eXtensions - Tuesday 14 February 2023

Tuesday Comment: Updates; Invent for the Planet; AI-generated Content in Class; Rise of the iPad and the Writing Process

By Graham K. Rogers

Invent for the Planet

Several updates from Apple were released this week. With AI the headline maker in the past week or so, I discovered AI-produced examples of student writing in class. I was not happy and ran some checks. From classes in whcih 1 student had a computer to now, when most will use a tablet device. Worldwide, Apple has 46% of that market. Michael Dell wanted Apple to give the money back, now Dell is trimming down and about to lose a chunk of its workforce.

Apple released updates to iOS and iPadOS (16.3.1) this week (Tuesday morning here) as well as an unexpected upodate to macOS (13.2.1). There is also am update to WatchOS (9.3.1) and tvOS (16.3.2). Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog (as well as several other sources, outlines the updates and explains the problems that the releases will fix. Juli Clover reports that the iOS update has apparently broken Google Photos for some users and it is not known as yet when this will be addressed.

iOS and iPadOS updates iOS and iPadOS updates

This week, and all weekend, I have been involved in a student workshop: Invent for the Planet. This involves universities in over 20 countries with students selecting problems, brainstorming solutions and presenting their ideas at the end of the weekend. They have access to tools including 3D printing and are expected to build a model to aid in the understanding. The whole event needs much organisation and publicity as well as support from the university. It also needs students who are willing to give up a weekend. Many of the students realized that there are long term advantages as they pick up several skills: teamwork, presentation improvements, analysis and more.

Invent for the Planet Invent for the Planet

My site has continued to give me problems and I have sent more information to the host service. I can access the site using the phone and wifi at home, but it needs a restart of the device. It works for an hour or so, then the site (and email) are inaccessible. As most of what I do does not need me to be connected to the site for long periods of time, a restart a couple of times a day (or when needed) keeps things going, but it is clearly not the ideal situation. I am also aware that others are unable to access the site and when asked have to advise them that a restart of equipment is the (temporary) solution. The university network has no problem with the connection, and it seems that those outside Thailand similarly are unaffected.

Invent for the Planet Invent for the Planet Invent for the Planet

It is clear that users are accessing the site as statistics this month show that the top hit is a comment I wrote in 2014: Unfortunately Strong Words on Twitter between Brian Lam and Marco Arment, in which there was an interchange that was a bit strong at times. Lam was famous for being handed a lost iPhone 4 prototype and the resultant fallout, including a personal request from Steve Jobs, led to him leaving Gizmodo. Why this thread between the two should be attracting attention nearly 10 years after I put this online (including a screenshot of the conversation) is beyond me.

Invent for the Planet Invent for the Planet

Apple's new French-English series, Liaison, which will begin screening later this month was reviewed by David Snow on Cult of Mac who includes the trailer. This is already on my list of must watch programs. I also started watching the series, Dear Edward. While some reviewers gave this a less than perfect rating, I like the way how, in the first episode, each character was shown in a build up to the crash. The 12-year old boy Edward is the sole survivor. The series is not about survival, but loss. Each character has defects of course (don't we all) and the series will look at how Edward and some of those linked to the deceased are affected.

On Netflix I watched Kaleidoscope: an interesting safe heist series about what was supposed to be a secure installation, that was billed as having a choose-your-own-order-approach. In the 1980s there were novels produced like this: pages not bound and the reader could take them in any order. I just let Kaleidoscope run as the episodes were dished out: some were before the event, some after. They were right, it did not matter at all. The order did not affect my enjoyment. The main character was played by Giancarlo Esposito: Gus Fring from Breaking Bad. It was all well put together, and worth having a look at.

Written by a human
M2 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard - Image courtesy of Apple

Ming-Chi Kuo has convinced everyone that Apple is to develop a folding phone or iPad or both; otherwise the product line is stagnant. I spell that "stable". Gurman on the other hand has convinced everyone that in order to finally deliver a Mac Pro, the Mac Studio will not have M2 chips. We will see how that works out. Apple has never worried about cannibalizing devices if the sales keep going. Looked at from a pragmatic viewpoint, which of the two potential Macs (M2 Mac Studio, Mac Pro) would I expect to have the better sales. The answer should be reasonably obvious. Technology has moved on.

It is clear that the authorities in several countries including EU, UK and USA are about to force Apple to open up iOS and ensure there is more than one store available to users. It was revealed this week that a Japanese Fair Trade Commission report in Japan claims that Apple and Google abuse their "superior bargaining" positions in the market although they are not yet insisting on side-loading like the other trade authorities (Dennis Sellers, AppleWorld Today). I am not going to touch any 3rd party online store; and if any developer wants my hard-earned cash, their app will have to be in the iTunes App Store.

