Presentation Today at the CUNY IT Conference!

Dear Colleagues,

I will doing a presentation today at the CUNY IT Conference entitled, Graduate Education Students Evaluate ChatGPT as an Essay-Writing Tool.  It is based on data I collected from Graduate Teacher Education students in Spring 2023. Below is an abstract. My PowerPoint presentation is available on Slide Share at:

If you are attending, please stop by.  I would love to see you!



CUNY IT Conference

John Jay College of Criminal Justice,   524 West 59th Street,  New York, NY 10019

Thursday – November 30th –  2:15pm.

Presentation Title:  Graduate Education Students Evaluate ChatGPT as an Essay-Writing Tool

Presenter:  Anthony Picciano, Hunter College


In Spring 2023, the speaker invited 15 graduate education students (N=15) to participate in a qualitative evaluation of ChatGPT as a tool for completing an essay assignment. All of these students have master’s degrees in education and experience as teachers in New York City schools. Their training and experience give them keen insights into pedagogical practice making them ideally suited to evaluate ChatGPT as an instructional tool. This session will provide a recap of their evaluations, both positive and negative. They were specifically asked to respond to the following:

  • How well did you feel ChatGPT assisted you in completing the assignment?
  • Do you believe that you could have done as good, better or not as good paper without using ChatGPT?
  • Would you consider allowing students in your own classes to use ChatGPT for essay assignments?
  • What recommendation do you have, if any, for other teachers or educators in using ChatGPT?

Most of the participants saw ChatGPT as an aid for developing writing assignments for themselves. Several also saw it as a tool that special student populations (i.e., students whose first language is not English) could use.

Henry Kissinger dead at 100 – I was not a fan of his!

Dear Commons Community,

Henry Kissinger, who was the top American foreign policy official for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, died yesterday at his home in Connecticut. He was 100 years old.

Kissinger’s death was announced by his consulting firm on last night.  No cause of death was immediately given. 

I was not a fan of his. The Huffington Post has an article this morning entitled, “Henry Kissinger, America’s Most Notorious War Criminal, Dies at 100“.  Here is an excerpt.

“Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, positions that allowed him to direct the Vietnam War and the broader Cold War with the Soviet Union, and to implement a stridently “realist” approach that prioritized U.S. interests and domestic political success over any potential atrocity that might occur.

The former led to perhaps the most infamous crime Kissinger committed: a secret four-year bombing campaign in Cambodia that killed an untold number of civilians, despite the fact that it was a neutral nation with which the United States was not at war.

During his time in charge of the American foreign policy machine, Kissinger also directed illegal arms sales to Pakistan as it carried out a brutal crackdown on its Bengali population in 1971. He supported the 1973 military coup that overthrew a democratically elected socialist government in Chile, gave the go-ahead to Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, and backed Argentina’s repressive military dictatorship as it launched its “dirty war” against dissenters and leftists in 1976. His policies during the Ford administration also fueled civil wars in Africa, most notably in Angola.

Even the most generous calculations suggest that the murderous regimes Kissinger supported and the conflicts they waged were responsible for millions of deaths and millions of other human rights abuses, during and after the eight years he served in the American government.

Kissinger never showed remorse for those misdeeds. He never paid any real price for them either. He maintained a mocking tone toward critics of his human rights record throughout his life, and remained a member in good standing of elite Washington political society until his death.

In May 2016, for instance, President Barack Obama came as close as the United States ever does to apologizing for its role in a human rights atrocity during a visit to Argentina. The U.S. “has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past,” Obama said, in an expression of regret for the United States’ role in the “dirty war.” “We’ve been slow to speak out for human rights, and that was the case here.” He pledged to declassify thousands of documents related to the dictatorship’s reign of terror and U.S. support for it.

Kissinger’s supporters argue that his accomplishments, including an opening of relations with China and detente with the Soviet Union, outweigh any abuses that helped make them possible. At the very least, they posit, his positions were part of a cold calculation that “ensuring a nation’s survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality,” as Robert D. Kaplan argued in 2013. Kissinger’s defenders suggest that even more death may have occurred if the U.S. had pursued a more morally grounded foreign policy instead.”

I agree that opening up China was a significant accomplishment of his tenure but there were too many other abuses.


