Faculty Adventures in the AI Learning Frontier: AI and (First Year) Writing

by Jeff Rients

Title card: Faculty Adventurers in the AI Learning Frontier

As part of our fall 2023 survey on AI in the classroom, we heard back from a wide variety of Temple faculty who teach a broad range of courses. In this installment, we’re going to take a look at what three First Year Writing instructors are doing with AI tools like ChatGPT.


First year writing instructor Jacob Ginsburg incorporated “AI and education” as a theme in his course. His students read Ted Chiang’s “Chat GPT is a Blurry JPEG of the Web,” Matteo Wong’s “AI Doomerism is a Decoy,” and some academic articles about the role of AI in education. In class, each student writes a paragraph about what it means to them to be a member of their generation. As homework, they then give ChatGPT four tasks:

  1. Respond to the same prompt as they wrote about in class (i.e. what it means to be a member of their generation).

  2. Make an argument FOR the use of AI in education.

  3. Make an argument AGAINST the use of AI in education.

  4. Each student devises a “silly” or “fun” task of their own.

Afterwards, everyone then discusses their prompts and results in class.


Professor Amy Friedman challenges her students to write an essay in which they summarize several disparate, current articles on generative AI in education and learning. She has used articles such as Valerie Pisano’s “Label AI-Generated Content,” Allison R. Chen’s “Research training in an AI world,” and Naomi S. Baron’s, “How ChatGPT Robs Students of Motivation to Write and Think for Themselves.” Her goal is for each student to formulate and articulate their own opinion about the role of generative AI in their own learning and education. Beforehand, students explore ChatGPT in class, including asking it to write in response to previous essay prompts. The class then collectively assesses the results and compares them to their own writing. 

Meanwhile at Temple’s Japan campus, Ryan Rashotte has developed two activities for his first year writing students. In the first one, students writing essays about a film ask ChatGPT to write a paragraph regarding how a specified element in the film supports a theme they are exploring. In response, students write about the strengths and weaknesses of ChatGPT’s argument. In the second assignment, students working in groups explore which art form they think is superior – television or film. As part of this investigation, they query ChatGPT for reasons in support of their choice. Students identify new and/or interesting arguments and identify their strengths and weaknesses. They are asked to consider how well the ChatGPT output would work if it were incorporated into their essay.

In the next installment, we’ll be looking at the way AI tools are being used in a variety of health sciences learning environments. In the meantime, if you’d like more guidance on exploring how to use AI tools in your class, please visit our Faculty Guide to A.I. and/or book an appointment for a one-on-one consultation.

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