I had an interesting experience in class last week. I had been asked to outline what students need when writing. Bear in mind, my students are not English native speakers, so they come with a disadvantage when asked to write journal articles or a thesis. I had been given two papers from a class of graduate students from different parts of Asia. These were written works in the early stages of preparation. One suffered from too much translation. The other appeared to be quite good (I am deliberately vague here), but when I looked closer, there was no student opinion, just what looked like text copied from the sources (references were given). I compared the sources with the content and was satisfied this was not copied. There was something in the back of my mind, however, with regard to the content and the way the sentences had been written.

Before class I ran each paragraph through an AI content detector. Some were cleared as written by a human; one was possibly 50-50, human/AI; but one of the paragraphs was identified as having been written by AI. As the technology (creating and detection) are still under development, I asked the students. They were quite open: they used the original text and ran it through paraphrasing software. This uses AI to produce good sentences. If the students had done the paraphrasing and provided a reference (as they had), it would have been their input. This was not and therefore is not acceptable, although I have to give them their due for honesty.

The question arises: is this use of paraphrasing software, which means the students themselves are not actually creating the work they submit, unethical and therefore plagiarism. I discussed this with another teacher in the class and with the students, who admitted openly how they had done the task, adding this is widely done by others. The other teacher will bring this up with other faculty members some of whom are all for using such tools. However, as editors of some journals have clearly a stated that they will treat text generated in such ways as plagiarism (and not accept the submission), it may be time to make a clear statement about what is or is not acceptable.

The site I used to test the input is GPTZero. The site the students had used was Quillbot.

After discovering AI-generated content, I took a section from one of the journal articles used and pasted it in to the paraphrasing page: Quillbot. I thought that the result was rather weak in some places, particularly regarding word choice: anything but the original. I then took that new content and used GPTZero which concluded that it was likely to be written by AI.

Written by a robot

To check, I then pasted the original section into GPTZero which concluded that it was likely to have been written by a human. This is of some concern, but responses at work, where academics write many serious articles was lukewarm.

Written by a human

About 20 years ago, maybe more, I asked a class of engineering students how many had computers: one. About 5 years later I asked the same question, but this time only one student did not have a computer, and that was because the funds had not come through yet. I was teaching a class of year 3 electrical engineers this week and, while in recent yers I had to tell them to put the phones away, this time I had to ask them not to use their tablet devices. I specifically wanted them to work on paper for the class. There were a couple of Microsoft Surface and Android devices there, but most had the iPad. Several of the same students had asked me to check resumes earlier in the week and with one (paper) exception, these were also on iPads.

Apart from making sure that students are paying attention to my class - writing is hard enough for native speakers, throw in a second language and the problems are multiplied - I prefer students not to use these devices to start the writing process. Before my input began, I had seen several of the students taking notes on the devices, which I do support. At least they are taking notes and therefore listening. I am also reasonably happy these days when they use their phones to take shots of the screen. Something has interested them and they want to have a record for later. It is far better than just handing over a PDF of the presentation.

Apple iPad 10th generation
Apple iPad 10th generation - Image courtesy of Apple

My problem - their problem - is that writing on the iPad or other like device, cuts out a stage in the writing process as the devices use optical character recognition (OCR). Rewriting a hand-written text into a text editor (before the word processor) generates changes.

The iPad was in the news recently as the anniversary of its 2010 introduction was on 27 January. I ran the video this week to show some presentation tricks to students in Invent for the Planet, noting particularly the way the presentation leads from Problem > Current Solutions to the iPad as the best solution, with the image of the new device dropping onto the screen at exactly 11:00 (or 10:59 when it starts to fall). I had great faith in the device for content delivery, especially when Rupert Murdoch threw a lot of money at the iPad Newspaper: The Daily. That did not go too well, but traditional news forms have not weathered the Internet well and it has evolved into something that was not totally anticipated in 2010; but then Apple admitted this with the way different types of apps (ergo tasking) were being developed.

I see that sales of iPads are now the industry leader at some 46% of the global market. Dennis Sellers (AppleWorld Today) citing Canalys figures, reports that although sales throughout the market are falling, Apple still sold a hefty 19 million units.

The tables have turned. Some may remember that when Apple was in financial difficulties, about the time that Steve Job returned and brought NeXT with him, Michael Dell's comment on Apple was widely reported that they should "shut (Apple) down and give the money back to the shareholders" (Luke Dormehl, Cult of Apple). To be fair to Dell, he did walk that back when Apple had recovered. And some.

The Dell company instead slipped into the doldrums and this week it was reported that, like many former golden eggs, it is to reduce its workforce: "6,650 jobs amid uncertain market future." MacDaily News was surprisingly restrained as it reported this is "5% of it's workforce" and that it is struggling "with a slump in the personal computer market, rampant inflation, and a looming recession." While MDN did not mention the comment from Michael Dell, the report did include, "Now, to be fair, this is only happening because beleaguered Dell makes consumer-grade junk and their customer demographics are crap." Not so restrained after all. Of all the major tech companies, only Apple is not laying off thousands of employees.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)


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