US economy grew 5.2% in 3rd quarter, more than estimated!

Dear Commons Community,

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that the U.S. economy grew at an even faster pace in the third quarter than originally estimated, reflecting upward revisions to business investment and government spending.

Gross domestic product rose at an upwardly revised 5.2% annualized pace in the third quarter, the fastest in nearly two years. Consumer spending advanced at a less-robust 3.6% rate, according to the government’s second estimate of the figures issued Wednesday.

The downward revision to household outlays reflected slower growth in services spending. After a previously reported decline, business investment was revised up to a gain on the back of firmer outlays for structures. Housing was also stronger than initially reported.

The government’s other main gauge of economic activity — gross domestic income — rose a more moderate 1.5%. GDI is a measure of the income generated and costs incurred from producing goods and services.

The average of the two growth measures was 3.3%, more than double the average pace of the first half of the year.

Even with the downward revision, consumer spending remained robust, underpinned by a resilient jobs market and a flurry of travel and events. That momentum does appear to be cooling into year-end, though it’s far from crumbling.

While data out later today is anticipated to show inflation-adjusted outlays rose just 0.1% last month, the start of the holiday shopping season was mixed. U.S. shoppers spent a record $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, up 9.6% from a year ago, though Black Friday sales disappointed.

The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation metric — the personal consumption expenditures price index — was revised down to a 2.8% annual rate in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy, the gauge was also marked lower to 2.3%.

The report also showed that adjusted pretax corporate profits posted the biggest increase in more than a year. The gain was fueled primarily by the non-financial sectors, though profits also picked up at financial firms.

After-tax profits as a share of gross value added for non-financial corporations, a measure of aggregate profit margins, picked up to 14.9%.

Separate data Wednesday showed the U.S. merchandise-trade deficit widened to a three-month high in October.

Black Friday sales signal tough holidays for US retailers

For retailers and brands that rely on Black Friday the most, the day was a dud.

That’s a troubling sign for these chains and a U.S. economy that needs consumers to keep upping their spending to avoid a recession. It also increases the risk that the remainder of the holiday shopping season will be disappointing, forcing retailers to offer more discounts to catch up.

The median decline in Black Friday sales was 4% for a group of 40 companies that generate a higher percentage of year-to-date sales from the shopping holiday than their peers, according to an analysis of Bloomberg Second Measure transaction data. That was a steeper drop than 2022.

Bloomberg looked at retailers where Black Friday made up a disproportionate share of observed sales, spanning big-box stores such as Walmart Inc. and home improvement giant Home Depot Inc. to clothing chains Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Gap Inc. Data from Bloomberg Second Measure is based on a sample of millions of U.S. credit and debit card users and doesn’t track wholesale channels, which are significant for companies like cosmetics maker Estée Lauder Cos., and some other forms of payment, including cash.

Black Friday represented more than five times an average day’s worth of observed U.S. direct-to-consumer sales to date, according to the median estimate for the group. That’s the highest level since 2019, meaning these retailers are relying more on this one shopping day even as the number of bargain hunters they’re attracting dwindled.

To be sure, Adobe Analytics said that Black Friday spending online was up by 7.5% compared to last year. This might indicate that consumers are shifting some of their spending from the traditional Black Friday retailers that Bloomberg analyzed to discount retailers or more experiences and travel purchases.

That may also explain one of the few bright spots in the Bloomberg Second Measure data, which showed rising sales for discounters such as Walmart and TJX Cos Inc, the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. Even Inc., which tends to generate more spending in the immediate run-up to the Christmas holiday, boosted its Black Friday haul by 12%.

Economy not doing too bad!



Parthenon Sculptures (aka Elgin Marbles) continue to spark dispute between Greece and the UK!

The moon rises in the sky behind the Parthenon at the ancient Acropolis hill in Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Dear Commons Community,

For decades, Britain and Greece have differed over the world’s toughest cultural heritage dispute: What’s the right place for some of the finest ancient Greek sculptures ever made, which have been displayed in London for more than 200 years but which Greece wants back.

Diplomacy failed when U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak abruptly called off a London meeting scheduled for yesterday with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Mitsotakis publicly voiced annoyance. Sunak’s spokesman linked the snub with the Greek leader’s using British television to renew his call, a day earlier, for the 2,500-year-old masterpieces’ return.

