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Sunday 26 November 2023

Using AI in education, Part 1

Now that semester is over, I'm going to start writing up a post each week of some AI-related innovation I did in my teaching this year. (The real guru on this is Ethan Mollick --, but maybe I can be interesting.)

I had a lot of overseas students and other students whose first language wasn't English. So I did a poll at the start of the semi-semester to ask what languages they would like my lectures deep-faked into. Hindi was the most requested. Here's me speaking fluent, high-class Hindi!

Arabic was another request.

I'm vain and wanted it to be my own voice, so I used Eleven Labs (affiliate link here ). I could probably have done this cheaper with Whisper + ChatGPT translation + ChatGPT text to speech (or some other alternative text-to-speech solution).

Issues and observations:

  • For some students, it's a clear issue of access to education, and I consider it a moral obligation to provide my lessons in ways that are accessible to as many as possible. If you are struggling with English, and I can easily provide resources to help you in your native language, I'll do that.
  • For some students, I think it was just the amusement of hearing obviously-Aussie Greg talking something else. Still, I don't mind: if that's what it takes to get students to listen to lectures, I'm in on it.
  • Eleven Labs does very formal translations. It seems like they are using ChatGPT for translations, and ChatGPT defaults to more formal language. Apparently my Hindi sounds like a government proclamation. Hopefully they will support more casual language in their translations.
  • It's not cheap for an individual. It begins to makes sense at an organisational level when you have a handful of students wanting the same language.

But I had a surprising amount of pushback. The argument is that part of the experience is for students to study in English so that they can improve their English, English being the world language and all that.

To me, that's last-year thinking: back in 2022 when automated translation wasn't a solved problem, we all needed to agree on a common language for business and education, and the world had chosen English.

But maybe now we don't need a common language any more, so is it still necessary, important and valuable for students to improve their English?

Which is more important now, and which will be more important in the future? Accessibility of education to people in their native languages, or improving English language fluency?

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