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Tuesday 12 December 2023

Using AI in education part 3

Continuing on my AI in education advent calendar...

I stumbled upon a solution to a really annoying problem. You've just gone through a whole pile of marking... (the picture was about a third of the pile from one course)... and then you wonder whether you've gone cross-eyed and entered the wrong numbers into the spreadsheet / learning management system / course management system.

A pile of exam papers needing to be marked

We have flawless speech-to-text now. We have access to language models that can do tedious tasks.

So at the end of the marking, I open up a sound recorder on my phone or my laptop, flick through the exam papers and talk narrate the student marks as I go. "Xu Anh student number 23424 scored 41.5, Tom Bowman student 28559 scored 34, Amy Chin student 29912 scored 26, Daniel Davids student id 28588 scored 37...". Run that through Whisper ( or any of the desktop apps that use it, e.g. MacWhisper ) and you'll get what you said in text. It gets even the most complicated names right if you pronounce them correctly.

Now take a download from your marks management system (or the spreadsheet that you were typing them in to). If you have access to GPT4, you can upload the spreadsheet. If you are using GPT-3.5 or a free LLM like llama, copy and paste from the spreadsheet.

Then the magic prompt: "identify if there are any discrepancies between this spreadsheet and the transcript of me reading out the marks".

Works like a charm, every time.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Cat consulting

Deb Zahn interviewed me on her Craft of Consulting blog:

This then inspired to write a poem from the perspective of her cat.

To get a sense of how good voice modding is nowadays, here's my deep Australian basso-profundo voice turned into a feminine cat-like voice:

Useful vocabulary for winning awards

  • Humblebrag is when you say that you just won an award, and you deprecatingly say that the judges might have made a mistake.
  • Stumblebrag is when the first time you learn about the award is when someone asks you why you haven't picked it up.
  • Grumblebrag is when you complain about walking around in a Sydney heatwave to pick up an award that nobody told you about.
  • Mumblebrag is when you realise that the award was for a group you were in, not to you personally.
  • Fumblebrag is when you realise you didn't really do anything for that group and you were kind of the spare wheel.
  • Jumblebrag is the feeling of winning a dean's award for excellence in inter-departmental collaboration for stuff you didn't do.
  • Rumblebrag is when you send out congratulations to the rest of the data science teaching team at Macquarie University for their fine work that you get to take credit for.

Monday 4 December 2023

Using AI in Education Part 2

This is Week 2 of my advent calendar on using AI in education. Week 1 was here:

Since all my lectures are recorded, it's easy to have a transcription of everything I said. I use Jordi Bruin's MacWhisper -- on my Mac. On Linux, I use OpenAI's command-line tools, because usually I'm trying to automate something in a pipeline. I haven't used anything on Windows, but parmata's Whisper UI ( ) looks like it's the equivalent of Jordi's program.

The Whisper model behind these programs is free to use, so there's no per-minute cost. (In 2018 when I was the CTO of a speech analytics company and was giving presentations regularly, I predicted that this would be case within 5 years. I was wrong by about 6 months.)

That said, you can also pay OpenAI to do transcriptions for you (with some limitations on length). This might make sense if you use Zapier to automate transcribing your lectures.

Over the next few weeks I'll go into more detail of the very interesting things that you can do with a high-quality transcription, but for now, consider that there are students (e.g. the hearing-impaired) for whom a high-quality transcription can make a world of difference to their learning experience.

P.S. 2 years ago transcription of voice to text was still unreliable. I still see recording systems deployed at universities which are using obsolete (and terrible) transcription technology, so if you are dismissing this based on your experience of current technology, you might be accidentally living in the past still.