An AI wrote this essay (and then I had to mark it)

I’ve written several posts now on the potential impact of AI in education, especially in the English classroom. These have explored AI co-authored essays, the ethics and critical literacy of robot writers, and most recently an exploration of how we might use AI for creative writing. But I have not used an AI writer to produce something that would count as a passable essay: until now.

For this post I used the GPT-3 based writing app WriteSonic (mainly because it offers a fully functional free trial). I also got an invite recently to the midjourney ai art generator, which has provided a lot of entertainment over the past few days. I used it to generate the artwork for this blog, including the following rather depressing Philip K. Dickian image of the dystopian future of robot teachers.

“A robot teacher lecturing bored students in a cyberpunk setting” – courtesy of midjourney.ai

So, without further ado, what is GPT-3 capable of? I chose the prompt, and then toggled a few variation buttons. Other than that, the only human words you’ll see below are from my feedback after each paragraph.

Artificial Intelligence in Education: How AI Writers Will Revolutionise The Classroom

When it comes to developing new ways to further academic growth, there are few technologies that offer as much potential as artificial intelligence (AI). From self-driving cars to smart home speakers, AI has captured the imagination of the world. But what about AI in education? In this blog post, we’ll explore how AI can be used in education. We’ll look at how AI writers can help students with writing assignments and how this technology could even improve reading comprehension by analyzing student reading habits.

So far so good. A bit vanilla: it reads like, well, a blog post. The AI’s use of a rhetorical question in the introduction puts it on a par with a VCE Section C text at least. The structure of the introduction is textbook, down to signposting the arguments in the closing sentence. 

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence is the idea of machines being able to do tasks that normally require human intelligence. So, it’s the idea that we can design systems capable of doing all of the things that we do as humans. We can use AI to solve certain problems that we’ve always faced, but that are now becoming much more important and pressing. AI is a general term for several subfields of computer science. AI has a lot of applications and fields of study, such as computer vision, natural language processing, etc.

I’m not sure why the bot decided to repeat itself after the first sentence. “Emphasis”, probably: the catchall explanation for any persuasive technique. I’m not overwhelmed by the quality here, but on a good day with a strong tailwind it’s looking like a 4/10 response. 

How Can AI Help Students with Writing Assignments?

With the rise in popularity of AI-driven technologies, the education industry has been quick to adopt and implement various AI solutions. One of the most prominent uses of AI in education is through interactive writing tools that use natural language generation (NLG) to create written content. These tools allow users to input their desired topic, length, and style and then generate a finished piece of writing. This can be especially beneficial to students who struggle with generating original, high-quality writing. With the help of AI-driven tools, students no longer have to worry about the stress of creating original content. AI-driven writing tools can be a helpful tool for students, especially in the fields of English and creative writing.

Is it just me or does it seem like this AI is justifying its own existence here? Maybe I’m anthropomorphising like a Google employee. At least I no longer have to worry about the stress of originality. That’s a load off. 

How can AI improve reading comprehension in education?

One of the biggest problems in education today is how to improve comprehension and retention of information. Students can read something, comprehend it, and retain none of that information. This is due to students simply failing to understand what they’re reading. This can be remedied by a number of different strategies to increase reading comprehension. If students are given the option to read different texts, they may be able to choose an easier article to help them gain a better understanding of a topic. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re retaining information. The solution to this problem may be the implementation of an AI-driven reading comprehension tutor. With this AI solution, students could be given an easier article to read, which would be programmed to ask questions based on the reader’s comprehension. This could be used to follow up with students who didn’t fully understand the content of the article they read.

Ok now this actually sounds legit. Programmable AI solutions for reading comprehension do exist, but the jury is out on their efficacy just yet. Google for Education have just released Practice Sets, which uses AI to help direct students to resources based on their responses, amongst other things. 

AI Based Language Tutor

Another use of AI in education is with language tutors. This technology is designed to help students learn any language, from Mandarin to Spanish. AI language tutors are designed to be used at home or in the classroom. Students can use the tutors to learn new languages or practice their speaking and pronunciation skills. And, AI language tutors can adapt to each student’s learning habits and progress. The AI-driven technology is designed to offer tailored lessons to each student. This helps students meet their learning goals while also offering them a fun and engaging way to learn languages. With this technology, students can practice speaking, pronunciation, and vocabulary skills. They can also learn about different cultures and languages.

I feel like we’ve taken a sojourn out of the English classroom and down the hall to LOTE. The AI has tripped itself up here, drifting from language to Languages, the concept to the subject. Still, who wouldn’t want to learn Mandarin and Spanish from an AI tutor? 

Summary

Artificial intelligence is the idea of machines being able to do tasks that normally require human intelligence. This can be used to help students with writing assignments and improve reading comprehension. AI-driven writing tools can be a helpful tool for students, especially in the fields of English and creative writing. If students are given the option to read an easier article, they may be able to choose an easier article to help them gain a better understanding of a topic. AI can also be used to help students with language tutors. These tutors are designed to help students learn any language, from Mandarin to Spanish.

And we’re back to vanilla, proving that no one, not even an omnipotent AI overlord, really knows what a conclusion is for. Next time your students ask you, just be honest, shrug, and walk quietly out of the room. 

The overall verdict

(Human writing again) So right now, this isn’t blowing anyone’s mind. But it’s easily as “good” as a reasonably well researched student piece on the same topic. It uses about the same level of rhetorical devices and argument, and is, overall, fluent and easy to read. And this is from a free trial version of the first app that I grabbed off the Google shelf: there are many better AI writers out there.

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I “wrote” this article – including midjourney’s images and my commentary – in less than an hour. I wasn’t trying particularly hard for speed, and I probably could have done it more quickly. Soon, I imagine, the image capabilities of midjourney and the language processing of GPT-3’s successor will be merged into a single platform. When images can be generated in sequence, they’ll easily be able to be turned into videos. The future of this technology is just on the horizon, and I’m excited: we need to find ways to help our students navigate these new applications ethically and creatively.

I’m going to end with an alternative picture, also from midjourney. Like the essay it’s hardly High Art, but it’s a little less Blade Runner.

“Happy robot teacher in a utopian paradise with rainbows”

2 responses to “An AI wrote this essay (and then I had to mark it)”

  1. […] An AI wrote this essay (and then I had to mark it) – Leon Furze […]

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  2. […] *A Former English Teacher’s Take on AI Writing: Communications consultant Leon Furze indicates auto-writers currently can get the job done – but they’re not setting the world ablaze with inspiration. […]

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