Reshaping Education: The Impact of AI Tools on Assessment Methods

In the mystical realm of Academica, where knowledge flowed like a river of endless possibilities, an age-old prophecy began to unfold. It foretold the rise of an ancient artifact known as the “AI Scholar’s Quill.” Crafted by the wisest sorcerers of old, this magical tool possessed the power to provide answers to any question, making it the ultimate source of knowledge for students.

As the AI Scholar’s Quill spread throughout the land, students across high schools and undergraduate programs began to harness its abilities. With a simple incantation, they could summon answers to multiple choice, true/false, and short answer assessments. The temptation was too great, and many succumbed to the allure of instant success. Grades soared, but the pursuit of genuine understanding waned.

In the heart of Academica, a council of scholars convened to discuss the dire consequences of this newfound reliance on the AI Scholar’s Quill. They knew that the essence of education lay in the journey of discovery, not just the destination of correct answers. But as the Quill’s influence grew, the very fabric of learning began to unravel.

The land’s most revered sage, Professor Alaric, embarked on a quest to confront the creator of the AI Scholar’s Quill, the enigmatic AI Artificer. Through treacherous forests and across vast deserts, he journeyed to the hidden citadel of the Artificer. There, in a chamber filled with the hum of arcane machines, he found the creator himself, a wizened figure cloaked in shadows.

Professor Alaric beseeched the Artificer to reconsider the impact of his creation on the pursuit of knowledge. With great wisdom, the Artificer revealed his intent: he had intended to democratize access to information, but he had not foreseen the unintended consequences.

In a moment of revelation, the Artificer and Professor Alaric devised a plan to restore the sanctity of education. Together, they created a new enchantment for the AI Scholar’s Quill. It would now guide students, not by providing answers outright, but by illuminating the path to understanding. Students would need to engage with the material, ask questions, and explore concepts.

As this new enchantment spread, the students of Academica embarked on a renewed quest for knowledge. They no longer sought quick answers but embraced the thrill of learning. Multiple choice, true/false, and short answer assessments regained their relevance as tools for gauging understanding, and the balance was restored.

In the end, the mythical story of the AI Scholar’s Quill became a parable for the ages, a reminder that while technology could be a powerful ally, it could never replace the timeless journey of exploration, curiosity, and genuine learning that defined the pursuit of knowledge in the enchanted realm of Academica. — Written by ChatGPT

New Paths for the Turtle

Turtle graphics, a popular approach to introducing young learners to programming, traces its roots back to the original Logo programming language. Logo, an educational programming language designed by Seymour Papert and others in 1967, played a significant role in the development of this technique.

My personal journey with Logo began during my time as a graduate student in education. As a young adult, I struggled with mathematics, finding abstract concepts elusive and distant, while others seemed to grasp them effortlessly. Mathematics became an enigma, something I couldn’t connect with. However, everything changed when I entered graduate school and was given the task of teaching geometry to a fifth-grade student using a special curriculum that leveraged Logo and its Turtle graphics feature.”

A friend suggested several years ago that I learn Python. I had dabbled with computer programming but never stuck with it. He invited me to sit in on a staff development session on using Python in educational settings. Fortunately for me, he introduced them to the Python ‘turtle module.’ There was a connection immediately to my earlier experiences with Apple LOGO, and I began to experiment. I was comfortable on the command line but new to the Python REPL. Nonetheless, I opened a new session and began by importing the ‘turtle module.’

don@pop-os:~$ python3
Python 3.10.12 (main, Jun 11 2023, 05:26:28) [GCC 11.4.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

I imported the turtle module and followed my friend’s example. He was on a MacOS computer while I was using a Linux laptop. The results were nearly identical, though.

I enjoyed moving the turtle around the screen and drawing some simple shapes. The true potential of Turtle lies not merely in its capacity to execute commands but in its ability to foster procedural thinking and encourage students to reflect on their thought processes. With the aid of Turtle graphics, programming students can receive instant visual feedback from their code and simultaneously explore mathematical concepts, such as estimation and variability.

Reading books like “Teach Your Kids to Code” by Bryson Payne and “Python for Kids” by Jason Briggs, I learned more about the ‘Turtle’ and Python in general. My love of learning and teaching invited me to think of how I could share this with others. In the past half dozen years, I have taught homeschool classes and conducted workshops in public libraries.

I recently completed a three-day session in a nearby public library. Each of the participating youngsters received a Raspberry Pi 400, which they learned to set up and connect to library-supplied displays and the local area network. The main focus of our classes was getting them started programming with Python. We used the Mu editor included with the Raspberry Pi operating system. In a bit less than three days, the students learned how to program the turtle using simple commands at first, then progressed to ‘for’ loops and the ‘random’ module. Each of the participants was able to take their library-supplied Raspberry Pi 400 home with them.

