Internet Travels

Of bits and bytes is my weekly round up of interesting links and ideas I discovered on the internet. It is published on Mondays for the previous week

Apps

Everyone in the tech industry is constantly updating to keep things secure, and Google is no different. An upcoming ChromeOS (the operating system running on Chromebooks) update is adding adding a setting to control access to the webcam and microphone systemwide. By denying access in the settings, no app will be able to turn on the webcam or microphone. I can understand where Google is coming from, but this will be yet another headache for tech staff. We already have to battle this on macOS. Several help desk tickets have been submitted where the user denied webcam and microphone access to an app such as Chrome, and then wonder why they can’t use Google Meet.

The command line is making a return as Google adds a command line interface to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Coming in a future version of these Google apps you will be the ability to search through the menu options and tools to find the command you want.

Pedagogy

ChatGPT has the capability to change learning and teaching, but will it be a postitive change? Well, for starters, ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLM) need to get a lot better at know what is the truth and stop lying with the confidence of a freshman who was just caught smoking in the bathroom. From a long time tech user, I’m currently still in evaluation mode. I believe that it’s going to do the same thing tech has done in the past, expand our capabilities by automating the tedious. More importantly, it’s going to open up ways to do things faster to the masses, not just those that understand and program the computer to do their bidding.

When the iPad was released I made the observation that it can do one thing that laptops cannot, it can remove itself as a barrier in the classroom. When using laptops in the classroom, you’re bringing up a wall between the teacher and the student, affecting conversations. That laptop screen in your face inserts itself between you and the others in the classroom. Thankfully, laptop design can help minimize this distraction. By teaching student’s to lay their laptops flat, they’re opening themselves up to the classroom. Luckily a ton of laptops can do this now. Unfortunately, Macbooks can not. And this is something tablets such as the iPad can do, as long as you don’t have a keyboard on it.

Remember doing group work, where you would do all of the work while your groupmates sponged off of your labor? Well the same feeling is coming to the overachievers in the office thanks to tools like ChatGPT. While highly productive workers still gain something for using this tool, the least productive get the most out of it. That’s good for business, and the community as a whole, but it doesn’t make the situation sit any better.

What happens when teachers run the school?

Technology

It’s not just students using ChatGPT to write, professors are using it for recommendation letters (archive link). I have mixed feelings about this, but, in the end, the ChatGPT letters are probably better and more personalized than re-using past letters of recommendations.

Some of the first jobs ChatGPT is eliminating is in the “academic writing” industry better known as “contract cheating”. I question the motivation of some of these students. Hiring someone to write your papers, take part in online discussions, and take the test for you? What’s the point of going to college then?

COVID purchased Chromebooks are starting to hit their end of life and it’s becoming an e-waste problem. A Chromebook has a limited lifespan dictated by its Auto Update policy (AUP. The standard AUP for Chromebooks produced after 2020 is now eight years, but that can be misleading. The AUP date is based on when the Chromebook was released, not when purchased. If you buy a Chromebook in 2023 that has been out since 2020, you only have 5 years left on the AUP. This is why you’ll sometimes see dirt cheap Chromebooks. They’re cheap because they may only have a year or 2 of updates left. What happens after the AUP date passes? The machine will still work, but it will no longer get any updates, which also means security updates. Basically, you don’t want to use a machine that isn’t getting security updates.

Do you get distracted when staring at a wall of live video feeds in Google meet? Then I have good news for you, Google is adding the ability to turn off individual video feeds during a Google Meet. And don’t worry about offending someone, no one knows whether you’ve turned off their video or not.

Tips

You can’t trust AI detectors and here are several example’s where the AI detection fell flat on its face. Unfortunately, students have been cheating for far longer than ChatGPT has been around, so this isn’t a new phenomenon. What is new is how easy it is to do, which means students that wouldn’t have had the means in the past can now use it. As for detecting it, there isn’t a really good way to do that at this moment. You can try to move writing assignments to the classroom, or make them more personal. If you know a student doesn’t like chocolate ice cream but they write a paper saying they do, then you know something is up.

Pop Culture

Some of the best teaching I’ve done was not planned in advanced, but how do we prepare for the spontaneous? Being spontaneous requires one to be constantly learning and have learned the ability to adjust on the fly. Sounds a lot like being a teacher.

Pot Pourri

  • Koi Pond – A relaxing koi pond that lets you feed the fish. I could see this being a popular end of the day activity for interactive whiteboard/TV classrooms.
  • Space Elevator – Ever wonder what you would go through if you could take an elevator to space? This fun little web app lets you do that.

Extra Credit

Here are extra links that I found interesting that may or may not be education related or interesting to you and I didn’t want to lose them.

History

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Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and join your fellow educators on the Eduk8me email list!