Throughout this course, we have been introduced to a variety of tools, from physical games that we played in class, interactive classroom furniture, new platforms for various tasks, to AI and modern technological tools. These have not only aided in acquiring new technical and literacy skills but have also cultivated creativity and innovation in their utilization. In this blog post, I will showcase six of my favorite tools that we had the opportunity to experiment with and integrate into our learning journey over the semester.
Tools and Experiences
Tool 1: Special Tech & Furniture
The new interactive classroom that was introduced to us this semester throughout the course included various technological enhancements such as cameras, microphones, and a Dolby Atmos sound system. I learned that while interactive classrooms are designed to enhance the learning experience, their impact can vary depending on individual needs. As a visually impaired person, I, truthfully, didn’t feel a significant difference from the interactive classroom setup itself, such as the interactive whiteboards and different screens. However, I greatly appreciated the cameras and microphones which made it more convenient to participate in Zoom meetings, especially for those who couldn’t attend in person. The Dolby Atmos sound system was particularly enjoyable for me due to my interest in audio work and music, offering an immersive sound experience.
Tool 2: (AI) Chat gpt
I used ChatGPT mainly for experimentation and applying the skills learned in class, as well as from a Coursera course I took. I experimented with techniques such as chain of thought, few-shot learning, and zero-shot learning. Through my experience with ChatGPT, I learned about its capabilities and limitations. While it can generate responses based on prompts and context, I noticed limitations in providing detailed or nuanced information. Additionally, I became aware of the ethical considerations surrounding AI, as it lacks inherent ethical frameworks and may produce biased or inappropriate content. Take the Palestinian Israeli conflict as an example.
As a part of my experimentation, I used it in my research methods in political science class this past spring semester to help me brainstorm about a topic I was interested in. I asked ChatGPT various questions related to political science, aiming to assess its knowledge and accuracy in my field of interest. For instance, I inquired about topics such as the Nuremberg Trials to gauge its understanding and ability to provide relevant information.
In response to my question, I found that ChatGPT often lacked accurate or detailed information. It sometimes provided misleading or hallucinatory responses, and tended to offer generic information that didn’t address the specifics of the topic. Here’s the question I asked ChatGPT: “How many prosecutions has the International Criminal Court (ICC) conducted?” ChatGPT provided a response with a specific number, but it was incorrect according to the actual number of prosecutions conducted by the ICC. After receiving ChatGPT’s response, I verified the accuracy by cross-referencing it with reliable sources such as official reports or reputable news outlets.
Discovering the inaccuracy of ChatGPT’s response was disappointing and concerning. It highlighted the importance of critically evaluating information generated by AI tools, especially in fields where accuracy is paramount, such as political science. However, this experience certainly taught me so many different technical skills on how I can prompt the AI to give me the results I wanted, or at least be cautious and critical of the results that I get from the AI. It also illustrated that I as a person would never be able to 100% totally trust AI in anything that it does, and the fact that I would always want to double check any information that I get from AI. I do think that ChatGpt is perfect for brainstorming and fueling creativity, but it’s definitely not suitable for research, writing essays, or creating things from scratch until the end. Humans would always have the priority, and the world can never go on without them or their creativity.
Tool 3: (AI) Google Gemini
I used Google Gemini primarily for my courses to create graphs and charts based on survey responses or information that I wanted to illustrate visually. It proved to be valuable for creating visual representations of data, allowing me to effectively communicate complex information in a clear and concise manner. It also taught and helped me to be very independent, because I did not wait for sighted assistance to help me create these visual graphs. One significant challenge I encountered while using Google Gemini for data visualization was my inability, as a blind person, to verify the accuracy and appearance of the graphs. While Gemini offered customization and editing options for the graphs, I couldn’t utilize these features due to accessibility limitations. To overcome this challenge, I initially relied on the feedback and insights of my sighted friends to assess the quality and accuracy of the graphs created with Google Gemini. Their perspectives provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of the visualizations. Overall, I was really impressed, and I think I’ll be using it for upcoming semesters and courses to create visual data.
Tool 4: Canvas
Canvas is a learning management system (LMS) that our course utilized extensively for various purposes such as accessing course materials, submitting assignments, participating in discussions, and checking grades. It served as the central hub for our online course activities, providing a platform for communication and collaboration between students and instructors, much like Blackboard. While Canvas was generally user-friendly and highly accessible with screen readers, transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas did require some adjustment. One notable aspect was getting accustomed to the layout and organization of course materials within Canvas, as it differed from what I was familiar with in Blackboard. However, once I became familiar with the interface and navigation, I found Canvas to be quite intuitive and efficient to use. Adapting to the differences between Canvas and Blackboard involved exploring the features and functionalities of Canvas, as well as experimenting with its various tools and options. For example, the professor introduced the experimentation of the peer review feature that we used throughout the course to peer review each other’s assignments, such as the old CV assignment, through making comments and leaving our reviews on the resumes. I also experimented with the audio assignment submission feature, which was really interesting, because I had never seen or experienced something similar while using blackboard. I also took advantage of tutorials and resources provided by our course instructor, professor Maha, to familiarize myself with Canvas’s interface and capabilities, which helped streamline my transition from Blackboard. One thing I haven’t experimented with, though, is taking online quizzes on the platform, therefore, upon that experiment, where to ever happen, I think I wouldn’t really mind switching to campus for other courses.
