Different types of bots have become increasingly commonplace. The term ‘bot’ is based on the word ‘robot’, but while robots are physical objects, bots are computer programs. Robots can be helpful in the physical world, whereas bots provide help in digital environments. For example, they can automatically carry out certain simple tasks based on a certain pattern or events in their environment.
Chatbots mimic conversations between people. They are used to carry out customer service tasks, such as the reception of orders, helping with reservations or replying to certain questions customers may ask. Some chatbots may even reduce the risk of depression by offering continuous support. One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is that they are always available and that they can be used to answer the same questions time and again – a task that people may soon find tiresome. In its simplest form, a chatbot can be based on pre-programmed responses that a customer can select from to guide the conversation. On the other hand, chatbots that use artificial intelligence can learn from things people say or write, interpret questions and also answer them in a way that sounds natural. The language an AI-based chatbot uses is crucial for making the conversation flow. The usability of these solutions suffers if their language models are not good.
Users may find chatbots either beneficial or irritating, depending on how well they work. Regardless of their functionality, chatbots aim to help. Influencer bots, however, are only rarely designed with good intentions in mind. These bots disguise themselves as normal social media users that can like and share people’s content or write in the comments section. In reality, they are automated accounts, whose main objective is to influence other users. For example, the aim may be to mislead or to spread uncertainty or false information. Bots can also be used to increase the visibility of certain people or messages, particularly before elections. Bots are not always easy to recognise, but if an account is used to actively spread one type of message or if they contain little information on other topics and have only a few followers, the chances are the account is a bot.
Text: Linda Mannila
Image: Siru Tirronen
The media landscape of children and young people keeps changing, with new phenomena following each other back-to-back. Providing pupils with tools for understanding and processing these phenomena is important. This learning package is part of Pathways to New Media Phenomena – Information and Exercise Materials Series. The series includes information and exercises for the teacher and the pupils. You can explore new phenomena in a meaningful way with the help of the How to discuss new media literacy phenomena through pedagogical means method.
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Material for the teacher
Various types of bots are increasingly present in our everyday lives. There are different kinds of bots. In the video, Linda Mannila introduces the two main bot types: chatbots and influencer bots. The video has English subtitles.
Watch the video and consider the following:
- Where did you last come across a chatbot? Was the service useful, in your opinion?
- Can influencer bots affect the everyday life at school? How?
- In what way does being aware of how various bots work promote critical media literacy in pupils?
Video: Linda Mannila
Teachers do not need to be experts and skilled at everything. Having a good control over one’s own speciality and pedagogics and being curious and enthusiastic about learning new things provide a great starting point for tackling new media phenomena. Approach to processing new media literacy phenomena encourages you to use your own expertise and competence when working with various phenomena.
Examine the model and consider the following questions:
- Based on your experience, what challenges does discussing new media literacy phenomena entail?
- What things support the discussing of new phenomena in your own work?
- How would you utilise the model to discuss the phenomenon at hand?
Media literacy is a transversal competence, whose promotion is required by the core curriculum of basic education (2014).
The objectives based on the core curriculum have been expressed separately for each school grade in the national descriptions of media literacy (the New Literacies development programme 2021). Basic education concerns the descriptions of good and advanced competences. The descriptions clarify the meaning of media literacy and the related objectives expressed in the core curriculum texts. The descriptions have been divided into three main areas: media interpretation and evaluation, media production and acting in media environments. You can learn more about the descriptions here.
Consider the following questions:
- How is the phenomenon under discussion structured in the media literacy competence descriptions?
- What kind of media literacy skills do the pupils learn in connection with discussing the topic?
You can refer to the materials of KAVI and the New Literacies development programme for support in the promotion of media literacy.
Media Literacy School (mediataitokoulu.fi) The Media Literacy School website brings together various learning resources and materials for the media education purposes of different age groups also in English.
The Media Literacy School – New Literacies brings together a range of materials that were created within the development programme to support the media education of basic education. The materials produced in the programme can be found on the open learning materials website at AOE.fi.
Material for the pupil
The term ‘bot’ comes from the word ‘robot’. Robots are physical objects that can be helpful in the physical world, whereas bots are computer programs that can provide help in digital environments.
● Bots come in many forms that are used in various situations.
● Chatbots mimic conversations between people. They are used in customer service, for example, because they are always available and can be used to answer the same questions time and again – a task that people could soon find tiresome.
● In its simplest form, a chatbot can give pre-selected answers from which a customer may choose in order to steer the conversation. On the other hand, chatbots that use artificial intelligence can be more intelligent, as they can interpret speech or written text, and use them to formulate answers. To ensure that an AI-based chatbot works properly, it is important that the AI is able to interpret and understand the language used.
● Chatbots are usually made to help, but influencer bots are only rarely based on good intentions. They disguise themselves as normal social media users that can like and share people’s content or leave comments in the comments section. In reality, they are automated accounts, whose main objective is to influence other users. For example, the aim may be to mislead or to spread uncertainty or false information. Bots can also be used to increase the attention received by certain people, ideas or messages.
● Bots are not always easy to recognise, but if an account is used to actively spread one type of message or if they contain little information on other topics and have only a few followers, the chances are the account is a bot.
Text: Linda Mannila
Reflect either alone or with a partner / in a small group, then discuss the following topics:
Reflection exercise 1:
In your opinion, in what situations can chatbots be useful? For what tasks or things would you like to use a chatbot? For what tasks or things would you not like to use a chatbot? Could chatbots be beneficial in the school environment?
Reflection exercise 2:
What things make you doubt the truthfulness of a message or discussion? What are your best tips for checking the truthfulness of something?
Text: Linda Mannila
Complete the exercise alone or with a partner / in a small group.
One of the first chatbots was Eliza, which was designed to be a virtual psychologist. Go to https://web.njit.edu/~ronkowit/eliza.html, try to chat with Eliza for a while and then discuss your experience with the class. Was the Eliza bot useful, in your opinion? How was the bot programmed to act, in your opinion? What rules is the bot based on?
Text: Linda Mannila
- Examine the picture. What type of bot can you see in the pictures on the left? What about on the right? How can you tell what the difference between the bots is?
- What types of bots have you run into in your everyday life?
Image: Siru Tirronen