Here’s a look at what the dispute’s about, and what could come next.


They were carved in 447-432 B.C. to adorn the iconic Parthenon, a temple of the city’s patron goddess Athena, on the Acropolis hill.

Free-standing statues filled the triangular pediments that stood above the marble columns on the building’s short sides. Just below, sculpted panels stood at intervals along all four sides, while an unbroken strip of relief sculpture — the frieze — depicting a religious procession ran around the outer wall inside the colonnade. They were originally painted in bold colors that have since vanished.

All survived mostly intact for more than 1,000 years, despite war, earthquakes, foreign invasions and the temple’s makeover first as a church and then a mosque. But in 1687, the Parthenon was blown up by a besieging Venetian army, and many of the works were lost.

The survivors are now roughly split between the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum in Athens — with little fragments in a handful of other European museums.

London holds 17 pedimental figures, 15 panels and 247 feet (75 meters) of the frieze.

For decades, these were known as the Elgin Marbles, after the Scottish nobleman who started the trouble more than 200 years ago. Now even the British Museum goes by the preferred Greek form — Parthenon Sculptures. Besides, “marbles” lends itself to too many bad puns.


Ancient Greek sculpture has been admired for millennia, serving as a key artistic point of reference. For many, Parthenon Sculptures are its most striking example.

They form a coherent group designed and executed by top artists — the Leonardo da Vincis of the day —for a single building project meant to celebrate the height of Athenian glory.


More than a century after the destructive explosion, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — of which Athens was still an unwilling subject — Lord Elgin obtained a permit to remove some of the sculptures.

They were shipped to Britain and eventually joined the British Museum’s collection in 1816 — five years before the uprising that created an independent Greece.


Athens says the works were illegally removed and should join other surviving parts of the group in the purpose-built Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the ancient citadel.

This, the Greek argument runs, will allow them to be seen against the backdrop of the Parthenon, from which all sculptures have been removed for protection from pollution and the elements.

The Greek campaign was loudly championed in the 1980s by Melina Mercouri, an actress and singer then serving as culture minister. It waxed and waned since but was never dropped and has been enthusiastically taken up by Mitsotakis.

In his BBC interview on Sunday that triggered the diplomatic dispute, Mitsotakis compared the current situation to Leonardo’s Mona Lisa being cut in half and split between two countries.


The British Museum says the sculptures were acquired legally and form an integral part of its display of the world’s cultural history.

It says it’s open to a loan request, but must be sure that in such an event it would get the works back. So Athens should first acknowledge the institution’s legal ownership of the works — which Mitsotakis has ruled out.

Successive U.K. governments have insisted that the sculptures must stay put.


The current spat notwithstanding, the British Museum’s chairman said earlier this year that he’s been in “constructive” talks with Greece on a compromise “win-win” deal.

George Osborne said that he was “reasonably optimistic” about striking a deal, but cautioned that “it may well not come to anything.”

And Greek officials insisted yesterday that the talks would continue.

Having visited the Parthenon a couple of weeks ago (see links below),  it is my opinion that the Parthenon Sculptures most definitely belong in  Athens.


The Acropolis and the Parthenon

The (New) Acropolis Museum

Nikki Haley wins backing from Koch supported Super PAC – Americans for Progress!

Dear Commons Community,

Americans for Prosperity AFP), the political arm of the powerful Koch network, formally endorsed Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign on yesterday, promising to commit its nationwide coalition of activists — and virtually unlimited funds — to helping Haley defeat former President Donald Trump in the GOP primary contest.  As reported by The Associated Press.

“AFP Action is proud to throw our full support behind Nikki Haley, who offers America the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era, to win the Republican primary and defeat Joe Biden next November,” AFP president and CEO Emily Seidel wrote in a memo announcing the group’s decision.

“She has what it takes to lead a policy agenda to take on our nation’s biggest challenges and help ensure our country’s best days are ahead. With the grassroots and data capability we bring to bear in this race, no other organization is better equipped to help her do it.”

The endorsement may help Haley address one of her biggest strategic liabilities.

