Generative AI: Six Months In

I am no longer a full-time teacher, but I support a community of full-time and adjunct faculty and I am an adjunct faculty member. Throughout the almost 40 years of my professional life (I started my undergraduate preparation to be a teacher in the fall of 1983), I have been a user of technology in the field. My career has found me becoming aware of new technologies, evaluated them, adopted some, adapted to others, and exapted uses for others. 

The chatter about ChatGPT and other generative AI tools seems familiar. Some folks are claiming the “sky is falling” and it will destroy everything we do as teachers. Others are claiming “this will change everything” in it must be adopted immediately by everyone for everything. 

I have been using generative AI tools… occasionally. As educators, there are certain things my colleagues and I do. Among “the sky is falling” community, there is consternation that these tasks can be done by AI. Among the “this will change everything” crowd, there is amazement that such information can be generated. 

Examples I have seen recently include writing a syllabus: enter your topic, wait a few moments and a syllabus appears. Of course, having a syllabus “appear” is nothing new. For generations, those who need to write a syllabus for a course have opened the textbook (or a textbook if none has been adopted yet) and reviewed the table of contents.  

I have also seen AI used to create presentations. Again, type in the topic and the presentation appears. Of course, having presentations appear is nothing new. Educators have been able to access presentations provided by textbook publishers for generations. More recently, they have been able to access vast libraries of open educational resources. 

I also hear that AI can be used to compose emails. If I need to send a similar email to groups, I can have AI compose it for me. Of course, we have had the ability to create email templates for quite some time.  

It only seems reasonable to conclude that generative AI has yet to contribute anything new to the work of educators (I realize this may be just because I haven’t discovered any, and I haven’t seen any on my social media feeds). Generative AI is helping us find another way to do things we have been doing for a long time.  

We also hear that students can get summaries, study guides, and similar materials. It is reasoned (by some) that access to such material threatens the role of teachers. Of course, the last generation has had access to MOOCs which were also thought to threaten the future of teaching and schooling. 

I’m left to conclude that generative AI is not an immediate threat to educators. I’m also left to conclude that most educators can continue to do their work without using generative AI.  

We should be hopeful that not all educators (and students) ignore generative AI, however. As creative folks use this tool in classrooms, the uses of it to create what isn’t possible now in classrooms. If you are inclined to engage with generative AI, then please do so and share your experiences.