Artificial Intelligence Grab-Bag

Several AI stories/resources are coming in at the same time, so I’ve packaged them together to save some time and inbox space.

First, Ethan Mollick, a professor at Wharton and a leading voice on AI in higher education was a recent guest on the Ezra Klein show. I can’t make you read or listen to anything about AI (or anything else for that matter), but if I could this would be the thing. During a 2nd half conversation about writing (which they later expanded to many other areas of student work) Mollick remarks “any writer knows about the tyranny of the blank page, about staring at a blank page and not knowing what to do next, and the struggle of filling that up. And when you have a button that produces really good words for you, on demand, you’re just going to do that.” The situation is not hopeless, but it does require some attention. Invest some time in this episode and you will be closer to solutions than where you are now.

Second, we are hosting an informal AI conversation on 4/19 via Zoom. This is a great opportunity to talk about what is going on in the classroom, in your own work, and discuss ethics and possibilities. Nik Janos and I started these conversations last year and we have found they work best when we come with a supportive attitude and intentionally to avoid disparaging our colleagues, students, or administrators by keeping the conversation focused on the technology and our perspectives. This is not a policy-making or agenda-driven space. All employees are welcome to attend and participate.

Third, applications for our summer programs are due on 4/19. We have an AI retrofit intensive and the popular writing intensive. Apply for one or both. We would love to see you and work with you this summer.

Zach Justus
Director of Faculty Development
Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences
Google Voice/Text: 530-487-4150

“Living Room Conversations”

This Tuesday Tip is brought to you by Sue Peterson, Chico State Speech and Debate Coach.

The November 3rd election has created challenges for class discussion, but also opportunities to have meaningful conversations. Given the complex and controversial nature of the election and American politics, though, these conversations are not always easy to manage and moderate.

Sue will talk with faculty about how these conversations might be helpful for students before and after the November 3rd election through the Living Room Conversations model. 

Join us for a Friday Forum, this Friday, October 23rd, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., via Zoom. This session will be recorded and posted on the FDEV media channel.

Living Room Conversations is an organization that offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for 60-90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. The format transfers well into a small group activity in the classroom.

The organization provides for a guided conversation that is designed to foster understanding by gathering information and humanizing the issues.  Participants first agree to a set of foundational agreements used for discussing any controversial issue in a productive way.  Scripts are available on the 2020 election, race and racism, Coronavirus, environmental concerns, guns, healthcare and so much more.  These scripts offer the chance for everyone to feel safe, heard, and understood.  

Sue Peterson, has used the Living Room Conversation framework in her General Education classes and the students found them to be valuable as a way of engaging topics and issues that they are often fearful of having with others. The scripted questions and time guides help to create a space to share more easily. Students reported that they felt they could communicate “with sincere inquiry and thoughtful reflection” and that they “felt seen and heard by the members of their group.”  

For a list of other events to support election dialogue, go to Wildcats Engage.

You can always listen

I have really struggled with what to write this week. Coming up with the thing to say after the election is something a lot of us are struggling with. Then I realized I was asking the wrong question. As faculty we often default to the perspective that we have wisdom the world needs. What I, and I think all of us should be asking is, what do other people have to say?

Listen to your students who have been harassed on and off campus with an open mind. Listen to your students in class as they complain that everyone is talking about the election, when they want to learn about what they came here to study. Listen to your students who were thrilled at the election results, but are afraid about voicing their enthusiasm on campus. These may be office hour conversations, they may occupy class time, they may be email exchanges or comments as you walk across campus. The form of the conversation is not particularly important and do not worry about how you will respond or not having the right answer, just start with listening. You will find yourself listening to things you disagree with and do not understand. You will find yourself surprised at the things your students and colleagues think and experience. You may find your own views on expression changing, but it has to start with listening, even if it takes us outside our comfort zones. Sometimes listening is what helps us make a change, sometimes listening is all that is required. My background is in communication and one fascinating truth from that field of study is that we hear all the time, but listening is an active choice requiring work. If you want to take this a step further toward discussion you should read about what Villanova is doing after the election.

No one ever looks back on a decision and says to themselves “I wish I would have understood people less before proceeding.” So ask students how they are doing, let them know your office hours are open to them, and listen.

Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.

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Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Our third episode of the Fall is out now! Mary, Tracy, and I explore athletics at Chico and beyond. Link to it on soundclouditunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.


National Controversies can have local implications

There have been a lot of stories about race on college campuses in the past few weeks. Protests that reached the football field rocked Missouri; students, faculty, and administrators clashed at Yale resulting in varied responses; protests at Dartmouthhave become a flashpoint for administrators and politicized news. Anyone on our campus who was not aware of these broader trends became so before break through a timely email from President Zingg. His email was the topic of choice on anonymous social network Yik Yak immediately afterwards and I can promise you—students were and are talking. Lost track of what these protests are about and how they impact education? The Chronicle has a good briefing to get you caught up although each summary becomes outdated in short order.

Beyond the campus and in the international spotlight, terrorist attacks in France have lots of people talking about limiting immigration based on racial, national, or religious tests.

Regardless of your area of expertise or the topic of your class, you are walking into a classroom where students are asking questions about race and diversity on campus and off. If you are affiliated with Multicultural and Gender Studies, you are more likely to be ready for this conversation. But what happens when you walk into your Physics classroom and several students are in a heated argument about a slur someone used in the dorms? What happens when a student in your hybrid Business class asks “are black students safe on campus?” in the chatroom in the middle of a class session? How can we best serve our students and community in this changing environment?

  1. Educate yourself. No one expects everyone on campus to be an expert on all current higher education news and all topics related to diversity on and off campus, but these issues are only becoming more prominent in higher education. AAC&U has some great resources to get started.
  2. Odds are good, someone will be unhappy with how you proceed. Cut off discussion and students may feel you are dismissing legitimate concerns. Engage the topics some students are deeply concerned with and you may do so in the wrong way or let a conversation take over a course students are paying to attend to learn critical material. Be okay with the prospect that things may not go as planned and maybe check with your chair to find out if there is any advice from the program or college that may help you out, even when things don’t go well.

Most of the easy problems have already been solved. Only the hard ones are left.

For quick tips on just about any teaching topic you can think of, check out for information on our subscription to 20 Minute Mentor!

Need a quiet place to write or grade? Come by MLIB 458; we are open 8-5 and here to help faculty however we can.