Despite seizing some polling momentum in recent months, especially in early primary states, the former United Nations ambassador’s campaign has been lacking significant resources on the ground to ensure her supporters turn out to vote. But now, she inherits the organizational heft of what may be the most powerful conservative grassroots organization in the nation. The Koch network, previously referred to as the Koch Brothers, has been building a network of paid conservative activists and volunteers in key states for several years.

Through last summer and the fall alone, Americans for Prosperity activists communicated with 6 million primary voters, either in person at their doors or on the phone, Seidel said.

The endorsement marks a particularly painful blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had championed conservative priorities in Florida, but struggled to emerge as the clear Trump alternative in the 2024 GOP primary contest. It’s unclear, however, whether the endorsement can help weaken Trump’s grip on the Republican presidential nomination given his commanding lead over DeSantis and Haley in virtually every poll.

Back in the spring, the Koch network began running ads across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the first three states on the GOP’s presidential primary calendar — focusing on questions about Trump’s electability in next fall’s general election against Biden. And still, Trump remains the overwhelming front-runner in the race.

Seidel said Tuesday that Americans for Prosperity would immediately begin refocusing its efforts on boosting Haley’s primary and general election campaigns with strategic advertising investments, mailers and voter contacts through the group’s network of thousands of conservative activists, which has spent recent months collecting information from Republican primary voters to determine the most effective arguments against Trump.

At the same time, Seidel said that her organization would focus on persuading reliable general election voters, who typically don’t vote in primaries, to show up for Haley in this year’s fast-approaching nomination contests.

The feud between Trump and the Koch network has been years in the making.

The Kochs, long demonized by Democrats for having outsize influence in Washington, refused to support Trump’s reelection in 2020. The group’s leaders argued that his populist policies, especially on trade, didn’t adhere to traditional conservative values, while decrying his divisive leadership style.

News of the endorsement  quickly rippled across the political world.

Speaking in Washington, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney predicted it would be a “huge boost” to Haley’s campaign.

Romney, a vocal Trump critic, said Haley has proved naysayers wrong before “and she’s doing it again.” He added: “I think it’s a huge boost for her campaign and may create the kind of momentum she needs.”

The DeSantis camp was not pleased.

In a statement, DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo likened the Koch endorsement to a contribution to the Trump campaign.

“Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement. Like clockwork, the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former president,” Romeo wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”

Yet the Koch network is convinced that Haley is better positioned to defeat Trump — and Biden — than DeSantis.

In a polling memo, senior adviser Michael Palmer highlighted Haley’s “sustained momentum in recent months,” while noting that many primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are only just beginning to pay close attention to the contest.

“Gov. DeSantis has been a tremendous leader of the state of Florida,” Seidel said in a Tuesday conference call. “But all of the evidence we’ve already shared on this call point to the fact that Nikki Haley is the strongest candidate in this race and that’s why we decided to support her.”

Meanwhile, Haley said she was honored to have the support of Americans for Prosperity, “including its millions of grassroots members all across the country.”

“AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines,” she said in a statement. “This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”

Very important endorsement!



Nikki Haley argues Donald Trump is always followed by ‘chaos’

Nikki Haley in South Carolina

Dear Commons Community,

Nikki Haley argued yesterday former President Donald Trump causes too much chaos to be successful in a second White House term, reiterating her argument about the GOP front-runner at a large town hall in her home state of South Carolina.

The former governor and United Nations ambassador drew the largest crowd of her primary campaign so far as she tries to close the gap with Trump just weeks before the Iowa caucuses kick off the Republican nominating calendar.

Haley said that the time is now right for a new generation in U.S. leadership.  As reported by The Associated Press.

“I agree with a lot of Trump’s policies, but the truth is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him,” Haley said. “We have too much division in this country, and too many threats around the world to be sitting in chaos once again.”

About 2,500 people attended the event at a satellite campus of the University of South Carolina along the state’s southern coast. Half that number watched her event from video screens outside the venue after it reached capacity. Hours ahead of Monday’s start time, the line for attendees wrapped around the venue, which the campaign said had to be changed from its original location due to demand.

Her staff has cast her campaign as being on a rising trajectory and pointed to growing crowds in recent weeks as she gets new attention from voters and donors looking for a Trump alternative.

