Adventures in AI (#9)

Eventually, I’m going to have to move back to original titles, but for now, I don’t have time to be creative.

If you missed out on Adventures in AI (#8) it’s because one of the plugins that chatOAME is using conflicted with the actual blog posts, and it took me a couple of days to fix that. Sorry!

I had a few conversations with folks on Facebook (sigh, I miss Golden-Age Twitter) and Discord (there are number of active ChatGPT/AI/Education servers) and it’s discouraging to see the path that many of the AI tools being presented to teachers have taken — I certainly perceive that they are deliberately removing agency. Teachers are being presented with push-button options to create content, removing much of the potential for conversation. One of the most important steps a teacher can take is to engage in discussion and reflection with another person – now, for most of my career, that meant another teacher… but now we have the option to have that take place with a chatbot. And in our case, it’s an Ontario-centric, OAME-driven chatbot that prioritizes what we believe good math is.

One of my beta-testers shows great skill in this conversational aspect — they take the approach that they are in discussion with chatOAME, they ask questions, ask for clarification, ask for options, etc. They take suggestions from chatOAME and expand on them, or they reduce the focus and engage with some aspect in particular. This has the downside that it costs more, and a couple of times they have run out of credits (we’ve set a maximum usage per day … but thanks to this tester, we’ve upped it to allow for these rich conversations). But I would say it is helping them be more effective in the classroom and ask better questions of me!

Of course, this “reduction to the least” is something I’ve seen before — from the introduction of the WWW to the OneNote ClassNotebook. There is a de-professionalization that occurs to these tools. In part I think it is because teachers are overwhelmed with their daily work and they don’t have time to do what they can/should be able to do. If you’re struggling to keep your head above water, it’s not the time to refine your backstroke. The other aspect, simply, is money. Compannies are there to sell you the easy way out.

But it’s aggravating. That said, I went ahead and began some testing on this “task delivery service” for chatOAME. If folks are going to use this push-button approach to AI, then at the very least, they can use one that is motivated by good teaching and learning principles and not at the service of a for-profit company.

The bigger mountain on the horizon is evaluation — for-profit services will have teachers upload student work and return with it assessed. There are a (I was going to use my father’s epithet for a lot but thought better) there are a lot of privacy issues with this, and teachers are expected to trust a line of text on the site that everything is safe and private. How we’ll deal/cope with teachers using student-work with chatOAME Is a bridge we’ll cross in the future. We haven’t turned file-upload on for that reason. They can always cut-and-paste text responses from students, but it’s a little harder with math to just do that. Other subjects? My guess is the Wild West, with student privacy the poor NPC getting shot by the main protagonists.

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