Use the force, chatGPT

I’ve been doing a lot of fiddling with chatGPT and how it might be used in academia (as a tool for good). It’s that time of the semester when the pile of grading on my desk is getting high enough that I start coming up with novel ways to procrastinate. (Plus, I just got a filling this morning, and I am not in the mood to read student writing at this moment.)

So, instead of doing the work I should be doing, I decided to do the work I want to be doing, and that is, thinking about what a general education course on lightsabers would look like. With the help of chatGPT, here’s what I came up with. I think it would be fun.

Lightsabers 101: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of a Cultural Phenomenon

Course Description:
The lightsaber is one of the most iconic symbols of modern popular culture. This course will explore the various historical contexts in which lightsabers have been used, from their first appearance in the Star Wars franchise to their current use in various forms of media.  Students will also examine how the lightsaber has been used to explore themes of power, justice, and morality in literature, art and film.

Course Objectives:
• Demonstrate knowledge of the history of lightsabers and their use in various forms of media.
• Analyze how the lightsaber has been used to explore themes of power, justice, and morality in literature, art, and film.
• Analyze the technological aspects of a lightsaber and its components.
• Evaluate the impact of lightsabers on popular culture and society.
Learning Outcomes:
A student who has successfully completed this course will have: 
• a comprehensive understanding of the historical and cultural significance of the lightsaber as a symbol of power, justice, and morality in popular culture.
• the ability to analyze the technological components of a lightsaber and their impact on the functionality and use of the weapon.
• the ability to critically evaluate how lightsabers have been depicted in literature, art, and film and their role in exploring themes such as heroism, identity, and the struggle between good and evil.
• developed creative skills through the completion of a final project that demonstrates an understanding of lightsabers and their impact on popular culture and society.

Instructional philosophy:
The course will include a combination of experiential and project-based learning. This approach will involve students engaging with the course material through various activities such as watching films, analyzing literature, participating in discussions and debates, and hands-on experiences with lightsaber replicas or 3D printing. The course will also encourage critical thinking and interdisciplinary exploration. The course format will consist of lectures, small group discussions, and hands-on activities.  In-class activities will include building a lightsaber replica using 3D printing, analyzing and discussing literary works or films, and group projects that explore the cultural and social impact of lightsabers.

• A research paper on the historical context and evolution of the lightsaber as a cultural icon
• A critical analysis of the role of lightsabers in a specific film or literary work
• A hands-on project such as building a lightsaber replica or 3D printing a custom hilt design
• A creative project such as writing fan fiction or producing lightsaber-themed artwork
• A group project that explores the cultural and social impact of lightsabers, including their influence on politics, society, and popular culture.

Let me know in the comments if you think this might fly as a gen ed course.

2 thoughts on “Use the force, chatGPT

  1. Depends. If your Senate Curriculum Committee is open-minded, then yes, it will be approved and probably have good enrollment, at least for a few years. (Until the Harry Potter generation has finished college.)
    Personally, I have a problem with such courses. It is great to engage students, to teach them how to think critically, to teach them how to learn new material, and to encourage them to be creative. But shouldn’t a general education course restrict itself to reality? Isn’t there enough in the real universe to learn?
    I don’t know whether it still happens, but 40 years ago, MIT, which was a semester-based curriculum, had a special term in January where an amazing variety of courses were taught. Courses that would not fit into the offerings of the institute. No credit, but noted on transcripts, I believe. I think this is such a course.
    But then again, I was never a popular instructor and am certainly old-school. I opposed our general-education “Forensic Science” course for a similar reason. (We had no forensic scientist on staff; in fact, we had no one with any forensic experience.) It has become a very popular course. So don’t let my reservations deter you. If anything, the fact that I think it isn’t suitable possibly indicates it will be a smashing success. 🙂

    • Good points – I suspect this course would “run its course” fairly quickly. In addition to testing chatGPT features, creating this syllabus was a short exercise in thinking more broadly about how fantasy concepts can be integrated into the general education paradigm. Would making essay topics about something “fun” help students engage more and be willing to invest time in them, or would assignments still be done at the last minute? Would multimodal approaches (tactile 3D printing along with fan-fiction) create depth? Lastly, I’m becoming increasingly interested in how entertainment speaks to our culture, especially given our apparent need to “cancel” older art/creative works that do not now (and probably should not have then) represent our accepted values. Is there a future where America so vehemently rejects war that science fiction movies about laser swords will be shunned?

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