This is a possible assignment for my research writing class on “Research Writing: Investigating Topics in Technology, Media, Social Justice And Well Being.”

As I learn more about effective altruism and potentially move toward creating more course materials related to it, I wanted to solicit some feedback on the following idea for an extra credit assignment I could use in a introductory research writing course (the course is primarily taken by first or second year university students, but sometimes I get senior students as well, who might have more knowledge or experience in these subject areas). Any thoughts, comments, or further resources would be welcome!

Summary:

  • This post provides an EA-aligned assignment under construction that I would value feedback on.
  • The assignment is for a first-year research writing class and would be an extra credit option for students.

Context: The extra credit assignment below would be included in an introductory research writing course that is conducted over a 10-week quarter. The focus for the class is on the writing of a final research project rather than knowledge/content in a subject area. However, in the course as a whole, I have created three units to focus our discussions and examples and provide students with background knowledge in the area of technology and well being. Units focus on (1) social media and well being (2) questions surrounding artificial intelligence, and (3) social justice, race, and gender issues in technology. Students do a final research project that can focus on any aspect of technology and well being (individual or societal), so they are not limited to these three subject areas. Please note that the AI related materials linked below are meant to be thought-provoking and accessible to first-year students and to provoke conversations about credibility of sources, not to provide an in-depth examination of the subject area.

Proposed assignment: 

Supplemental Learning Opportunity: Discussion Board Activity

Purpose: Our class goals include learning to evaluate and accurately summarize sources, as well as composing frequent short pieces that reinforce critical research processes and thoughtful composing processes and engaging with and valuing the ideas of others in the research and composing process. We have also practiced proper citation and synthesizing ideas from different sources. This is a supplementary learning opportunity to “level up” those skills and read more about one high-impact area of research (AI and existential risk), which we covered in our second unit. 

The goal is to participate in a discussion board on Canvas (an online forum) for this assignment and provide further readings, viewings, and research connected to artificial intelligence, and to share your analyses of what you found. It is common to feel concern about the level of risk connected to AI, and a certain amount of confusion or hopelessness in not knowing what could be done about this issue. This assignment might help point you in some helpful directions, and show you what experts are already working on! 

Instructions: First, you should review the materials in the unit (from Kevin Drum and Sam Harris) and our associated class discussions on artificial intelligence, to refresh your memory. Then, create 3 short discussion board posts as follows:

  1. Read the webpage “Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence” from the Future of Life Institute (found at https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/). Submit a paragraph-long post to this discussion board summarizing what you found most interesting on this webpage. You should also state the connections you saw to our course materials, and potentially raise any new questions you have. 
  2. For your second post, do a bit of research outside of the FOL page (you might follow some of their provided links and recommendations, or search within the library databases we’ve used in this class). Choose a source you think adds something new or interesting to the discussion, summarize that in your post, and cite the source correctly. 
  3. Do a final post replying to someone else’s post, advancing the discussion and providing feedback, sharing additional thoughts, or asking clarifying questions. 

11

New Comment
1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:34 PM

My only real experience with teaching is on the pupil end of things, but I think this is a fairly tame/reasonable extra-credit assignment; I don’t see anything majorly wrong with it! And in general more consideration of AI risks seems good, as well as popularizing EA. (Hopefully someone else can give deeper commentary!)