Weekly Whaaa…?

AI and Teaching College Writing

I profoundly appreciated this week’s Future Trends Forum on AI and Teaching College Writing, featuring Daniel Ernst and Troy Hicks.

These English professors not only summarized their March 2023 survey of college writing faculty, but also shared many potential uses of technology.

Here are a few brief insights:

  • Professors’ anxieties around AI tend to cut at the emotional core of teaching.
  • There’s a distinct worry that students might circumvent the learning process we try to offer, which produces anxieties of being undermined/cheated in disciplinary, interpersonal, and emotional senses.
  • Professors might have students engage the AI in a dialogue. The assessment might be something close to a Socratic rhetorical dialog, rather than a more customary essay final product.
  • Using AI highlights nuances of language when prompting, with the output often shifting noticeably based on the specific terms and grammar used.
  • Asking students what they meant with particular words or concepts remains one of the best ways of knowing whether they’ve used generative AI inappropriately—an approach that’s likely the best outside of AI concerns as well.

Although I have far less direct experience with uses of AI than these professors, I’ve felt for a while that one of the best responses instructors can take will be to repeatedly emphasize and reinforce disciplinary ways of knowing. This can help highlight that disciplines aren’t static bodies of content in what Paulo Freire would call a “banking model” of education. Instead, it might help professors hew to a more Cultural Studies-style view of disciplines as “ways of making meaning.” AI might also let students who aren’t already familiar with a discipline’s or genre’s ways of knowing and communicating, or who otherwise aren’t yet well-disposed to generate their own ideas, feel less anxiety in the brainstorming / pre-writing stages. If instructors allow students to transparently and critically engage with generative AI for pre-writing, these less-familiar students could potentially find the desired disciplinary ways of knowing more approachable.

Therefore, it was very heartening to hear Ernst and Hicks share similar ideas about what AI might make more perceptible and engaging for students, if instructors move from an anxious “students will cheat” model to “how can we engage meaningfully with AI-informed processes?” approach.

Home Page Changes

I realized recently that my website’s home page presents the reader with a huge wall of text. So instead, I’m currently going with greatly trimmed-down introduction (with the former moved to my About page), plus a few buttons that hopefully invite readers to explore my site. I’ve also trimmed down my top navigation menu a bit.

While it’s certainly an improvement, I fully expect that this isn’t even my home pages final form!

Gearing Up for 2024 Spring Semester

Our Spring semester starts tomorrow, and I’ll be taking fourth-semester Spanish. I’m still quite excited to be refreshing my abilities with Spanish, which have definitely been clouded by the other languages (French and Latin) I’ve studied since learning Spanish in middle school and high school.

I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to start reading academic theory originally written in Spanish, but I’m looking forward to that potential!

For now, I’m just enjoying occasionally dipping into Netflix’s show Pasteleros contra el tiempo, a Mexican variant of Sugar Rush.

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