Prompt Writing Assignment: the assignment IS to write a good prompt. Prompt writing IS writing :))) I’ll make students try different prompts and keep refining them and submit a set of like 3 progressive prompts and compare the different text they produce. Has anyone done that? This one embraces AI and makes the writing assingment focused on writing for AI. It also then helps them think critically about the output of the AI and think of how to make it better… and that process is itself a learning process, I think.
Thank you to Anna Mills for encouraging me to blog this, which started as an email on a listserv of people interested in AI in writing started by Mark C. Marino.
Header image created by me on Canva. Text in the middle: Artificial Intelligence, Avoid or Embrace. Diamonds around include text that covers the 6 points above: Authentic Experience; Annotate; Oral Discussion; Student Choice; Reject Generic Writing; and finally, Prompt Writing Assignment (the only “embrace” in all of these)