Thursday, June 13, 2024

Grammarly’s Generative AI Writing Assistant Creates Questions for Teachers

Grammarly have introduced a generative AI Writing Assistant as an option for its popular grammar checking program. I have been a fan of grammar correcting tools for decades. Without them, or a human editor, I can't get work published. I recommend them to my students, but Grammarly's AI tool needs to be treated with caution, as casual use could be a career ending.

The tool is available even with the free version of Grammarly. You need to opt in to use it. By default it is I set it to formal, direct, Australian English, by an IT professional. 

Here is the text I gave Grammerly:

'Dr Ryan Young at the ANU National Security College Futures Hub, has prepared "Future Disruptions for Australian Universities" for the Universities Accord Review Panel. The Futures Hub's logo is, appropriately enough a black swan. The accord panel has been advising the Australian Government on the future of higher education...'

Here is how it made the text "sound academic":

'Dr. Ryan Young, from the ANU National Security College Futures Hub, has prepared authored a document titled "Future Disruptions for Australian Universities" for the Universities Accord Review Panel. The Futures Hub's logo emblem, appropriately enough a black swan, seems fitting for their work. The accord panel, has been advising responsible for guiding the Australian Government on the future of higher education's future, ...'

Grammerly has mostly just improved my sentence structure and used more academic sounding words. But the meaning has been changed in a few places for example I wrote "I find older students are easier to teach" to "teaching older students is reported to be more straightforward", thus attributing my comment to the authors of the report. Such mis-attributions could be serious in a student assignment, or a published paper. 

I have become so comfortable with grammar checkers that I accept their recommendations without checking closely. This could be a career ending move with the Generative AI option in Garmmerly. I suggest warning your students, and colleagues, to treat this function with the caution they would a standalone generative AI tool: something to be used to generate ideas, with every detail checked to be right, before being used.