Professorial Productivity, Vol. 1: Voice Transcription
We discuss how AI-enhanced voice recording, transcription, and analysis tools, like Fireflies.ai, can improve professors' pedagogy and save time.
[image created with Midjourney]
Welcome to AutomatED: the newsletter on how to teach better with tech.
Each week, I share what I have learned — and am learning — about AI and tech in the university classroom. What works, what doesn't, and why.
Let’s dive into how I make student meetings more productive.
When it comes to AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, almost all of our attention has been focused on the ways that they challenge our pedagogical practices. If students can easily use these tools to plagiarize written work in ways that are hard to detect, then we must reevaluate our teaching methods and assessments.
However, professors should spend more time learning about how AI tools can make their teaching better – and their lives as teachers easier.
This is the first installment of our series on this topic.
🎤💬 Make Student Meetings More Effective
No professor spends the majority of their time in the classroom. Rather, in addition to working on our research, we are working on other tasks, such as:
preparing to teach,
meeting with students,
doing administrative work.
Today, I focus on AI tools that can help us with these tasks by transcribing voice to text.
There are a variety of options on the market, such as otter.ai and Nuance’s Dragon, but I will use Fireflies.ai as my example. (You should compare options before you pick, but I prefer Fireflies.ai because of its features, integrations, and price.)
Fireflies.ai records voice conversations of your choice, analyzes what was said, presents it to you in useful ways, and integrates with a wide variety of other apps.
Meeting Scheduled ➡️ Zoom ➡️ Fireflies ➡️ ??? ➡️ Profit
I meet with my students via Zoom for office hours and one-off meetings because this gives me and my students more flexibility and reduces wasted transit time.
Here is how Fireflies.ai helps me with my workflow surrounding these meetings…
Step 1: A student schedules a meeting with me. This meeting is then placed on my calendar.
(There are a variety of ways to do this: I can do it manually if they email me; I can have it done automatically via Canvas’ Calendar appointment functionality; etc.)
Step 2: A Zoom meeting is created for the student meeting on my calendar.
(Again, there are options here. One way is to have your calendar automatically create Zoom meetings for every created meeting and then notify the participants. Another way is to do it manually yourself or have a perpetual meeting – with waiting room enabled – that is dedicated to student one-on-ones.)
Step 3: Having been given access to my calendar, Fireflies.ai automatically schedules itself to attend the Zoom meeting to record it.
(If you forget to set Fireflies.ai properly, or if you decide to use Fireflies.ai on a meeting-by-meeting basis, you can manually invite it to each meeting. You can also upload select voice recordings to Fireflies.ai for it to analyze after the fact.)
Step 4: Fireflies.ai attends and records the meeting. As I talk with my student, I can give its AI assistant directives, like “Hey Fred, remind me to check in with Sam the Student on Friday to see how their review of the reading from last week went.” My focus is entirely on the student, not on taking notes–that’s Fred’s job!
(When the meeting occurs and the student joins, you should request that the meeting be recorded for instructional purposes and explain how the recording will be used. Since Fireflies.ai is an attendee of the meeting like any other, you can remove it from the meeting if they decline or if need be.)
Step 5: After the meeting, Fireflies.ai analyzes the meeting, emails me a recap, and presents tons of information about the meeting in its dashboard. Fireflies.ai flags all of the pedagogically important topics of conversation, including:
my feedback to students about their past work,
students’ concerns about their mastery,
my directives to students about tasks to complete, and
plans for future meetings.
If I go to the dashboard, I can listen to the meeting again (skipping around if I like); note how Fireflies.ai tracked topics within the conversation; and follow up on commands I gave Fred, the AI assistant.
Step 6: Given the dynamism of Fred, the AI assistant, I can ask a variety of questions about the meeting and it will efficiently extract the answers for me (without me navigating around the dashboard). It will even correct me when I make unfounded assumptions!
This app has been a game-changer for me, as it has significantly improved my practice by enabling me to provide more personalized instruction and feedback, as well as keep track of student needs.
You could even integrate these functions with another app, like Asana, to automate your communication and remediation workflow even further. In fact, we will have a newsletter on that topic later this semester…
AI in Chinese Higher Education. Students love it: "The AI understands the scoring criteria of IELTS, so all I need to do is input the question and my own answer, and it will give a score prediction." Luo Yao says ChatGPT also helps her check for grammatical errors in her writing and gives suggestions for more authentic usage, which is "the equivalent of having a 24-hour online private tutor." But schools have already put temporary bans on the practice.
A deep dive on requiring AI use in the classroom. Ethan Mollick at the University of Pennsylvania finds that his students easily picked up bias and accuracy issues with many AI tools. However, they needed training in how to prompt the systems better: “Another key lesson was that training on AI tools is really important, and students need to be shown the basics of prompt-crafting.” The takeaway: “I also hope to soon share some research, rather than just qualitative impressions. However, based on my experience, I think focusing on how people use AI in class rather than whether they use it will result in better learning outcomes, happier students, and graduates who are better prepared for a world while AI is likely to be ubiquitous.”
Aaron Ng has been sharing how to use ChatGPT to interactively learn from a textbook.
The code’s not in a public tool yet. It will take some sophistication to put something like this together now, but if you feel like you’re not there yet. Don’t worry. Better tools are coming soon.