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May 19, 2023

The Dark Mirage: A Study in Perception

Universities, these vast hubs of knowledge and innovation, are not immune to a peculiar, often unseen, phenomenon: the Dark Mirage. It is a distortion that festers within the complex networks of deans, faculty members, and administrators, warping reality and casting an enduring shadow over the vibrant tableau of higher education.

In the whirlwind of academia, deans and administrators often face an onslaught of problems and failures, while the tales of progress and success are more like hushed tones. These issues, demanding immediate attention and intervention, inevitably overshadow the multitude of positive achievements. The outcome of this distortion is a grim and misshapen perspective of the academic environment, potentially breeding cynicism, disillusionment, and a jaded outlook. 

However, this Dark Mirage can be confronted and mitigated. The antidote lies in the proactive pursuit of positivity. Engaging in open dialogues with students, conducting focus groups, and soliciting feedback can reveal a rich vein of positivity that is often overlooked. Student evaluations, though often perceived as harsh scrutiny, can shed light on the dedication and commitment of faculty members, illuminating the profound impact they have on shaping students' futures.

Another force that dispels the Dark Mirage is the tradition of academic celebrations, such as commencements and graduation ceremonies. Beyond the pomp and circumstance, these events serve a significant cultural function. They act as a resounding gong that silences the negativity and refocuses our attention onto achievements and victories. Suddenly, it becomes clear that faculty members, even those embroiled in conflicts with each other, receive abundant gratitude from students. Those involved in disputes are, in fact, exceptional educators who all contribute significantly towards a common goal. Their disagreements appear minuscule and trivial, while their shared grievances seem to fade in the brilliance of their collective achievements.

In the quest to overcome the Dark Mirage, the aim isn't to retreat into a rose-tinted reality. Instead, it's about consciously fostering a balanced perspective. It's about choosing to feed the right wolf, acknowledging the presence of the dark but actively nurturing the light, following the wisdom of Native American folklore.

So, as we navigate the intricate ecosystem of academia, we must actively amplify the whispers of positivity and celebrate the triumphs that often go unnoticed. By doing so, we can ensure that the Dark Mirage does not eclipse our shared pursuit of a fair, equitable, inclusive and loving society.

May 15, 2023

If a robot can beat your writing assignment, it is time to rethink it

The rise of machines, with AI bots like OpenAI's ChatGPT replicating human-like text generation, compels us to question our education system's foundations. Is reflective or expository writing a valid assessment when AI can mimic average student work? The answer isn't straightforward. However, this crisis provides an opportunity to redefine our understanding of writing and its relation to thought.

The advent of AI challenges us to de-emphasize the mechanics of writing, such as grammar, style, and syntax, that a machine can master. Instead, we should focus on more complex aspects of writing that are inherently human: original thought, artful language, and narratives that resonate with the human experience. This shift, although jarring, is necessary. It signals not just a technological revolution, but a cultural, intellectual, and educational upheaval.

The AI revolution illuminates a harsh truth: traditional education and assessment methods are no longer sufficient. The challenge is to teach students not just to write well, but to think originally, create artfully, and understand deeply. In the face of the machine, we must thrive in domains that are distinctly human.

In this technological metamorphosis, we're compelled to redefine our work and our value. Perhaps we are not merely creators, analysts, or workers. Perhaps we are artists, thinkers, dreamers. And perhaps, in this transition, we will find our survival and our redemption.

We must revisit traditional teaching methodologies, challenging the efficacy of our current writing assignments. As educators, a simple test can provide clarity: input your exact writing assignment into ChatGPT. If the AI produces a B-grade paper, it's time to rethink.

One option is to replace the writing assignment with an alternative assessment, such as oral exams, multiple choice, or short answer tests. Another option is to transform the assignment to require students to engage with AI, like ChatGPT. This approach would involve designing assignments that test not just writing ability, but also the capacity to evaluate AI outputs critically, discern the nuances differentiating human intellect from AI, and incorporate these insights creatively. In response to ChatGPT, dramatically raise your expectations of student writing, for now they have a lot of help.

AI's advent should be viewed not as a threat, but as an opportunity to explore new pedagogical frontiers. Our learning community is leading this exploration into AI-integrated education, and we invite all to join this journey.

In essence, AI's rise can help us rethink education. We must focus not just on subject mastery, but also on developing original thinking, creativity, and nuanced intelligence. In the face of the machine, we can still shine in our distinctly human domains, thriving in this technological metamorphosis. The future of education, interwoven with AI, might look different, but it promises a realm of possibilities, allowing us to redefine our unique human value.

May 6, 2023

The Academic Game of Thrones: Why We Should Keep Students Out of the Fray

In the realm of academia, an intriguing and complex dance often unfolds between colleagues. This interplay of power dynamics is reminiscent of a game of thrones, a battle for influence and alliances in the hallowed halls of learning. Our evolutionary history has primed us for such intrigue, urging us to engage in tactical maneuvering and social alliances. Yet, in these scholarly environs, we must be cautious, for the most insidious complications arise when students are unwittingly pulled into the fray.

For the most part, these academic machinations are innocuous, as scholars engage in passionate debates and vie for recognition. But when the mission of education is subordinated to the natural pull of micropolitics, these skirmishes can become downright detrimental. As faculty members, our responsibility lies in cultivating and nurturing the minds of our students, not in ensnaring them in the pettiness of our personal battles.

Faculty members often form deep bonds with their students, particularly in professional programs, where the lines between mentorship and friendship may blur. It is in these settings that the temptation to draw students into the web of intrigue is at its strongest. The telltale signs of this breach of trust can be observed when students lodge complaints against faculty members that are tinged with details and information only another faculty member could provide.

If ever a student approaches you with gossip or concerns about another faculty member, the only ethical course of action is to gently guide them toward the appropriate channels for addressing their grievances. It is essential to maintain a professional demeanor and resist the urge to engage in the exchange of rumors and hearsay. The student's concerns should be directed to the department chair or the dean, who are better equipped to handle such matters.

Our natural instincts, honed by millennia of evolution, may not always serve us well in the modern world. In the academic sphere, where our primary objective is the pursuit of knowledge and the enlightenment of our students, it is crucial that we resist the allure of intrigue and instead focus on fostering an environment of collaboration and support. When we prioritize the mission of education over our primal fascination with power struggles, we can better serve our students and advance the noble cause of higher education.