Why Teach With WisdomMaps?
I teach history, and true to form, the teaching of history is way behind the times. Teachers are scrambling to find ways to deal with ChatGPT, and I may have a solution for that. WisdomMaps are not “maps” in the usual sense, but a new generation of “mind maps”, invented in the Near East 2,000 years ago and popularized more recently by Leonardo da Vinci as a way to unify knowledge.
The maps are designed not only for objective instruction, but also for subjective reflection upon causality and implications. When information is inter-related and knowledge is unified, it creates meaning, and the maps unfold in a unique knowledge schema embedded in a multimedia presentation of images, videos, websites, and more. WisdomMaps work by emulating the thought processes of the human mind, and because of their non-linear design, they go where linear thinking, and ChatGPT, cannot.
My solution to ChatGPT and plagiarism lies both in the way that the maps create learning, and in the learning dynamic of the class. As teachers know, the best way to learn something is to teach it (however badly at first). It’s also true that students generally learn as much from each other as they do from their teachers. When students are able to view each other’s work, a social competition arises to post and showcase the best contributions, and the learning curve grows steeper as students progressively conform their own work to the best examples of their classmates. WisdomMaps enable students to teach each other (in their own words, however humble) under the teacher’s guidance, in group assignments where the class collaborates and contributes openly to their completion.
I have my students develop weekly journal presentations (using PowerPoint or the equivalent) on the maps assigned for the week. The journal assignment requires them to review their choice of multimedia in the maps, like websites and videos, and they have complete freedom to focus on and develop whichever interests they have uncovered that capture their fancy. As a result, their classmates are exposed to a wide range of topics in the group assignment.
For the purpose of this assignment, a “mark-up copy” of the maps the students choose to work with is made available for the class to collaborate on. Here, students post their journals, review and comment upon the maps themselves and their classmates’ work, and contribute their own multimedia discoveries from among videos, websites, images, audio clips and more to add to the mix. The teacher reviews their journals and their contributions, guides the discussion, and posts his insights.
No ChatGPT, No Plagiarism
The solution also depends on the source of instruction. Textbooks are of some use as an “anchor to windward” that helps students hew to the historical narrative. But WisdomMaps courses also require subjective thinking (which ChatGPT isn’t very good at anyway), and review of multimedia (like websites and videos) that ChatGPT cannot access. There is little opportunity with WisdomMaps for students to make use of ChatGPT, and overt plagiarism is conspicuous to their classmates in an open learning environment like this. It isn’t worth the social risk: for a student to post anything that is perceived as not being in their own words risks, at the very least, being marginalized, or worse, suffering the consequences in social media (which can be endless). The design of WisdomMaps presents a powerful deterrent to A.I.-generated writing that is possible only when students are accountable to each other, and not just to the teacher, for the provenance and quality of their work.
Solutions That Don’t Work
Detection tools? They seem to get it wrong as often as they get it right. Hand-written assignments? Hope your eyes are better than mine. In-class written assignments? Uses class time better used for teaching. Keep students after school to write drafts of their essays, using limited access computers, and require them to explain each content revision in subsequent drafts? I’ve seen that one… good luck with that. Oral presentations and exams? For many, the anxiety is overwhelming and their performances are boring and off-putting. Incorporate authentic student experience into questions? Most students will find themselves at a loss in drawing personal connections to the lessons of history. Constant quizzes? Fear-based learning (but that’s another story). Create stricter standards? That just ups the cat-and-mouse game, and the mice are always cleverer than the cats (they’re better motivated). Draconian honor codes? Get real. Stop written assignments? That might work, but what are you going to replace them with? Textbooks are dinosaurs, and what’s needed is a new cornerstone of instruction.
Any proper engagement with a subject deserves a lifetime, not 16 weeks. So perhaps WisdomMaps answer to the highest pedagogical purpose of all. We need to instill a lifelong love for learning. As Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”