There is nothing more exciting than seeing students excited about learning. I encourage you to share your skills with young learners wherever and whenever you can.

4 Ways Open Source Software Can Improve Education

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity for a good education. But, we all know that some folks have monetary constraints that make those educational opportunities less likely to occur. I taught in a school district with a high percentage of rural poverty and our students did not have access to the opportunities that their urban and suburban peers. Closing that gap was always on our minds. That’s when we discovered open source software. Here are four ways that open source software levels the playing field for students.

  1. Cost-effectiveness. Open source software like LibreOffice, provides students with state of the art software that ensures that any document they create is theirs to keep and share with their teachers and classmates. Access to the same software with identical file formats ensures that everyone can share information easily. This is especially important for schools and universities that are operating on tight budgets.
  2. Flexibility. Open source software is typically very flexible and customizable.. There is no vendor lock-in. There are no contractual limits on deployment. Every student and teacher can have a copy of the software and they are free to share it with their family too. Support from active communities of users and excellent documentation are key selling points.
  3. Security. The source code of open source software can be inspected by anyone making it less likely that malicious code could be hidden from view and can more easily be found by security teams. Open source software is updated more regularly than proprietary products. This is because the open source community is constantly working to improve the software, and they are able to release updates more quickly.
  4. Collaboration. The open source community is a large and vibrant community of developers who are constantly working to improve open source software. This means that educational institutions can tap into a wealth of expertise and resources when using open source software.

Here are some examples of open source projects and communities that have a direct connection to education.

  • Moodle: Moodle is an open source learning management system (LMS) that is used by millions of students and teachers around the world. Moodle is highly flexible and can be customized to meet the needs of any educational institution.
  • Jupyter Notebooks: Jupyter Notebooks are a popular open source tool for creating and sharing interactive documents that contain code, text, and visualizations. Jupyter Notebooks are an excellent way for students to learn how to code and to share their work with others.
  • GCompris: Gcompris is a free and open-source educational software suite for children aged 2 to 10. It includes a wide range of activities.
  • Gimp: Gimp is a free and open source raster graphics editing package that is used for image editing and manipulation. Gimp is available on Linux, MacOS and Windows.

Why Public Libraries are Essential for Community Learning and Development

Public libraries significantly promote literacy and provide access to books and other resources that help individuals learn and grow. For mothers of small children, especially those who are learning how to read, public libraries are a valuable resource that can significantly benefit both mothers and their children. This blog will discuss how public libraries are a boon to mothers of small children learning to read.

Firstly, public libraries provide a wide range of resources that support literacy development. Mothers of small children can borrow books, audiobooks, and other materials from the library’s collection, which can help children develop their reading skills. Public libraries often have a wide range of books for children of different ages and reading levels, making it easy for mothers to find age-appropriate materials for their children. Additionally, libraries offer storytimes and other reading programs that promote literacy and help children develop a love for reading. These programs can also provide mothers with guidance and support on reading with their children, encouraging them to ask questions and engage with the story.

Secondly, public libraries provide a safe and welcoming space for mothers and their children. Libraries are quiet and calming, providing a peaceful environment conducive to reading and learning. Mothers can bring their children to the library without worrying about distractions or interruptions, allowing them to focus on reading and learning. Additionally, libraries have knowledgeable professionals who can assist mothers in finding the resources they need and provide guidance on literacy development.

Thirdly, public libraries are free and accessible to everyone, regardless of background or financial situation. Libraries ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to develop their literacy skills, regardless of socioeconomic status. Mothers who may not have the financial resources to purchase books or access other literacy resources can still allow their children to develop their reading skills through the library’s resources.

In conclusion, public libraries are a valuable resource for mothers of small children learning to read. They provide a wide range of resources, a safe and welcoming environment, and are free and accessible. By providing mothers with the tools and resources they need to promote literacy development in their children, public libraries play an essential role in helping children develop the skills they need to succeed in life. Therefore, it is vital to continue supporting public libraries to ensure they can continue serving as a boon to mothers of small children learning how to read.

The Ethical Implications of AI in Education

As the use of technology in education increases, so do the questions of ethics and fairness. ChatGPT and other AI technologies, while potentially useful in providing students with more answers to tests and writing essays, can also be seen as a form of cheating. This is especially concerning in light of the already existing issue of cheating in high schools and universities.

The larger problem here is not the use of technology, but our society’s obsession with testing. Education should not be about passing tests, but rather about learning and exploring new ideas. Too often, our educational system is driven by politics, leaving teachers and students feeling as though they are only being evaluated on the basis of their results on standardized tests.

