What’s all the Chat About?
The education community has recently been abuzz with the rise of ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can generate responses to questions in real time with a simple prompt.
The question is, how will we respond?
Will we ignore it and hope it will go away?
Tools like ChatGPT are not going away, in fact, they are only going to improve and become more sophisticated over time. Whether we like it or not, this particular form of AI is now a permanent fixture of our society.
Will we put in counter measures to block or ban it?
Stopping students using the tool is a short-term knee jerk reaction to dealing with AI. We cannot be the gatekeepers of this knowledge. We need to be smarter. We need to figure out a way to adjust to these tools, and not just ban them. Remember when calculators, computers, smart phones and watches, spell and grammar checkers, and Google arrived and panic ensued. “Each of these technologies infringed on the educational status quo, yet teachers managed to make it work.” (Education HQ, 2023). Educators used these innovations to supplement and enhance human capabilities not replace them.
Will we embrace it and teach AI well? YES!
We can not ‘un-invent’ technology, so we are determined to teach AI well. We should not be afraid of AI. Generally speaking, it has been modelled that people tend to respond to the introduction of new technologies according to their age bracket.
With the right approach, ChatGPT can be an effective teaching tool. We can help our students think about leveraging AI, and consider its applications, its shortfalls and its benefits.
As Roose points out in his 2023 New York Times article, our young people will graduate into a world full of generative AI programs. “They’ll need to know their way around these tools — their strengths and weaknesses, their hallmarks and blind spots — in order to work alongside them. To be good citizens, they’ll need hands-on experience to understand this type of AI works, what types of bias it contains, and how it can be misused and weaponized.”
ChatGPT does not need to be viewed as a threat to student learning, especially if teachers pair it with substantive, in-class discussions and creative tasks. Our role as educators is to ensure our students are critical thinkers. We need to emphasise that AI does not replace thinking, rather, enables higher-level thinking to occur. It enables thinking to be faster and better informed.
Some examples, and not limited to, of how we are using ChatGPT as a teaching tool include:
Having students generate an AI response and then compare it to an exemplary script or with the marking criteria to evaluate its level. At best an AI response is usually a C grade. The responses are not higher order; they do not include in text referencing; the sentences are simple; the vocabulary is not particularly sophisticated and the paragraph style is simplistic, repetitive and formulaic.
Some teachers are asking students to try to ‘trip up’ ChatGPT. It has flaws and limitations. Sometimes it is factually incorrect, has bias and it currently only has information up until 2021. Such flaws and limitations can stimulate a critical thinking exercise where students can fact check, refine, edit and validate with human judgement.
We are also designing assessment questions that require students to draw on a personal reflection in their response. Something that can not come through an AI-generated answer. Additionally, we are incorporating Writer’s Toolbox (WT) with task submissions which require specific sentence structures and paragraphing techniques unique to the WT program.
Currently, plagiarism software companies such as Turnitin are working on how their programs can detect AI writing to uphold academic integrity. While they have not committed to a release date, they are confident that they have the technology to address emerging forms of misconduct using ChatGPT. In the meantime, we will be addressing the ethics of best practice with ChatGPT. We will be very clear with our expectations around its use, and teach our students to use it wisely and ethically. We will educate them about the consequences of misusing Chat GPT, consequences of plagiarism and the importance of ethical decision making.
The adjustment to this AI innovation may not necessarily be easy. Sudden technological shifts, particularly one of this magnitude, rarely are. But who better placed to guide students into this dynamic new world than their teachers.