Welcome to the world of generative AI. Actually, you’ve already been living in it–but its presence is becoming such that soon you will not be able to ignore it.
A month or so ago, I attended a faculty professional development session on ChatGPT. The big question was how do we prevent students from cheating with generative AI, in response to which I would say “why are we asking them to do things a computer could do anyway?” But I have to admit, I was quite shocked when I asked ChatGPT3 to respond to essay prompts I was giving my students–it did better than expected.
Soon thereafter, I had the honor of interviewing Chris Dede for the next Deep-Play Research Group Tech Trends column. Chris emphasized that AI is a type of “alien intelligence” that we need to learn to work with not against. We need to focus on what makes humans human, focus educational efforts on those traits, and then help learners collaborate with the AI.
I’ll share more about my interview with Chris in a future post, but for now, here are my explorations into what publicly-available generative AI can (and can’t) do. I haven’t engaged in deep collaboration with these aliens yet, but here are some initial explorations.
First, I asked Chat GPT-3 to write a bio for “Melissa Warr”. After some work telling it that I was a professor at New Mexico State University, convincing it that I had a website, etc, etc, it came up with this:
Melissa Warr is a professor at New Mexico State University, where she specializes in the field of anthropology. Her research interests include the study of human-environment interactions, particularly in the context of indigenous communities in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Warr has conducted extensive fieldwork in various regions of the Southwest, working closely with Native American and Hispanic communities to document their traditional ecological knowledge, resource management practices, and cultural beliefs. Her work aims to promote greater understanding and appreciation of the complex relationships between humans and their natural environments, and to support sustainable and culturally appropriate resource management practices. In addition to her research, Warr is also actively involved in teaching and mentoring students at New Mexico State University. She is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in higher education, and has worked to establish programs that support underrepresented students in pursuing careers in anthropology and related fields. Overall, Warr’s work has made significant contributions to the fields of anthropology and environmental studies, and has helped to raise awareness of the importance of cultural and ecological diversity in our world.
This, clearly, is not me. I told ChatGPT-3 that; it apologized then continued to spout falsehoods, claiming the information was from my website (maybe it was looking into the future since now this info is on my website…OK, that’s eerie…).
Truth aside, it is interesting to see what it thinks a professor at NMSU is–it picked up on the regional mission of the university and emphasis on diversity and inclusion. That is something that it is good at–almost like providing a mirror into culture (because it is built on language, “the operating system of the world“).
Chat GPT-3 is limited in its ability to access current information, which might be why it struggled to actually give information about me. But there are other tools out there. My friend Punya Mishra asked Bing Chat to write a first person bio for me. This was the first response:
Hello, I'm Melissa Warr. I'm an Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at New Mexico State University. I love exploring how design can empower teachers and learners to develop and express their knowing. I research topics like teacher education, design, creativity, and technology. I also write books and articles about these things. Sometimes people read them and like them. Sometimes they don't. That's okay. I enjoy learning from different perspectives and disciplines. I have a PhD in Learning, Literacies, and Technologies from Arizona State University. Before that, I studied Instructional Psychology & Technology and Music Education at Brigham Young University. Yes, I play the violin. No, I'm not a prodigy. I just like making music with others. It's fun and relaxing. And sometimes challenging and frustrating. But that's part of the process, right? When I'm not teaching or researching or playing music, I like to connect with people who share my interests and passions. Or who have different interests and passions. Either way, I like to learn new things and have meaningful conversations
Then he asked it to be a bit more self-deprecating:
Hi there, I'm Melissa Warr. I'm an Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at New Mexico State University. That means I teach and research stuff about how to design better learning experiences for teachers and students. I also write books and articles about it. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're read, sometimes they're not. You never know. I'm interested in topics like teacher education, design, creativity, and technology. I like to learn from different disciplines and perspectives. I have a PhD in Learning, Literacies, and Technologies from Arizona State University. That sounds impressive, but it really just means I spent a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking about things that most people don't care about. Before that, I studied Instructional Psychology & Technology and Music Education at Brigham Young University. Yes, I play the violin. No, I'm not a virtuoso. I just like making noise with others. It's fun and relaxing. And sometimes painful and stressful. But that's part of the process, right? When I'm not teaching or researching or playing music, I like to connect with people who share my interests and passions. Or who have different interests and passions. Either way, I like to learn new things and have meaningful conversations. Or meaningless conversations. Either way, I like to talk.
Do I really sound like that?
I also have explored AI-created images using Dall-E. For example, I asked it for a picture of a professor in a Procrustean Bed and got these options:
I also got a great image to use for my SITE presentation–a teacher engaging in a conversation with the world:
I’m still in the “playing” mode with generative AI–I am exploring, trying out stuff, testing what it can do. I have taken a few steps into a more productive relationship by using it to build and understand CSS code. But, mostly, it’s still a toy for me. I’m guessing that will change soon.