In the cover story from last weekend’s Sunday Morning program, David Pogue presented a very good and entertaining overview of ChatGPT.
Including, of course, some of the issues around how AI tools like this will impact the teaching of writing in school.
The producers put a lot of good information into the eight minute piece but I especially like the comments from the director of the writing center at Harvard University.
In response to Pogue pointing out how how anyone can use ChatGPT to create an essay without “knowing structure or syntax or vocabulary or grammar or spelling” she had this to say.
The piece I also worry about is the piece about thinking.
When we teach writing, we’re teaching people to explore an idea, to understand what other people have said about that idea, and to figure out what they think about it.
A machine can do the part where it puts ideas on paper, but it can’t do the part where it puts your ideas on paper.
I would point out to Pogue that students, and the rest of us, already have some very good tools to help with that syntax, grammar, spelling stuff. I remember when using spell check was called “cheating”. Does anyone consider it that way anymore?
Anyway, as noted in the piece, even more powerful AI writing systems are coming very soon, ones that could evade current tools for detecting their product. Now might be a good time to have the conversation around what we really want students to learn from a writing assignment.
Because it’s obvious that those traditional, and often impersonal, five-paragraph essays and classic research papers assigned to kids year after year (decade after decade?) will soon have very limited instructional value. If they were ever valid assessments in the first place.
No matter what you teach (or if you teach), the whole segment is worth the time. Maybe show it to your students and get their slant on the issue of both learning to write and AI.
The Sunday Morning program has always featured a sun as their logo but they regularly include interpretations of that icon by artists and designers. The one at the top is one of those and is available as a poster from the artist at a very reasonable price.