The academic world was thrown into a frenzy with the release of an artificial intelligence chatbot known as ChatGPT. While the use of AI has been increasing, until the release of this new site, nothing had been accomplished in this genre with this level of sophistication. ChatGPT and some other similar sites use AI and their access to public electronic information to generate responses to questions and prompts. (For the ease of this post, I will focus on the popularized ChatGPT and not all AI chatbots).
So, what does this all mean? What can ChatGPT do? Imagine being able to enter into an online text box questions you want to be answered in a paper or report or ask it to produce an analysis of how the American Dream is a major theme in The Great Gatsby. Perhaps you keep hearing about blockchain in reference to cryptocurrency, and you want a simple explanation. Maybe, in your professional life, you have all the bullet points and data for a report but do not have the time to write it out yourself. This is essentially what ChatGPT can do. It can take questions, prompts, and ideas and turn them into sophisticated text and writing.
For the past month, educators have been diving into conversations and debates about the impact this technology will have on teaching and learning. Conversations began with concerns over evaluating the authenticity of student work and then moved into wonderings about how AI chatbots may be able to be used in education. Last week, History Teacher David Cutler co-hosted a national conversation with other educators about the potential negative impacts of ChatGPT and the potential it holds to deepen student learning. I was struck by how these educators were focused on the opportunities the technology will open to classroom teachers. Unlike when Wikipedia became popular and was initially demonized by schools and academia, educators are wary of the problems but hopeful about the opportunity. Perhaps, ChatGPT will be used as a starting place for complex research papers, just like Wikipedia is now used by people looking for foundational information about a topic.
The reality is that artificial intelligence has been becoming more common in education through the use of adaptive online worksheets and tests, where computers are able to assess a person’s answer and speed of response to gauge whether they need additional practice at a certain level of challenge, are ready to move on to more complicated questions or need to review earlier material. The use of artificial intelligence is not new; it is just entering a new phase.
Regardless of one’s feelings about the existence of AI chatbots, it is clear it is a technology that will become ubiquitous in our lives and eventually be embraced by different professions. In the meantime, while this is very new, as a school, we are working to understand the impact the technology will have on our curriculum by considering questions such as: how do we teach already that will not be impacted, and how might we want to adapt our practices? As parents, I encourage you to talk to your student about their work and encourage them to meet with their teacher when they are having difficulty with a project. Remind them that using a chatbot to write a paper will not help them become better writers and more sophisticated thinkers.
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