A Dystopian Tale Foretold? ChatGPT.

This is my original response to an assigned prompt in my School Building Leadership Internship Course – Spring 2023 semester.

Prompt: In this week’s discussion post, please select one quote, then make one comment on how you believe this technology may impact education. Please respond to at least one of your classmates posts. Do not create a new thread, simply respond to my post and to classmate’s posts. 

Article: ChatGPT banned from New York City public schools’ devices and networks


ChatGPT, the one and only AI platform brought up as a topic of conversation within the HHS ELA department during the late fall months of the 2022 – 2023 school year. The New York Times was the first mainstream publication I came across with the stark reporting, and then came the subsequent perspective of a high school English teacher in an op-ed piece for The Atlantic.  Both articles held a similar thematic message, it’s the end of the world, there goes humanity, teachers are insignificant, blah blah. But the alarms were blaring, as if preparing for a nuclear catastrophe, and you cannot ignore those sounds.

I myself had a conversation with a fellow educator and school leader, not affiliated with HCSD. The school leader held the perspective that there was a need for educators to be concerned. I listened as the conversation switched to an unforeseen thread altogether, and the question was raised, “Why do students need to learn how to write? Do they need it?” To which I responded with a hard blink of the eyes, and an eye roll.

Clearly ChatGPT and the doomsday dystopian scenarios attached to the AI platform have people reeling.

I keep reading articles, forums, tweets, and listening to fellow educators and non-educators alike, with an empathic lens. Yet, the more I read, and the more I listen, the more convinced I am there is something to talk about when it comes to my own perspective.

I’ve been in education for 18 years. ChatGPT is no different than the tutor, the Google search of something a student might deem worthy of a copy and paste, the older sibling/neighbor/cousin who was assigned the same exact essay 5 years prior, etc.  Wait, but we cannot have an opinion piece without acknowledging the AI tool afforded to teachers! The a-ha!, we gotcha AI platform to determine a submissions level of authenticity, like turnitin.com. Full disclosure, I use turnitin.com, but I didn’t get into teaching to complete a crime scene investigation on work submitted.

Since September of 2005, I continuously create authentic forms of lessons and assessments. Nothing comes from a handout, or a book, or Teachers Pay Teachers. Assessments, yes formative and summative, are not the same from year-to-year, are not the same from class period to class period, are not the same within the class period. I am always fine tuning lessons, assessments, differentiating and giving autonomy to the students (it is their learning after all).

I am reflective, constantly wondering if I am being culturally responsive to the ever changing needs of my students, and ask for their feedback. I value my students. I make sure to value each and every student, and every written and spoken word/creation with their name attached to it. I want students to know they are valued, not just by any person, they are valued by me. I value their thoughts and ideas and their role in the learning process– students feel seen, valued, heard, and that is an integral part of the ChatGPT conversation.

Today ChatGPT, tomorrow robots. No, I don’t believe robots are going take over the world, or America’s classrooms. But do I think there is a concern for the well-being of humanity? Maybe, but my concern for the well-being of humanity is not because of this AI platform. Humanity’s well-being can really teeter if today’s students, who one day will be responsible for humanity’s survival, become adults of tomorrow who lack confidence and ownership, believe their words and the words of others don’t matter, believe their thoughts and the thoughts of others aren’t good enough, believe they aren’t good enough, believe there’s no need to write or communicate, embrace apathy because, why bother with any other mindset?

To protect humanity we must illuminate the illusive apathetic mindset hiding behind the letters, C-H-A-T-G-P-T. To do so, we need to first ask some questions that may or may not start with the word, Why. Why was the ChatGPT platform generated in the first place (think about Stone’s concepts of welfare and security)? Why would a student opt to submit anything other than a product representative of their authentic voice? Why would a student resort to a sterile computer response, a response that could hold serious inaccuracies intertwined with “big SAT words,” rather than their own? Why does the student value the “thoughts” of AI over their own thoughts?

ChatGPT is here because students, society, humanity received the messages, messages of who are of value, why they are of value, and how to be of value. But who would send a message like that? Schools, towns, stakeholders (educators, school building and district leaders, parents, state and national figures), external curriculums like AP and IB, state standards, national standards, SAT, ACT,  all send messages. Why are these messages being sent to students and how if at all does the intended message differ from the message students receive? What role do parents and/or guardians play in disseminating messages that when interpreted have students turn to AI platforms like Chat GPT, rather than their own thoughts and ideas? How does a prescribed curriculum like IB, which places value on students’ social emotional competency skill development equivalent to knowledge, yet quantify their effort to document whether a student met a benchmark of a predetermined criteria of excellence?

Good teachers will keep asking good questions, and by good questions, I mean challenging questions like those I stated above.  Good teachers will keep creating a good curriculum, and a good curriculum is differentiated, student centered, authentic, inquiry based, rooted in student choice, values the student…. 

Technology is good and good teachers will keep incorporating purposeful tech use into the classroom. See, technology is not the enemy here. Even Elon Musk, the creator of ChatGPT is not the antagonist of this dystopian novel.  We cannot run away from technology or advancements– just think if we took a defensive stance against the printing press, or ” the calculator, which was decried as the death of math” (Rosenblatt, 2023)! We cannot get caught up in trying to catch or prevent the use of technological advancements and innovation. We must be on the offensive. It is now our responsibility, as educators and emerging school leaders, to reflect upon the individual and collective messages we send, the messages students receive, recognize our (and there are a lot of people, places, and things falling under the word our) contribution to the inception of this new need, and strategically dismantle any bit of apathy establishing roots in the hearts and minds of the 21st century k-12 learner.