Tool 5: Google Forms
Google Forms is typically used for creating surveys, but in this course, I learned to utilize it in a creative way by turning it into an interactive game. However, adapting Google Forms for gaming purposes presented some challenges, as the platform is not inherently designed for that purpose. Creating different scenarios and linking each section to the right question or result required extra time and effort. However, Using Google Forms to create an interactive game taught me how to think creatively and adapt existing tools for new purposes. It challenged me to explore the platform’s features in innovative ways and find solutions to make it work for gaming applications. Unfortunately, Google Forms presented accessibility issues when used with a screen reader. These issues may have included difficulties navigating through the form, identifying form fields and options, and completing form submissions efficiently. In the interactive game created using Google Forms, we designed various scenarios with different options for the player to choose from. Each option led to a unique consequence or outcome, shaping the progression of the game based on the player’s choices. Below, I’ll show a close example to what we did to create the game, using Google Forms, albeit unrelated because I don’t wish to spoil the game for potential future players.
For instance, let’s consider a scenario where the player is navigating through a virtual maze. At each intersection or decision point, the player is presented with multiple options to choose from, such as “Turn left,” “Go straight,” or “Turn right.” Based on the player’s selection, they are directed to different sections of the form corresponding to the chosen option, where they encounter new challenges or opportunities.
The consequences of each choice could vary, leading to different outcomes such as finding a hidden treasure, encountering a dangerous obstacle, or uncovering a clue to advance further in the game. By structuring the game in this way, we were able to create an engaging and dynamic experience for the player within the constraints of Google Forms. To ensure that each option led to the appropriate consequence or outcome within the game, we carefully mapped out the branching paths and connections between different sections of the Google Form. Each option was linked to a specific section corresponding to the consequent scenario or outcome, ensuring a coherent and cohesive gameplay experience for the player.
Structuring the interactive game using Google Forms presented some challenges and limitations, primarily due to the platform not being inherently designed for gaming purposes. One challenge was the complexity of creating and managing multiple branching paths and scenarios within the form, which required meticulous planning and organization to execute effectively, particularly when using a screen reader, as I mentioned above. However, using Google forms in this creative way, was even more enjoyable, because I had to create various surveys for other courses this semester, so using Google forms this innovatively, made me more enthusiastic to find out more about how I can make Google forms work in unusual ways.
Tool 6: Slack
Slack was introduced by the professor at the beginning of the semester, and I was excited about its potential for fostering a sense of community and engagement within the class. While I had initially planned to post fun and engaging content on Slack, the busyness of the semester limited my ability to do so. Nevertheless, Slack served as a more lighthearted way of communicating with classmates, allowing us to ask questions, engage in direct conversations, host polls, and even check in on one another.
One feature of Slack that I found particularly beneficial and enjoyable was the inclusion of interesting activities by the professor, such as “how we are feeling” questions during some of the classes, and in-class activities conducted there as well. For instance, we had a thorough discussion on clickbaits and fake news, where each group of students was asked to identify a piece of information, and whether it was factual or not, and then we were asked to post the results on the platform so that the rest of the class could see. It was such an enjoyable activity that we got to do, and the use of Slack as a quick way to post to the whole class made it a lot easier and quicker. These activities prompted reflection and encouraged us to think about our emotions and well-being, further teaching us about literacy and empathy. The professor’s active presence and engagement on Slack significantly contributed to my own participation and involvement in the course. Since Slack provided a platform that felt familiar and easy to use, akin to texting, I felt more inclined to be active and interactive on the platform. Knowing that the professor was actively monitoring Slack and encouraging discussion, I tried to ask questions and engage with classmates. Engaging on Slack offered a more immediate and informal communication channel compared to other methods such as in-class discussions or email. It facilitated real-time interactions and discussions, enabling quick responses and the opportunity for spontaneous conversation. This dynamic communication environment added a layer of interactivity and engagement to the learning experience that may have been less pronounced in other communication channels, which led to a powerful feeling of connectedness and belonging to the family that this class was at times. I believe that Slack is suitable for several types of environments, whether that was for work, or academic context, much like what we had this semester.
There were other tools that we used that were no less significant, but these six were the ones I enjoyed and interacted with the most. To conclude this post, I’ll leave you with a musical piece that I played and produced myself. Here is “Mariage d’Amour.” I hope you enjoy it!