Haley remains among a pack of candidates competing for a distant second place with Trump, who has led the GOP field since kicking off his third presidential campaign last year. Later this week, Haley will head back to New Hampshire, where she has stumped heavily. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has more than a dozen events scheduled this week in Iowa. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigns across South Carolina on Friday.

She often notes her ousting of a 30-year state incumbent in the South Carolina House, then beating three initially better-known candidates to become the first woman to serve as South Carolina governor.

Haley hit the usual points of her campaign speech yesterday, drawing applause and cheers following calls to term limit members of Congress, subject politicians to mental competency tests and end trade relations with China “until they stop murdering Americans with fentanyl.”

Haley also dismissed  Trump’s recent appearance in her home state at Saturday’s football rivalry matchup between the University of South Carolina and her alma mater, Clemson University. Trump was a guest of Gov. Henry McMaster, Haley’s successor and an alumnus of South Carolina, which lost to Clemson.

“How did it work out for the Gamecocks having Trump show up?” Haley said. “Not so lucky for the Gamecocks, just sayin’ — go Tigers.”

Asked why he came out to see Haley, Vincent Francescangeli said that he had been impressed by her performance in the GOP presidential debates, the sole woman on stage.

Francescangeli, who lives on Hilton Head Island, said he is leaning toward supporting Haley “She didn’t come across weak,” Francescangeli said, referencing her debates. “She came across to me like a powerhouse. She stood up to those guys. These guys are trying to beat her up. She kicked right back. I was impressed.”

Kick Trump harder, Nikki!


Fox News Analyst, Juan Williams, Shreds Matt Gaetz as “Politician of the Year” – with No Honor!

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News’ political analyst Juan Williams yesterday named election denier Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) as his “Politician Of The Year” ― but it was no honor.

“Gaetz deserves a place in history. He is a living monument to an era of elected Republican officials with no interest in governing,” Williams wrote in a stinging op-ed for The Hill. “Gaetz stood out in a year when politics often was locked into whatever is trending on social media,” Williams added.

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) “gave him a run for the title with their crass, public name-calling match on the floor of the House,” Williams continued, also highlighting the antics of serial liar Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“But Gaetz takes the prize, for successfully paralyzing the House for the entire year” with his role as the architect of McCarthy’s ouster from the speaker role, he noted.

“Gaetz represents the empty heart of a Trump-led party that is only about Trump,” he said of Gaetz’s support of the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president.

Go Juan!


“Authentic”  – Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year!

Dear Commons Community,

Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2023 is “authentic.”

Authentic cuisine. Authentic voice. Authentic self. Authenticity as artifice. Lookups for the word are routinely heavy on the dictionary company’s site but were boosted to new heights throughout the year, editor at large Peter Sokolowski told The Associated Press in an interview.

“We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity,” he said ahead of Monday’s announcement of this year’s word. “What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

Sokolowski and his team don’t delve into the reasons people head for dictionaries and websites in search of specific words. Rather, they chase the data on lookup spikes and world events that correlate. This time around, there was no particularly huge boost at any given time but a constancy to the increased interest in “authentic.”

This was the year of artificial intelligence, for sure, but also a moment when ChatGPT-maker OpenAI suffered a leadership crisis. Taylor Swift and Prince Harry chased after authenticity in their words and deeds. Musk himself, at February’s World Government Summit in Dubai, urged the heads of companies, politicians, ministers and other leaders to “speak authentically” on social media by running their own accounts.

“Can we trust whether a student wrote this paper? Can we trust whether a politician made this statement? We don’t always trust what we see anymore,” Sokolowski said. “We sometimes don’t believe our own eyes or our own ears. We are now recognizing that authenticity is a performance itself.”

Merriam-Webster’s entry for “authentic” is busy with meaning.

There is “not false or imitation: real, actual,” as in an authentic cockney accent. There’s “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.” There’s “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” There is “made or done the same way as an original.” And, perhaps the most telling, there’s “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.”

“Authentic” follows 2022’s choice of “gaslighting.” And 2023 marks Merriam-Webster’s 20th anniversary choosing a top word.

