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Here we ARE... Demystifying A.I.

Since December of last year, those of us in the fields of reading and writing have been bombarded with the latest developments from large language models like ChatGPT. The biggest concerns of professional educators is cheating. We all know that human brains that don't do the work won't learn the content. The biggest challenges remain convincing folks that "A.I. should HELP you think, not think FOR you." As a result, both instructors and students are trying to figure out how and to what extent A.I. can be incorporated in various subjects and courses. Here in our RC RWC, we began by looking at ways A.I. might eventually influence particular fields of study. Since that time, we have been trying to figure out ways it can be of support to students with college writing assignments. We currently understand it's best use is for the structural components of the writing process. It can be used to help brainstorm ideas for topics, generate search terms for research, evaluate thesis statements, evaluate paragraph structure, and create reverse outlines from first drafts. We want to encourage students to understand the importance of ethical and responsible academic work. Asking A.I. to evaluate a piece of writing based on specific criteria can help the writer revise and improve the work. The role of the A.I. becomes more of a 'guide by the side,' --not simply a creator of a piece of work to be submitted. As generative A.I. tools are rapidly evolving, it will be necessary for each instructor to decide what kind of role A.I. will have in their courses. Students need to pay close attention to the guidelines they are given. The entire SCCCD is currently working on crafting a Position Statement with regard to A.I. and its use. Reedley College English Department recently drafted their first policy statement. It reads as follows:


"This statement from the Reedley College English Program is intended to provide an overarching concern with students using AI to complete coursework. Discussions and policies concerning AI best practices need to be decided within each discipline.

The Reedley College English Program aligns with the July 2023 “MLA-CCCC Joint Task Force on Writing and AI Working Paper: Overview of the Issues, Statement of Principles, and Recommendations,” which highlights professional educators’ common values. These values pinpoint that “writing is an important mode of learning that facilitates the analysis and synthesis of information, the retention of knowledge, cognitive development, social connection, and participation in public life.” These are the critical thinking skills necessary for academic, professional, and civic pursuits and should remain “human endeavors” as we prepare students for their professional lives.

Students’ use of AI has several more risks in addition to the above-mentioned impediment of critical thinking skills. AI use may contribute to a devaluing of reading, writing, and content learning, hindering their advancement toward higher skills. Students may also face “increased linguistic injustice” because AI generators “promote an uncritical normative reproduction of standardized English usage that aligns with dominant racial and economic power structures.” Additionally, there is a real risk students will have unequal access to these artificially generative tools. These risks particularly affect disproportionately marginalized groups.

While recognizing AI presents issues related to academic integrity, it likewise offers potential to be used by faculty to enhance their pedagogy by teaching students how to critically evaluate AI generated content, and to point out what it can and cannot do for a student. Furthermore, generative technologies may be of use in creating more equitable content and opportunities for student responses. Use of AI could be an effective way to consider the principles of Universal Design Learning to update an existing lesson plan, particularly for students with learning differences and disabilities.

We know our professional and business partners in the community value critical thinking and workplace preparedness. While risks of misuse loom large, we also understand that this new technology is now part of the contemporary landscape, and we realize teaching students also includes the ability to utilize technology responsibly and ethically. Each discipline at Reedley College should take the risks and potential benefits of AI seriously, determining program policies to address AI use for their curriculum goals."



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