I’m still grappling with exactly how the rise of AI writing apps will affect my teaching. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ban technology from the classroom. While I will likely assign more in-class, hand-written activities, that strategy won’t work for online classes — and I am just not interested in requiring students to use surveillance software.
Machines can throw balls faster and more accurately than humans, but humans still play sports. Pulleys can lift weights more efficiently, but humans still lift weights with their muscles.
If we continue to ask students to do the kind of writing that bots can already do well (summarizing and rearranging what someone else has already written), then they will find those bots useful.
Yes, a bot can probably do a decent job writing your weekly chapter responses for you, but if you’re not doing that prep work yourself, you won’t be developing the skills to process complex information quickly, which you will need in order to level up.
I follow a lot of media and rhet/comp scholars who are exploring how best to integrate AI writing software, with the idea that if we train students to spot where the bots are weak, they will be prepared to do the human part of writing, as we humans take our place in a bot-filled world. This essay by Irina Dumitrescu takes a strongly humanist stand, reminding us what our students gain when we ask them to do the writing themselves.
I think I’m mostly blogging this so that in the future I can look back nostalgically at a well-written defense of the before times, just as I have linked to essays on the value of handwriting or the history of the printing press.
Through experience, writers learn not just how they can best write but also how they can best think. Much thinking does not, after all, happen at the surface of consciousness. The human brain is not a machine that takes in a query and spits out a result. While working on a demanding project, a writer discovers which tricks he can use to access his subconscious intelligence. He might write by hand or with a timer or cover his computer screen. He might try writing in different places or compose in the shower or while taking a walk. He might dream on it. To be fair, mulling over a mathematics problem or tricky lab results might look the same. The point is not that writing is the only way to think but that schools must train students in how to persist through intellectual challenges, even if it would be easier to throw them at AI. The cost of making things easier is self-knowledge.
To bypass this process in the name of efficiency means losing other benefits as well. Students miss out on the chance to gain expertise by grappling with material on their own. –Irina Dumitrescu, The Walrus