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How I Use the 3-Sentence Story to Introduce Students to Text Generation Without AI
Getting students to think about their own relationship to technology and the writing process before integrating AI.
My AI & Digital storytelling class is appropriately hybrid. We meet on Wednesdays in the classroom and every Monday students do class work asynchronously. This allows us to discuss and work on writing together every week, while giving them time to explore their own creative process.
The first few weeks of Spring semester are usually awkward, especially for hybrid classes. Our first asynchronous class is this week! So we spent first few classes building up to their first micro story and making some comparisons between human-generated and AI-generated stories.
I have not yet shown them any AI tools, and probably won’t for another week or two.
Students need to think about their own relationship to technology and the writing process before integrating AI. Before they can augment their writing, they have to know what exactly they are augmenting.
For our first class, I have my students write 3-sentence stories to introduce themselves to each other. This helps to break the ice and provides me with a snapshot of my students’ writing styles.
Once students have written their stories, we can use this baseline to explore the possibilities of text generation without AI … before using AI to augment their creative process.
3-Sentence Story Assignment
As part of onboarding, students introduce themselves and write a 3 sentence story that says something about themselves.
In class, we look at these and discuss what makes them stories. Students then take their 3-sentence story and expand it into a micro story (200–300 words).
They are allowed to use their own story, another student’s story, or a 3 sentence story they’ve found online. (Yes, it is a real thing.)
In the process, students learn about the nature of language and its relationship to meaning in several ways.
Language is full of possibilities. We could write an infinite amount of stories based on a single 3-sentence story.
The 3-sentence story gives students the opportunity to explore the limits of their own creativity, and consider the implications of tinkering with language.
For their micro story, they’re allowed to add new details, new perspectives, and even new plot elements, while remaining true to the structure they’re given.
By the end, they’ve not just learned more about themselves, but also the power of possibility in language. This will help students see AI not as an author, but as possibility generator.
Just because you write a sentence doesn’t mean you own it. Any writer can take your sentence and make it do something completely different.
Sure, there are some sentences that society, especially the university, asks us to clearly cite. But language is fundamentally social … shared among us.
Working with other people’s text introduces the idea of remixing and re-purposing language. This is what it really means to use AI in the writing process..
Students learn that meaning doesn’t exist inside language. Meaning happens between people in specific social and historical moments.
We are already text generators … what students are here to learn is how to craft the text they generate.
Most people these days can generate text. We send emails. We write tweets and Facebook posts. We jot down notes — the list goes on. That is not the entire picture of writing … especially when considering digital storytelling.
As humans, our skills naturally extend beyond being able to write text. What students are here to learn is how to craft the text they generate in purposeful and meaningful ways.
Once I introduce AI, we will start by plugging in these 3-sentence stories to see even more possibilities … and explore how those new ways of seeing might help us craft more creative stories.
By interacting with their own stories first, they will better understand the impact and implications of AI on the writing process — and use that knowledge to fuel further exploration.
Reflections about Writing & Technology
That said, I’m not quite ready to introduce AI to my students. 😉
This coming week, I am having students reflect on their relationship on writing and technology.
Writing is itself a technology that is deeply embedded in our social and historical contexts. We invented writing together as humans, just like we invented AI … and writing never happens in a void. To fully understand writing, students must explore these relationships.
One great way to get students thinking about this is to craft a micro story about a writing moment and explore how it shaped them as people.
Jim Porter’s 2002 article, “Why technology matters to writing: A cyberwriter’s tale” is the perfect introduction. Porter shows how writing and technology shaped his character by exploring specific moments in his writing history.
Then we will start with 3-sentence story about their own writing moment. Here’s one I’ve already shared.
The dot matrix printer whirred and hummed as the young man printed out his essay in the English classroom.
“That’s impressive. I haven’t been able to get that to work,” said the teacher.
The young man knew right then that he could write anything, despite his terrible handwriting.
Stayed tuned for more complete versions of these assignments materials that I am working on!