Monday, January 16, 2023

Teachers and chatbots

In the news today: “Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach“ (The New York Times).

If I were still teaching, I’d adopt five strategies to counter the chatbots:

~ I’d assign frequent short in-class writing and make and keep copies of all work.

~ I’d assign longer out-of-class writing with highly specific prompts, and I’d test those prompts against the chatbots, provided that I can get through. (ChatGPT always seems to be at capacity lately.)

~ I’d require that students meet with me to talk over their ideas for outside-of-class writing.

~ I’d ask students to initial out-of-class writing before turning it in, to signify that what they’re turning in is their own work.

~ And I’d remind students that just as a cashier can immediately sense that a bill is counterfeit, and just as an appraiser can immediately sense that a work is a fake, a professor of English can immediately sense, or at least suspect, that written work is not genuine student writing. (Yes, it’s true.)
Irony, irony: It’d be especially wonderful if the rise of chatbots were to bring about a resurgence of writing by hand. Not cursive, just writing by hand.

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT

[Why keep copies of in-class writing? To have at least a rough sense of a student’s writing for when out-of-class writing comes due.]

comments: 4

Slywy said...

I've never figured out why people pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education only to avoid it.

Michael Leddy said...

I can quote, more or less, a friend, Stefan Hagemann, who once observed that education is the only thing people pay for for which they want as little as possible for their money.

Anonymous said...

consider this article:

i think most schools will be adding this to their honor code and if a student wants to cheat they will. which always makes me wonder what else they cheat on? maybe they try it once but it could be what gets them kicked out of school.

the easiest way is to ask them to explain what they wrote. it trips people up every time.

and for a fun take see what nick cave had to say about just today in his newsletter:


Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the links, Kirsten. Here’s what I had on my syllabus. It was preceded by the department statement about academic integrity. What follows is mine:

Any breach of academic integrity — from a single sentence cut and pasted into a dinky little assignment to a stretch of “reworded” prose to a wholly unoriginal essay—is a serious matter and will get you a serious penalty. The Student Standards office recommends an F for the course. You will also be required to take a course in ethics administered by Student Standards, whose staff will keep your misconduct on record and notify your other professors that one of their students has violated academic integrity. You should be familiar with [name of university]’s statement on academic integrity and should ask if you have any questions about quoting from and/or documenting sources. But because the work of the course is to be an expression of your ideas in your words, aside from words and ideas from properly acknowledged sources, questions of plagiarism and collusion should never arise.

Do not “borrow” work or give your work to anyone (allowing someone else to make use of your work is also a breach of academic integrity and will also get you a serious penalty, up to and including an F for the course).

Pretty clear, yes? And yet I would almost always end up with one incident a semester. Sad to say, many faculty just look the other way. I didn’t always think an F for the course was appropriate. But plagiarism really breaks trust.

I love Nick Cave’s response. It’s a helpful reminder that chatbots aren’t writing — they’re aping, going through motions dictated by an algorithm.