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Getting ready for AI in the classroom

Instructional designer Dan LaSota works with the paid version of ChatGPT, a natural language robot program, testing the depth of subject matter for essay questions and poetry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Center for Teaching and Learning.
Instructional designer Dan LaSota works with the paid version of ChatGPT, a natural language robot program, testing the depth of subject matter for essay questions and poetry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Center for Teaching and Learning.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is counseling instructors on how to adapt to the surge in AI tools.

As the Alaska school year begins next month, there will be a lot more conversations in classrooms about artificially- intelligent tools, especially at the college level, where students are expected to learn about the latest technology, and how they might use it in life.

University of Alaska Fairbanks has an instructional design office to help faculty keep up with developments in teaching.

“Our philosophy here is to adopt a best practice -- something that's gonna lend itself toward really good teaching and good learning.”

Dan LaSota is an instructional designer, and he’s been writing teaching tips about artificially- intelligent tools for UAF’s Center for Teaching and Learning. He says after the natural language processing tool, ChatGPT was launched, professors and instructors started to see its use in student assignments. (ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI and research company. The company launched ChatGPT on November 30, 2022.)

 “It was new to both teachers and students, and so we started seeing some complaints bubble up, and then people were looking for us for answers. Like, what do we do about this? How do we respond?” LaSota said.

LaSota says for a student to ask a chatbot to write an assignment for them is plagiarism, and the university already has a student code of conduct that requires honesty.

“We don't need to do anything differently as far as academic integrity regulations go, because the language is broad, but precise enough, where it says all forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited and there's consequences,” LaSota said.

But ChatGPT is just one natural language processing AI tool, (there is also Google Bard, Microsoft's Bing Chat, and there's even talk of a possible AppleGPT) And there are tools that do arithmetic, higher math and some draw pictures from instructions given to them. New tools are being developed everyday, even in the research departments on the UAF campus.

" The question then becomes is any use of AI cheating or academic dishonesty? Well, it really depends," LaSota said.

LaSota says some of these tools can be used to help tutor students, and some can enhance what the teacher wants the student to know.

To help instructors sort out which tools can help and which are just cheating, the Center for Teaching and Learning is offering a two-day workshop next month.

“ One of my goals for the workshop is to give people actual experience with an AI typing things in. What, what, what kind of responses do you get? What kind of delay is there? How well does it know your subject area?” LaSota said.

And so we did a demonstration:

“ Some of the things it does insanely well. So, for instance, um, I, I'm trying to write something very random here. Can you, can you write me a 10 line verse, an iambic pentameter that describes the process of making chocolate chip cookies?” LaSota typed in the instructions.

In about five seconds, ChatGPT rendered a poem to the assigned parameters:

"In flour and butter's creamy dance, unite,
with sugar, sweet and crisp, embrace at play.
A dash of salt and balance adds its might
and eggs bind in all culinary ballet.
Stirring the chips of chocolate, dark and sweet,
In doughy realm, their morsel thrones they keep.
On parchment sheet, each rounded promise meet.
Then in the oven's warmth, they sink and steep.
From Heat's caress, emerge with golden hue
delight in every chip infused delight."

The chatbot was sloppy with the rhyme in the last two lines. So LaSota asked it to fix it. And it apologized, like a person, for the mistake.

" In the traditional Shakespearean sonnet, the last two lines form a rhymed couplet. Here's a corrected version:"

From Heat's caress emerge with golden hue.
Our hearts, they leap at each sweet cookie's view.

 “We ask it a question, it gives us an answer, but we can ask it to look back at its thing and, and it seems to have an ability to be critical of its own output and refine things,” LaSota said.

This is an example, and LaSota wants instructors to be much more familiar with AI tools students might use, or that they might use this coming school year.

 The 2-part workshop on Working with Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education will be August 17 and 18 from 10 AM to 12 PM.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.