Thursday, February 2, 2023

Cheating Ourselves?

 This is not the first time I have blogged about my feelings that eliminating cursive penmanship from school curriculums was a bad idea, although I realize beating that drum is a lost cause.  This time, however, the joke is on those professors who decided that with most correspondence being done on laptops, penmanship was no longer needed.  It has turned out that bypassing handwritten assignments has made cheating easier.

Reading Great Books rather than a summary

Watching the interview of a professor on television, I learned that technology has now advanced so far that it is nearly impossible to assign such a unique topic that it can stump the technology.  He described how even a unique subject can be entered online, with a request to produce an essay of the assigned length on that topic, and the internet will promptly supply a suitable composition.  Without requiring the paper to be written in the classroom, how can the professor know whether it is the student's own work, Unless the students' phones are removed, there are still temptations available during classes.

That professor didn't seem very happy about the prospect of requiring the students to write their essays in the classroom by hand.  Given the penmanship of most students today, I can understand why a professor might hate grading hand written papers!

Recently I blogged about the ability to create art by entering a few details about the subject, with a few additional details to use in the composition--such as 'a golden retriever hunting quail in a field of harvested corn at sunset.'  With that much information, assuming a computer with access to thousands of images entered into its resources, a computer could create an attractive composition using artificial intelligence. 

Seeing a sheep being sheered instead of a computer describing it

A few days ago, I learned of the ability to use computers filled with enough information to create that  person's image so that the person's voice could be imposed on the image to create what appeared to be a live talk.  In short, the old saying "Seeing is believing" is no longer trustworthy.   

So, here is the problem:  While we can create professional papers on about any subject in minutes, create art that is beautiful, and appear to be delivering a recorded live program, are we really teaching  and interacting?  Are those using technology to supply the content of an assigned essay, or the art student using artificial intelligence to create a composition, or the speaker and his audience truly interacting?  Are we neglecting the development of our own minds, our sensitivity for observing and creating beauty, our skill of interacting with others by listening not just to their words but also body language and drawing out those hesitant to speak.   

Decades ago when I was teaching, I discovered cheating by my students.  When I expressed my disappointment to an older teacher, he replied:  "Cheating isn't bad, cheating badly is bad."  I was astonished by his comment.   Unfortunately, I fear that since that teacher's comment was made to me years ago, the honor system has plummeted.  It does seem to me that technology has opened up an entire new world for cheating.  However, isn't it possible that in many cases the person we are cheating is ourselves?   


1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

My daughter, Professor of Victorian Literature at St Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan has been battling plagiarism since she was a TA. These new AI programs are giving her problems she did not have before. I am not sure how she is addressing them but she will. She has threatened to run a series "F**k around and find out" which made me laugh out loud as that is NOT her typical language.
My handwriting has deteriorated to the point I can hardly sign my name properly. I'm sure students handwriting must be pretty bad though some courses absolutely cannot be typed as the professor lectures - chemistry, biology, physics etc.