It’s just Daisy, being Daisy

It’s just Daisy,
being Daisy.

It’s just Daisy,
being—

her gorgeous self,
and knowing
she’s gorgeous,
and expressing
a quiet,
self-confidence,
a happy tail-wag;
the usual.

Look close.
It’s just Daisy,
being Daisy.

She hears
three words.

And Daisy,
just being;
sticks out her tongue,
ever so slightly,
to whisper a reply,
ever so lightly—

“I love you, too.”

© Jessica Maricevic, 2022

A happy Daisy, post-spa day.

New Kid on the Block

The New Kid on the Block
© J.Maricevic, 2022

It’s tough to be the “New Kid on the Block.” But it’s much easier to be “the new kid,” to acclimate, get comfortable with new surroundings, manage new personalities, to feel included in what may, at first, seem like an impermeable pack, when someone reaches out a hand, or paw; a welcomed extension for all to see & emulate.

If you can put yourself in the “paws” of a puppy, a puppy attempting to navigate a new life, on a new street, with 14 other new doggos, from 10 different households, then you can empathize with the person to your left, and to your right. You can extend your hand, or paw, in an empathic gesture of kindness to the “new kid on the block.” You can dissolve those socially constructed barriers, and make that connection. Believe me, you can.

In this real-life scenario, and others like it, the human-animal relationship provides us humans with the necessary intra & interpersonal competency development to be better humans.

Furthermore, developing these social-emotional competencies, with the help of a furry friend, results in a transferable awareness to the way in which we interact with other humans.

So, next time, when you notice a “new kid,” on a new “block,” be an ally. Open your heart & mind to the benefits of getting to know someone, without passing judgment.

Think about that next time, when there’s a “new kid,” on a new “block,” will you choose to be an ally? Will you choose to open your heart and mind to the benefits of getting to know someone, without passing judgment? Will you think of the new puppy, on the new street?

Be the person who consciously considers life from someone else’s shoes, or paws. Be the one to welcome “the new kid on the block,” into your pack.

Love.

Judge under the photograph, “Love On the Beach,” by local fine arts photographer, Peter Mendelson.

I happened to get up from the banquette during a Zoom doctoral class- needed a little pistachio snack, sustenance for all this writing.

Between the time it took to grab a few pistachios and my return, Judge wiggled under the table and positioned himself in perfect proximity- he patiently awaited my return.

My stealthy, determined friend, (who by the way, was trying all night to accomplish this very feat captured in this post), achieved his goal.

Who says, “No dogs on the banquette?” Well, I did.

Until, I didn’t.

I rely on Judge. I want and need him around. What’s to say that Judge doesn’t feel the same wants and needs sometimes? Actions speak louder than words, and for that very reason, Judge can hop-on-up, any time.

And yes, this goes for Daisy too. She just had better things to do, like thrust a clean pair of socks, rolled tight, up in the air and catch it about 100 times. Needless to say, those socks went back into the wash.

The Canine Compass

A chilly Sunday evening brings me to think of warmer days.

Yes, I’m grateful for the faint summer breeze that lingers in my memory. I’m equally grateful for the night’s crisp, fall air, and for the love I receive, no matter the season, from the beautiful being that is Judge.

Judge’s love realigned my trajectory, pointed me in the very direction that I started out on when surprised with my very first puppy. I was 4 years old when this furry-best friend entered my life. From that day forward, there’s always been a dog, or two, or three, by my side.

As I reflect, it comes as no surprise to learn that the comedic legend, Gilda Radner, once said, “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures. They give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”

From age 4, to this very moment, dogs have taught me how to love, to help, to be silly, to make mistakes, to listen, to comfort… how to be fierce in the name of justice, to stand in stoic support of the weary, to do what’s right…

Ah, there were never more truer words stated than those of Gilda Radner. Forever grateful that I, too, can attest to the validity of Radner’s perspective, all because of the unconditional love I received from my canine companions of yesterday, and from the unconditional love I continue to receive from my canine compass of today.

Variations on ‘Brad’- Pop Art Meets Human-Animal Relationships

Pop Art, meet Human-Animal Relationships.

Variations on ‘Brad’ © J. Maricevic, 2021

Let’s be honest, dogs know everything. Whether we verbally tell them our thoughts, or they feel our energy, or the energy of a situation; dogs know.

And it was that all-knowing, canine superpower that inspired my original, Roy Lichtenstein-esque, digital representation of the human-animal bond. For those unfamiliar with Lichtenstein’s artistic style, he incorporated the name “Brad” in some of his Pop Art creations. It is important to note that Lichtenstein never referred to this “Brad” with a positive connotation.

For my piece, I emulated Lichtenstein’s use of the name, “Brad,” with the intentions of having “Brad” be any ‘one,’ or any ‘thing,’ that impacts an individual’s physical and/or emotional welfare and security.  

Wait, what about that canine cognition connection?

I know, from personal experience, that an individual’s physical and mental strength is restored, and their emotional fortitude reinvigorated, by the unconditional love from their four-legged friend. Dogs have the ability to identify when a “Brad” is lurking in the crevices of their person’s mind, or in the shadows of real-life, and dogs know when, and how, to intervene. The selfless-love of the all-knowing, canine companion, reaffirms a human’s sense of self, and in turn, sends the message to “Brad,” that this human, their human, is strong, confident, and supported.

So, “Beware, ‘Brad’,” for nothing can deter the empowered, especially when a dog is right by their side.