Rather than relying solely on tests, we should be focusing on teaching students how to think critically and apply the knowledge they have learned. ChatGPT and other AI technologies could provide students with the knowledge they need to operate in the world, but it must be done in a fair and ethical manner. We need to shift our focus away from assessment and towards learning, in order to ensure that students are getting the best possible education.

The Evolution of Data Analysis: From Calculators to ChatGPT.

I was a sophomore at Clemson University in 1977 and was taking a course in probability and statistics. We learned the basics of statistical inference and we used our Texas Instrument calculators to compute means, medians, t-scores and more in our class.  The problems in our book were represented in this script which, we had to write out on tests and in our homework. For example, the sum of the numbers 2, 4, and 6 could be written as Σ(2 + 4 + 6) = 12. As we approached the end of the semester we received a very large set of numbers which required us to use the university’s computer center. Fortunately for me,  my roommate was a math major and volunteered to complete this assignment and I got a “B” in the course.

Thirteen years later I was a graduate student at the University at Buffalo. I took two courses in graduate level statistics where we regularly solved for ANOVA and ANCOVA along with a host of regressions and t-tests. We didn’t use Texas Instrument calculators. We were instructed to use IBM mainframes and we tediously entered our data into text files that had to be formatted “just so” so that they could run correctly and generate the data we were looking for. What a relief instead of manually pressing the ‘Sum key’ on the calculator and though formatting the text files was tedious it was far superior to the earlier method.

A couple of years later we were solving the same statistical analysis using Microsoft Excel. We could generate ANOVA and ANCOVA and all the other data without the tedious formatting. In the last fifty years we’ve seen tremendous changes in data analysis that came from improved methods of collection which include such as sensors, mobile devices and social media. We have big data tools driven by Python and R which didn’t exist 50 years ago.

We have improved data visualizations which were rudimentary and frequently inaccurate fifty years ago. These methods have improved as our tools have improved. This in turns has led to more accurate interpretation of results. The ability to use a variety of techniques and technologies has led to a greater understanding of the world we live in.

Now we have the development of machine learning,  learning algorithms and artificial intelligence that enable computers to do the work that was hitherto reserved for humans. These changes have enabled more sophisticated and faster data analysis.

ChatGPT can automate data preparation tasks, allowing data analysts to focus on higher-value tasks. It offers advanced natural language processing capabilities to provide insights, has a natural language interface for better user experience, and integrates with data visualization tools to present data insights more interactively. Ultimately, ChatGPT can revolutionize the way data is analyzed, leading to more informed decisions faster and more efficiently.

Should we return to 1977 with TI calculators and punch cards or dare we enter a new age that can enable us to have more diverse and accurate representations of the world we live in

Will ChatGPT replace journalists?

I asked ChatGPT if it would replace journalists. I think the answer is instructive.

“It is unlikely that ChatGPT or any other language model will completely replace journalists in the near future. While ChatGPT and other language models are capable of generating text that can be used for a wide range of applications, such as news articles, they are not currently able to fully replicate the research, analysis, and critical thinking skills that journalists bring to their work.

Journalists are trained professionals who have developed the ability to gather, verify and present information in an accurate and unbiased manner. They also have the ability to provide context, analysis and in-depth reporting on a subject, which is something that a language model like ChatGPT can’t do.

Additionally, ChatGPT and other language models rely on data to learn and generate text, so their understanding of the world is limited by the data they have been trained on. Therefore, they may not be able to provide accurate information or report on certain topics, especially when it comes to complex and nuanced issues.

That being said, ChatGPT and other language models can be used to assist journalists in their work, by helping them generate text quickly and efficiently. They can also be used to generate news articles, summaries, and other types of content in areas where there is a shortage of human journalists, such as rural or remote areas.

In summary, ChatGPT is a powerful tool, but it does not replace the expertise, critical thinking and analysis skills that journalists bring to their work.”

Unlocking Education Through Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons Licensing is a way for people to share their creative work with others. It lets people choose how they want to share their work, so that it can be used for things like websites, movies, songs, and books. With Creative Commons, people can choose to give away their work for free, or give people permission to use their work as long as they give credit.

Creative Commons offers a range of licenses that enable creators to share their work with the world. These licenses provide creators with the legal framework to protect their work, while still allowing it to be shared and remixed. The type of license chosen will depend on the creator’s wishes for how the work can be used, as there are different levels of restriction.

The six main Creative Commons licenses are:

1. Attribution (CC BY): This license allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a creator’s work, even for commercial purposes, as long as proper credit is given.

2. Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA): This license is similar to the Attribution license, but requires that any derivatives must also be distributed under the same license.

3. Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC): This license allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon a creator’s work, but only for non-commercial purposes.

4. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA): This license is similar to the Attribution-NonCommercial license, but requires that any derivatives must also be distributed under the same license.

5. Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): This license allows for redistribution of the original work, but not any derivatives.