The company’s data crunchers filter out evergreen words like “love” and “affect” vs. “effect” that are always high in lookups among the 500,000 words it defines online. This year, the wordsmiths also filtered out numerous five-letter words because Wordle and Quordle players clearly use the company’s site in search of them as they play the daily games, Sokolowski said.

Good word!  We surely could use more of it in our society especially among political leaders!


Josh Clark (Chairman of the Board of the International Dyslexia Association): AI Could Transform Education for Students With Dyslexia

Dear Commons Community,

Josh Clark believes artificial intelligence could revolutionize how people with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, navigate K-12 schools and the rest of the world.  Clark is the leader of the Landmark School, a private school in Massachusetts serving children with the condition and also is the chairman of the board of the International Dyslexia Association, and is dyslexic himself. He believes AI could power new learning tools for students with dyslexia and help them write and communicate in a way that showcases their strengths. The impact could be significant, given that up to 20 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia.

Education Week interviewed Clark about the potential he sees in AI for students with dyslexia. Here is a recap.

You’ve said you see a lot of potential for AI for students with dyslexia. Can you explain why?

I’m kind of obsessed with the idea that the world just became so much better at writing, spelling, written communication, the things that dyslexic kids have such a hard time with. And what does that look like? What does that mean? How [do] we think of AI as an instructional tool, but also, as an assistive technology?

As somebody who has really struggled with dyslexia, I know you can be 15 years old and writing like a 3rd grader when it comes to spelling, grammar, syntactical errors. AI tools could allow students to display their actual abilities and their actual intellect by helping with those issues.

I do think AI is going to challenge the traditional educational system in so many ways, and I think for the good. I want to ensure that we are building systems that represent all learners, not just your traditional learner and the way a traditional learner processes information.

AI is only as good as the information and the data that we feed into it. So it’s essential that data representing how kids with learning differences think and process information is included.

You see more opportunity to reach students with dyslexia and other learning differences. What might that look like in a classroom?

AI could help create a very powerful reading tool.

Imagine a world where a 3rd grader is able to sit down in front of a computer and a text is generated for them based on past performance, where there’s very specific vocabulary, very specific spelling patterns, a decodable text that we know aligns with where they are, and also pushes them to a threshold that they can handle and at the same time, it’s about something that they love and have a high interest in. It’s about baseball, or it’s about “Star Wars,” or whatever it is.

Meanwhile, there could also be a floating AI coach supporting them along the way and that AI coach is Spider Man or it’s Cinderella or whoever it is this child finds motivating and captivating, and exciting. I think we have such an opportunity around motivation, which is so important for a kid with learning differences. A kid that’s sitting in class and thinking “This makes no sense to me. This is hard for me.”

How do we ensure that students with dyslexia are using AI as a coach or assistant and not just passing off what it produces as their own work?

Many kids with dyslexia tend to have proportionately higher verbal abilities. So not all, but many have high levels of verbal expression, high levels of vocabulary. But they may have difficulty expressing themselves in writing.

Let’s say I was writing a paper. I’d tell an AI tool ‘“This is the kind of thing I want to say” And the AI can be my own kind of personal writing coach to say ‘’Okay, these all sound like great ideas. What do you think might be the best way to introduce them? What might you want to start with?’ Et cetera. So now I suddenly have this exchange which is building on my strengths and verbal abilities.

Then I have a draft. I’m going to put in an AI tool and say ‘Okay, would you look at this with me? Give me some feedback on grammar.’ Suddenly all the steps of the writing process are individualized and at my fingertips.

It takes away a level of shame. An AI tool is not going to judge me on my spelling. It’s not going to say “Gosh, you’re in the 6th grade. You’re writing like a first grader. What’s wrong with you?”

I will be giving a paper later this week at the CUNY IT Conference.  It is based on data I collected from experienced teacher educators evaluating ChatGPT as an essay writing tool. Several of them echoed what Clark says above.


