4 Things My Students Told Me About Using AI in My Storytelling Class
One reason I am teaching AI & Digital Storytelling was to explore using AI with my students … not necessarily to teach them how to use AI…
One reason I am teaching AI & Digital Storytelling was to explore using AI with my students … not necessarily to teach them how to use AI tools.
AI technology progresses so fast … and new ways of using AI in writing are being shared by droves. It is impossible to keep up, let alone teach it. In less than a semester, we’ve seen GPT-4, Bing, Google Bard, and many other tools spring into being.
As we ourselves discuss and try to keep up with AI, it’s easy to miss student voices and perspectives. So last week, I hit the pause button and asked students what they are thinking about AI after using it to tell stories this semester.
I thought I’d share what I heard.
“AI helps with ideas without asking someone who may discredit them.”
Writer’s block is a real problem for students … and also fear of judgement. Students are using AI to trigger their imagination in what they perceive as a safe place. Writing can intimidate, and students often feel the pressure of judgement or criticism when they share their work. By using AI, students can have a safe space to explore ideas, free from judgement or criticism.
That perhaps says more about our educational environment and cultures around writing than it does about AI. Obviously, AI is not necessarily a safe place or an unbiased tool … but students feel more comfortable exploring without a teacher’s presence or competing peers.
“AI is a tool not a threat.”
On the other side, some students came to the class fearful of AI. It’s easy to let paranoia and fear take precedence over exploration and learning. But as they used AI in their writing, they realized it was simply a tool they could use to enhance their creative process. AI technology can help them generate ideas or provide them with inspiration, but ultimately, it is up to the them to decide what to do with that information.
Okay … yes, there are some dangerous aspects of AI that all writers should know. But overall, AI is just another tool in a writer’s arsenal, one that can explore new possibilities and push the boundaries of their own creativity.
“AI rarely writes for you; it works better writing with you.”
It made me so happy to hear students say this unprompted. Our obsession with super-prompts (as useful as they are) threatens to obscure other ways AI “writes with us.” I can actually see students experiencing this in the writing as the semester progresses, and it is fascinating to see. It is quite possible that some students learn more about the ways they write by integrating another writer (in this case, AI).
To truly experience an integration of AI in the writing process, students need to write a lot … and with purpose. Having them write at least one micro story every week (instead of 3–4 big writing projects) is key to helping see how AI tools work. This is probably true of any kind of writing instruction, especially in the beginning stages.
“Using AI takes practice.”
AI is incredibly useful and powerful, but students must put in the time and effort to use it effectively. AI should not be viewed as a “lazy student” tool, but a tool that requires effort and practice to be utilized properly. Even prompting requires a lot of knowledge and writing to make work. But students also practice integrating microgenerations into their writing, which helps with writer’s block but still takes practice to make work. You have to know something about writing, your own writing process, and AI to make it all work together.
As the semester goes on, I can see students becoming more adept at using AI to enhance their writing. They are finding that it is not a magic wand that will instantly produce brilliant ideas or perfectly crafted sentences, but a powerful tool that requires practice and experimentation to use effectively.
Here is my takeaway.
It is not really possible for any one person to know everything about AI & writing. It’s not about finding the magic prompt or even making it your intern. It’s about picking up the tool, holding it in your hand, and figuring out just what it does … together.
This takes hard work and practice.