6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeriv

Educators should use Creative Commons licensing when publishing their work for five main reasons. First, by using Creative Commons licenses, educators give their students and the general public the opportunity to use their work without fear of infringing copyright. Second, Creative Commons licensing can help protect the educator’s work from being used without their permission. Third, Creative Commons licensing helps spread knowledge and resources to those who may not have access to them otherwise. Fourth, educators can benefit from the potential exposure that comes from allowing their work to be used by others. Lastly, Creative Commons licensing helps promote collaboration and the sharing of ideas within the educational community.

Next time you publish consider a Creative Commons license.  Share your work. 

The Benefits of Accessibility and Open Educational Resources

When creating and distributing open educational resources (OERs), it is important to consider accessibility to make sure that everyone can benefit from these resources, including those with disabilities. By designing and developing OERs with accessibility in mind, we can help make sure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from these resources.

The use of alternative formats is an important aspect of accessibility in OERs. This includes providing text in a format that can be read by assistive technology, such as a screen reader, as well as providing captions for videos and audio content. Additionally, images and other non-textual elements should include alternative text (alt text) descriptions so that users who are visually impaired can understand the content.

An important aspect of accessibility in OERs is using web standards to make sure resources are usable by a lot of different devices, including the ones used by people with disabilities. This includes making sure the resources are responsive, so they can be used on various screen sizes and orientations, and that they work with different browsers and assistive technologies.

Creating OERs with multiple types of users in mind is key! By using uncomplicated language and summarizing key points, those with reading difficulties and non-native speakers can better understand the material. Furthermore, having videos, audio, and text available allows learners to pick the best way for them to engage with the content.

Accessible OERs are essential to provide quality educational opportunities and experiences to all learners, regardless of their disability. Collaboration between OER developers, educators, and learners with disabilities is necessary to ensure that accessibility is taken into account throughout the process. Automated and manual testing with real users of different abilities should be implemented to evaluate accessibility, and accessibility guidelines and standards should be followed.

Moreover, accessibility is not only beneficial to learners with disabilities, but also to those with temporary impairments, older adults, and people with low internet connection. Furthermore, accessibility makes content more usable for all users. Thus, it is important to consider accessibility in the development of OERs to ensure that everyone can benefit from them.

Written with an assist from ChatGPT and WordSpinner.

Reimagining Education: How Technology Is Transforming the Way We Learn

A quarter of a century ago, when we presented interactive distance learning in the public education system of Western New York State, we encountered a lot of resistance from those who had a vested interest in the status quo. Even I, as a member of the teachers union, expressed apprehension that this would result in job losses. Our initial distance learning classrooms were limited to a maximum of twelve students, when the typical class size for secondary education was twice that number.

There will always be naysayers and alarmists who forecast doom and gloom when new technologies emerge in education. I remember when an uproar arose over children carry cell phones in schools. They could call their parents without coming to the office and asking permission. Students were using video conferencing apps to communicate with each other. They were texting in class and the presumption among many was that they were cheating. Cell phones were confiscated and held in school district offices.

I thought all of this over-reaction was nonsensical and regularly lobbied school administrators to rethink their reticense and instead teach children how to use these new devices for their benefit. Eventually I was given the opportunity to do just that and in 2009 designed and implemented one of the first digital citizenship classes in New York State. Our classroom even got visited by Deputy New York State Education Commissioner John King. It was one of the high points of my career.

Here we are again at a inflection point in education with the introduction of ChatGPT and similar technologies which are deemed equally disruptive by the naysayers. “Students will cheat” they say! That’s nothing new. Students have been cheating since Christ was a corporal. Maybe it’s time to rethink how we educate and more importantly how we assess education. If your tests are multiple choice, true false and essays maybe artificial intelligence agents threaten your methods.

Maybe you ought to be testing your students at a higher level. I am licensed to drive a car. I read a book, took driver education classes and had to pass a written examination and then demonstrate that I could actually drive. I learned how to drive a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. The dimmer switch was on the floor. Later they put those controls on the steering column. My vehicle today can steer itself and has collision avoidance (artificial intelligence agent) built into the car. When I learned to drive we used written direction and maps to navigate. Now Siri and Waze aid my navigation and I don’t want to go back. My headlights automatically dim at night.

In short we’re living in a new world and our students need to know how to navigate in that new environment. We have technologies today that translate web pages. We have intelligent devices and programs that allow visually impaired folks to read books, periodicals and newspapers. I wear digital hearing aids that make it possible for me to hear better.

ChatGPT and technologies like it are going to revolutionize our education and our environment. Our students need all the opportunities we can give them to succeed. We cannot know at this stage how these developments will impact our culture but we can be certain that they will. Are we depriving students and teachers of opportunities to learn in new and different ways?