Ezra Klein on AI – There is no “off switch”

Credit…Sam Whitney/The New York Times


Dear Commons Community,

Opinion columnist, Ezra Klein, has a piece in today’s New York Times, entitled, “The Unsettling Lesson of the OpenAI Mess.”  He reviews the events during the past two weeks in the firing of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, the intervention of Microsoft, the rehiring of Altman, etc.  He also comments on the complex nature of OpenAI as both a non-profit organization and for-profit corporation which I did not know.  However, his most important comment and conclusion is:

“I don’t mean to be too pessimistic. If A.I. develops as most technologies develop — in an incremental fashion, so regulators and companies and legal systems can keep up (or at least catch up) — then we’re on a good track. Over the past year, I’ve been cheered by how seriously governments, technologists and the media are taking both the possibilities and the pitfalls of A.I. But if the capabilities of these systems continue to rise exponentially, as many inside the industry believe they will, then nothing I’ve seen in recent weeks makes me think we’ll be able to shut the systems down if they begin to slip out of our control. There is no off switch.”

I agree with Klein fully, “There is no off switch.”  AI is coming.  It will advance.  It will have serious ramifications on human society.

Below is Klein’s entire column.



 The New York Times

The Unsettling Lesson of the OpenAI Mess

Nov. 22, 2023

By Ezra Klein

Science fiction writers and artificial intelligence researchers have long feared the machine you can’t turn off. The story goes something like this: A powerful A.I. is developed. Its designers are thrilled, then unsettled, then terrified. They go to pull the plug, only to learn the A.I. has copied its code elsewhere, perhaps everywhere.

Keep that story in mind for a moment.

Two signal events have happened in A.I. in recent weeks. One of them you’ve heard about. The nonprofit that governs OpenAI, the makers of ChatGPT, fired Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive. The decision was unexpected and largely unexplained. “Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” read a cryptic statement.

Many assumed Altman had lied to the board about OpenAI’s finances or safety data. But Brad Lightcap, an OpenAI executive, told employees that no such breach had occurred. “We can say definitively that the board’s decision was not made in response to malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety or security/privacy practices,” he wrote. “This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”

At the heart of OpenAI is — or perhaps was — a mission. A.I. was too powerful a technology to be controlled by profit-seeking corporations or power-seeking states. It needed to be developed by an organization, as Open AI’s charter puts it, “acting in the best interests of humanity.” OpenAI was built to be that organization. It began life as a nonprofit. When it became clear that developing A.I. would require tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, it rebuilt itself around a dual structure, where the nonprofit — controlled by a board chosen for its commitment to OpenAI’s founding mission — would govern the for-profit, which would raise the money and commercialize the A.I. applications necessary to finance the mission.

In my reporting, the best explanation I’ve heard for the board’s decision, as poorly communicated as it was, is that it fired Altman for the precise reason it said it fired Altman. He was acting and communicating with the board in a way that made it hard for it to “exercise its responsibilities” — that is to say, control the for-profit.

Part of this was communication; the implication is that the board felt Altman was slow or opaque or misleading in what he told them and when. But part of it was the pace of commercialization, the contracts being signed with partners, the promises being made to employees and the products being pushed into development. OpenAI is supposed to develop A.I. to serve humanity, not to help Microsoft capture market share against Google. And so the board tried to do the thing that it was designed to do: rein in the for-profit, in this case by firing Altman. Warned that firing Altman could destroy OpenAI, Helen Toner, one of the board’s members, replied, “That would actually be consistent with the mission.”

OpenAI had always told its investors that something like this might happen. “It would be wise to view any investment in OpenAI Global LLC in the spirit of a donation,” it warned. The company then went out and raised tens of billions of dollars from people who did not see their investments as donations. That certainly describes Microsoft, which invested more than $13 billion in OpenAI, owns 49 percent of the for-profit, put OpenAI’s technologies at the center of its product road map and has never described its strategy as philanthropic.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, didn’t have the power to stop OpenAI’s board from firing Altman, but he did have the power to render the action hollow. He announced a new advanced innovations division, to be led by Altman (and the OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who resigned in solidarity with Altman) and staffed by any OpenAI employees who’d like to join. More than 90 percent of OpenAI employees — including, weirdly, Ilya Sutskever, the OpenAI co-founder who’d not only helped the board oust Altman but also had informed Altman that he was fired — then signed a letter threatening to quit unless Altman was reinstated and the board resigned. By Wednesday, Altman was back as chief executive of OpenAI and all but one of the board members had resigned.

