A real-world AI story

Two simple monochrome line drawings side by side. The drawing on the left shows a man and a dog facing a hut in a wooded area. The drawing on the right shows a fox at the entrance to a den beneath tree roots.

A recent Monday afternoon workshop was a basic introduction to free artificial intelligence (AI) tools ChatGPT and Image Creator.

Only one person managed to produce anything useful – and that was because she came for a specific purpose.

Cora* is a retired ESOL teacher with decades of experience – at levels from secondary to HE – in several countries, but mainly with disadvantaged adults in Hackney and Islington. She is now a volunteer with ReadEasy, working 1:1 with a student with an extreme form of dyslexia. The student is 40+, intelligent, motivated, can speak english, french and lingala – but has never been able to read anything.

Cora used ChatGPT to produce a very short story in Basic English, using only phonetic words of one syllable if possible, short sentences that make standalone sense, with no clauses, avoiding non-UK usage – illustrated by output from Image Creator.

Time required (after the initial induction): a few seconds from ChatGPT; about 4 minutes from Image Creator.

The text of the story required some further editing, imagination, and formatting for dyslexic-friendly readability (easy in Google Docs, also free). The illustrations (two shown above) were fine as they were.

Of course, Cora could have written a story herself – in about one hour – but she is very busy, and she could not have drawn the illustrations herself.

The result was far better than expected – it was a breakthrough. For the first time in her life, the student read a sentence. She was thrilled.

The breakthrough was due to Cora’s experience and commitment (both vast) – and the student’s determination.

None of the credit is due to the AI tools. They are just assistants – and best understood as producers of fiction.

Do you think we should spend more time and effort supporting people like Cora?

* Not her real name

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