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Interested in AI and Teaching – You Should be Reading “One Useful Thing”

I continue to try to get my arms around large language model (LLM) artificial intelligence, like ChatGPT (and others, though I mostly use ChatGPT right now). At this time, my main interests are:

  1. How marketing managers can use these tools to support their work,
  2. What do I teach my students about LLMs? (influenced a lot by #1 above)
  3. How I can use this tool to support my teaching? and
  4. How do I handle the potential for students’ using LLMs in an unauthorized manner — in essence cheating?

I will write posts on all these topics over the coming months.

I monitor artificial intelligence on my news feeds (e.g., within Apple News, New York Times newsletter, Wall Street Journal, higher ed news sites). Perhaps the best source of information I have found on using LLMs for teaching purposes is published by Wharton entrepreneurship professor Ethan Mollick on his Substack, “One Useful Thing.” Mollick is smart, thoughtful, and teaches business — which is what most readers of this blog do as well. He is a leader in this space and you can learn a lot from his short, weekly posts. He sometimes links to academic articles he has written on the topic (most are now working papers). And don’t forget the “Comments” section; Ethan has attracted a smart set of readers who offer their own insights. All of them are teaching me a lot.

To give you a feel for his writing, I offer brief summaries of (and links to) three of his posts. As a quick aside, I tried to get ChatGPT 4.0 to provide summaries of these posts. I was not pleased with the output (the AI missed the key points of the article or added information that was not even in the article). So I ended up writing them myself. My point – it is not a perfect system and must be closely monitored.

In “Superhuman: What Can AI Do in 30 Minutes?” (One Useful Thing, March 25, 2023), Mollick describes how he (by himself) used ChatGPT as a marketing strategist and had it help him create a marketing plan for an educational game/simulation (The Saturn Parable) he has produced. Mollick (remember, he is a business professor) was impressed with the output and estimated it would have taken a team of marketing professionals “many hours, maybe days of work.” This is probably a game-changer for marketing managers and it is incumbent on us (marketing instructors) to teach our students to effectively use these tools.

The Future of Education in a World of Rapid Technological Advancements” (One Useful Thing, April 9, 2023) offers an optimistic vision for the future of education in an AI world. While acknowledging it will lead to more cheating, he also recognizes it will be ubiquitous and predicts it will not replace the “classroom.” The article offers the “calculator” analogy, whereby AI becomes an essential student tool (note, we might also use the spreadsheet analogy for business school students). Mollick describes many positive use cases for AI and teaching college courses.

Assigning AI: Seven Ways of Using AI in Class” (One Useful Thing, June 12, 2023) provides more examples of how we can use AI in our classes. This post is a summary of a longer working paper, “Assigning AI: Seven Approaches for Students, with Prompts,” he and co-author Lilah Mollick posted on SSRN. Mollich points to 7 ways to use AI: 1) mentor (providing feedback), 2) tutor (direct instruction), 3) coach (prompt metacognition), 4) teammate (increase team performance), 5) student (receive explanations), 6 simulator (deliberate practice), and 7) tool (accomplish tasks). The author has typically used these with students, so it is a voice of experience. He also offers specific prompts he used and warnings about how it can go awry.

Using AI to Make Teaching Easier,” (One Useful Thing, March 17, 2023) focuses on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the process of teaching. It discusses the potential benefits of AI in education, such as automating administrative tasks, personalizing learning experiences, providing real-time feedback, and supporting student engagement. The article highlights how AI can assist educators in creating more effective and efficient teaching practices. Examples of strategies and prompts are provided.

There are many more posts on teaching and AI, but those give you a taste of what you can find there.

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