Opinion: Artificial Intelligence in Education
4th April 2023
Latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) software that can write sophisticated essay responses have generated a great deal of interest and discussion.
AI software such as ChatGPT has triggered reactions in the global education landscape ranging from concerns on ethical use, the impact on teaching, learning and assessment, academic integrity, to opportunities for innovation.
Contrary to some stark warnings, it is not the end of exams, nor even a huge threat to coursework, but it does bring into very sharp focus the impact that artificial intelligence software that can write sophisticated responses could have on the way we think about teaching, learning and assessment.
Like spell-checkers, translation software and calculators, we must accept that it is going to become part of our everyday lives, and so we must adapt and transform education so students can use these new AI tools ethically and effectively.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) has decided it is not “banning” the use of ChatGPT or any similar AI software as has been seen elsewhere. The simplest reason is that it is an ineffective way to deal with innovation. Students will, however, need to be made aware that the IB does not regard work written by such tools to be their own. To submit AI-generated work as their own is an act of academic misconduct and would have consequences. But that is not the same as banning its use.
In truth, many of the issues thrown up by Chat GPT are extensions or variations of current issues that the IB is familiar with managing, even if these technologies are significantly different in terms of speed, ease of access and scale.
But we are also enormously excited by the prospect of exploring the enormous educational opportunities that this software has created.
If AI – in the form of Chat GPT and its inevitably more powerful descendants – is indeed to be routinely used in everyday life around the world, then it will raise a series of fascinating questions about what essential skills and knowledge students will need that we cannot afford to ignore.
Let’s imagine a real-life scenario of how AI might immediately be used in the classroom. How about using AI to provide example work for students to evaluate and criticise? Many teachers find asking students to mark examples of work an effective teaching technique. Using AI addresses many of the ethical and practical problems associated with gathering example work for this classroom activity.
AI is a sophisticated technology that offers educational opportunities for students and educators and could be a useful tool in supporting teaching and learning and using it will need to become something that teachers are comfortable with. This is the same as past and future technological developments.
Therefore, we can only be energised by the prospect of exploring the enormous educational opportunities that technological advancements offer. Teacher professional development must also evolve to meet the changing demands of education. This can involve attending workshops, conferences, and other professional development opportunities, to equip teachers with the needed skills and training to use AI tools effectively and experience to integrate AI into their teaching practices.
Ultimately what AI is likely to mean in the longer term is that we spend less time teaching the mechanics of essay-writing or communication and more on understanding, describing and analysing problems. This is something we can celebrate rather than fear.
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