Using Artificial Intelligence for Writing

Using Artificial Intelligence for Writing

Jesse Martin 12/05/2023
Using Artificial Intelligence for Writing

The motivation for getting an AI routine to write work is potentially a fatal error when it comes to making yourself invaluable.

If getting AI to do the work is because you just don’t feel like it, that is one thing. If getting AI to do the work so it will provide you with a base to work from, that’s something else entirely.

Writing is a concrete cognitive enabler that has been used for centuries to demonstrate an important dimension of intelligence. Written communication has still not been surpassed as the single most effective and efficient method of transferring information.

When recorded verbal communication became a viable means of providing students feedback for their work in the late 1990s, it quickly became apparent that this was less effective than written feedback. The why is simple. Re-referencing feedback (or any form of communication) when it is in writing is infinitely more efficient and effective than verbal, video, or any other form of communication we can effectively use. It is easy to mark and return to a written passage. Making notes in a margin is a time-honored form of re-referencing something. It works.

With accurate transcriptions available for verbal communication, this form of communication is more accessible. However, it is still the written form that is most widely used to communicate complex information. I can see that having AI take the transcription of a verbal communication, rewriting it as a written form of communication, and illustrating it with appropriate figures, tables, and images will be a great way to effectively communicate. Truly a cyber assisted way of getting things done. The ability to do this will be a skill that will increase the value of someone. However, it is the communication itself that is valuable, not how it is prepared.

So, I’ve just outlined an effective method to use AI to enhance communication. Will this be taught in colleges or universities? I don’t think so. At least not in the foreseeable future. Inertia and conservatism will continue to be the rule for almost all forms of teaching.

Just look at the resistance to dropping Latin from the curriculum at the turn of the last century. Since Latin was the language of logic, dropping Latin from the curriculum would preclude students to understand and use logic. I’m serious. This was the primary argument for keeping Latin in the curriculum. Even as research emerged saying that this was patently untrue, large numbers of educators insisted that they just knew that they were right.

When I was teaching behavioral statistics (20 year sentence), I spent many years as the head of the research methods and statics group at our research intensive organization. This meant that I oversaw the teaching program and provided support when researchers needed support. In the early two-thousands, we had a serious argument in the group because one of the professors insisted that the students in their class needed to do a complex statistical procedure by hand (at least 4 pages of repetitive equations) to understand the statistical procedure. Even though research clearly demonstrated that she was wrong, she insisted that she just knew.

In another illustration of the same point, there are tens of thousands of college and university teachers who insist that having students take notes in their lectures by hand is more effective than typing lecture notes into a computer in situ. There was a paper in the late 1990’s that made this claim with several papers since that refute that work. Funny how the only piece of research that these individuals refer to as a back-up to their view is the single paper that agrees with them.

I don’t see very many professors helping students learn to use AI to communicate their work more effectively. Some will, but not many. I can see this skill being at least as valuable, if not more because of the time saving aspect, as writing things out in full.

I guess that we will just have to wait and see how things play out, but based on the past, I make the prediction that in ten years’ time, most university professors will still be fighting against using AI to enhance their student’s communication skills.

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Jesse Martin

Higher Education Expert

Jesse is a world leader in the integration of the science of learning into formal teaching settings. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge and Director at The Academy for the Scholarship of Learning. Huge advocate of the science of learning, he provides people with ideas about how they can use it in their classrooms. Jesse holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wales, Bangor.

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