I am a tennis fan and have been watching the US Open. IBM is a major sponsor and has several commercials about AI on rotation, including one that begins by stating that people are excited at what AI can do for them. Are they? That Pew data I wrote about last week would suggest otherwise: a lot of people don’t know anything about it and those that do are concerned.
Today, I attended my second university-sponsored AI workshop. It was an interesting conversation with very smart people, but at the end of the day, we simply don’t know what the impact of AI is going to be on teaching, learning as well as life and work in general. And, while IBM and today’s panelists expressed optimism, audience questions during today’s Q & A showed real skepticism about this technology. The biggest concern seemed to echo Jonathan Zimmerman’s recent Washington Post editorial: struggling with assignments is what learning is all about. The bot doesn’t just create your product; it does your thinking for you.
From the panelists, there was talk of transforming the curriculum to take advantage of AI and creating AI-aware assignments. Meanwhile, an audience member who was an arts professor expressed fear at what will be lost as AI moves into the fields of visual and musical arts. The answer–that different kinds of jobs will be created for those that are lost–was not reassuring.
Bottom line message: AI is here and, unlike previous technologies, cannot be banned or ignored.
In a recent email, a colleague at the university where I teach called Artificial Intelligence the wild west. It reminds me of the early days of the Internet in schools, something I was fortunate to participate in as both teacher and professional developer.
Tonight, as I begin my ninth year teaching a graduate-level school technology course for budding administrators, I will be showing a video that I used to show in workshops during the early years of the Internet but haven’t shown for a long time. After nearly three decades, we have gotten comfortable with the Internet as a part of our lives in the classroom. In fact, these younger educators may have little or no memory of a time when they, both as students and now teachers, didn’t start the day by logging on.
But, AI is challenging that comfortable complacency, with schools scrambling to develop policies around what I think really may be the technology the forces educators to reconsider how they teach. The Walla Walla Public Schools are a good example of how schools often approach new technologies. They blocked ChatGPT last spring but are now embracing it for both teachers and students. The article is worth a read as it covers the issues related to cheating and bias The school district ultimately believes it is their responsibility to help their students grapple what is quickly becoming a ubiquitous technology:
“We’re fostering 21st century learners and we’d be doing them an injustice if we didn’t educate ourselves to therefore educate them on how to use it responsibly,” LaRoy said. “This is the world they’re going to go into. We really felt like there was no other option than to jump on this and embrace it.”
Walla Walla Union Bulletin, Loren Kykendall, April 15, 2023
It feels like the early days of the Internet but with a larger sense of urgency. We’re building that plane while we are flying it.*
*The commercial was for a company called Electronic Data Systems. I was surprised to discover that it was founded the year I was born by none other than Ross Perot! Thanks, Wikipedia.
PBS Newshour has worked with Mozilla to create Ad Libs 2012, a website that allows you to create your own campaign commercial. It shows the simple formulas behind campaign advertising. As you work on your ad, you can check out ads from previous Presidential campaigns and see how closely they follow the formula. You can make a biographical or an attach ad, both about yourself. Because it’s linked to Facebook, you can choose your own photos or wall posts. They also provide generic selections but considering how some of my posts might sound in ads was a bit of a revelation.
The National Constitution Center sponsors Ad-O-Matic. I created one:
I was a little annoyed that women were not on the list of issues. You might want to also check out the Constitution Center’s website for other resources.
Perhaps the biggest (and saddest) lesson of these create-your-own-ad websites is how little information we actually get from campaign ads. A couple slogans, some canned photos, and you get an ad, something that the candidates will spend $3 billion on this year. There is some disagreement as to whether or not they really work to change anyone’s mind except perhaps the swing voters who may not decide on their vote until they are standing in line at the polls. And it is those approximately 4% of voters in 6 states who will ultimately decide this election. Research into political ads doesn’t focus on swing voters in particular so it’s hard to tell how they decide…let’s hope it isn’t based on political advertisements!