I don’t know whether the board was right to fire Altman. It certainly has not made a public case that would justify the decision. But the nonprofit board was at the center of OpenAI’s structure for a reason. It was supposed to be able to push the off button. But there is no off button. The for-profit proved it can just reconstitute itself elsewhere. And don’t forget: There’s still Google’s A.I. division and Meta’s A.I. division and Anthropic and Inflection and many others who’ve built large language models similar to GPT-4 and are yoking them to business models similar to OpenAI’s. Capitalism is itself a kind of artificial intelligence, and it’s far further along than anything the computer scientists have yet coded. In that sense, it copied OpenAI’s code long ago

Ensuring that A.I. serves humanity was always a job too important to be left to corporations, no matter their internal structures. That’s the job of governments, at least in theory. And so the second major A.I. event of the last few weeks was less riveting, but perhaps more consequential: On Oct. 30, the Biden administration released a major executive order “On the Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.”

It’s a sprawling, thoughtful framework that defies a simple summary (though if you’d like to dig in, the A.I. writer Zvi Mowshowitz’s analysis, and roundup of reactions, are both excellent). Broadly speaking, though, I’d describe this as an effort not to regulate A.I. but to lay out the infrastructure, definitions and concerns that will eventually be used to regulate A.I.

It makes clear that the government will have a particular interest in regulating and testing A.I. models that cross particular thresholds of complexity and computing power. This has been a central demand of A.I. safety researchers, who fear the potential civilizational consequences of superintelligent systems, and I’m glad to see the Biden administration listening to them, rather than trying to regulate A.I. solely on the basis of how a given model is used. Elsewhere, the order signals that the government will eventually demand that all A.I. content be identifiable as A.I. content through some sort of digital watermarking, which I think is wise. It includes important sections on hardening cybersecurity for powerful A.I. models and tracking the materials that could be used to build various kinds of biological weapons, which is one of the most frightening ways A.I. could be used for destructive ends.

For now, the order mostly calls for reports and analyses and consultations. But all of that is necessary to eventually build a working regulatory structure. Even so, this quite cautious early initiative met outrage among many in the Silicon Valley venture-capital class who accused the government of, among other things, attempting to “ban math,” a reference to the enhanced scrutiny of more complex systems. Two weeks later, Britain announced that it would not regulate A.I. at all in the short term, preferring instead to maintain a “pro-innovation approach.” The European Union’s proposed regulations may stall on concerns from France, Germany and Italy, all of whom worry that the scrutiny of more powerful systems will simply mean those systems are developed elsewhere.

Let’s say that U.S. regulators saw something, at some point, that persuaded them they needed to crack down, hard, on the biggest models. That’s always going to be a judgment call: If you’re regulating something that can do terrible harm before it does terrible harm, you are probably regulating it when the terrible harm remains theoretical. Maybe the harm you fear will never happen. The people who stand to lose money from your regulations will be very active in making that case.

Or maybe it’s not even that dramatic. Regulators begin to see emergent capabilities and unexpected behaviors that convince them these systems are advancing too fast, that they are beyond our capability to understand, and the pace of progress needs to slow to allow more time for testing and research. Worse, they see this in proprietary data, which they can’t release to the public. And even if they could release that data, it would still be a judgment call. To act early is to act without certainty.

Would that look to the rest of the world like a wise approach they should copy? Or would it look like an opportunity to snatch the lead in A.I. from the United States? It is not hard to imagine Britain, China or Japan, or smaller players like Israel, Saudi Arabia or Estonia, seeing opportunity in our caution and luring A.I. firms with promises of a more pro-innovation approach. If it seems fanciful to imagine whole companies setting up shop overseas in search of looser regulations, remember that FTX, under Sam Bankman-Fried, really did move its headquarters and staff to the Bahamas for exactly that reason. We saw how that worked out.

I don’t mean to be too pessimistic. If A.I. develops as most technologies develop — in an incremental fashion, so regulators and companies and legal systems can keep up (or at least catch up) — then we’re on a good track. Over the past year, I’ve been cheered by how seriously governments, technologists and the media are taking both the possibilities and the pitfalls of A.I. But if the capabilities of these systems continue to rise exponentially, as many inside the industry believe they will, then nothing I’ve seen in recent weeks makes me think we’ll be able to shut the systems down if they begin to slip out of our control. There is no off switch.